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What is mindfulness? Here we take a brief look at the mindfulness and how it is practiced—with three easy step-by-step exercises to get you started.
What is mindfulness, how to practice mindfulness, three mindfulness exercises.
Although mindfulness meditation has its roots in ancient Buddhist practices, a secular form of its practice has spread rapidly throughout the west. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s extensive research and development of Mindfulness Based Stress Release (MBSR) has contributed significantly to the attention on the health benefits of mindfulness. It’s considered by many to be an effective way to counter anxiety and Stress with its broad ranges of associated health improvements and wellbeing effects being acknowledged.
Mindfulness describes the state of being conscious or aware of the present moment—without attachment. No attachment to our thoughts; potential outcomes, past or future dealings. Just quiet—non-judgmental—observation of the here and now. We can observe what is taking place around us (such as natural green spaces) or observe what’s occurring within ourselves (like the breath). With practice, we can begin to overcome our mental busyness and attachment to stressful thoughts. We can begin to shift into more calm, balanced states and meditate with increasing present—mindful awareness.
A light detached focus will support our ability to remain in the present moment. This means gently bringing our attention back to the present, when we find that we’ve begun to engage with the mind and become attached to this thought or that. From here we are more able to ‘let go’ (mentally, emotionally and physically) as we deepen our connection to the present. Just through mindful presence, we can experience a ripple of transformation through the synchronicity and harmonising of our whole being.
Within this mindful state, we’re open to much clearer states of knowing, truth and ease. Besides mindfulness meditation, we can also choose to engage in a number of other meditation disciplines, such as; Qigong, visualisations, journeys, mantras, group and guided meditations. But for now, let’s start with learning more about the practice of mindfulness with three simple exercises.
This mindful breathing exercise consists of three easy steps. Set yourself up by finding a place where you can relax uninterrupted for a while. You will be require you to place your awareness solely on your breathing for a few minutes. If your attention drifts, gently return it to the awareness of your breath.
Initially it may be easier to focus your attention and block out any visual distractions with your eyes closed. However, it won’t be long before you are able to successfully practice with your eyes open. Begin with 2-3 minutes of practice before steadily increasing your practice time:
How do you feel now? Have any changes occurred to your thoughts or overall feeling? What else have you become aware of?
Spending time in natural spaces is a great way to support our sense of Groundedness, vitality and sense of harmony. This exercise will allow you some time to take in the scene (using all of your senses) while developing your ability to remain focused and present.
Aim to practice this mindful presence for 5-8 minutes. The longer you are able to stay connected, the better. Remember, if your attention drifts, simply bring it back to the present scene without judgment.
Find a natural environment and space to sit where you can observe its natural beauty:
4. Repeat the process of gazing on another natural object or space and it’s relationship to the bigger picture;
5. While observing the entire scene, allow any feelings of gratitude that you may have to emerge.
How are you feeling now? What did you come to appreciate or better understand?
You can Mindfully Listen to any sound—the birds in the park, the rustling of the trees or the sounds of a nearby water feature. Mindful listening can be practiced in any position—static or whilst Walking. Focusing your attention on sounds as you sit or walk will bring your attention to the present moment (while also helping you to let go of any mental attachments to this and that!).
If you have chosen to be seated, closing your eyes will amplify what you are able to hear. Use whatever sounds are available to you within your surroundings:
4. Once again, focus your attention on the entire scene using all of your senses.
What did you become aware of? How do you feel now?
With mental chatter fast becoming the default pattern—particularly for the modern city dweller—mindfulness offers an effective and enjoyable way to free ourselves of mental attachment and reconnect us to the clarity of the present moment.
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