By Ariadne Kapsali, Psychological Life Coach, Mental Health Professional and Yoga Teacher
Mindfulness is everywhere! I’m sure most of you have heard of mindfulness in the news, in your local yoga studio, your meditation tracks, or in books and websites. It is the thing to be practicing. Hell, it is even practiced in Parliament (yay!).
Mindfulness is a concept known to meditators and yogis for years before it got its trademark name. It was introduced to the West by Dr John Kabat-Zinn, when he developed and extensively researched the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as a way of healing stress, anxiety and chronic pain. MBSR has now been adapted and applied to various contexts and it is widely considered effective for people with recurrent depression, anxiety and long-term health conditions. It is being offered in the UK’s National Health Service alongside other forms of psychological therapy and medical treatment.
Mindfulness essentially is about being in the Now. It is about being content with being in the Now, not needing to be somewhere or someone else. It is not necessarily about positive thinking; rather, it promotes acceptance of what is. It has been born out of the recognition that in the West people struggle with extreme daily pressure, constantly worrying about the future and ruminating about past difficulties. The world provides us with endless distractions from the present moment.
It is quite amazing to see the transformation that occurs when you start letting yourself notice what is going on around you and within you, right now. While you are reading this, what are you doing? Maybe you are on your phone, when you are meant to be working. Maybe you are also checking Facebook, eating dinner, having a conversation with your partner. Maybe you are running a list in your mind of what needs to be done tomorrow. What would happen if you let all of that go – and you just got to the end of this post? Or ate your dinner without screens?
Why should I be mindful?
There is a fear that arises in letting ourselves be still in a world that keeps moving. A fear we will be left behind, that we will miss out, or even get hurt. There is also a protective mechanism in keeping ourselves distracted from our minds, because we are afraid of coming face to face with our thoughts.
Mindfulness however, does not teach you to stop thinking. It doesn’t even tell you to change your thoughts. Refreshingly, it teaches you to notice the act of thinking, rather than the content, and offers you the choice to follow a thought or let it go. In the same way, being mindful allows you to notice emotions and physical sensations, such as pain, without needing to react to them.
Reacting Versus Acting with Intention
We spend a lot of our lives re-acting to things that happen to us, when in fact, we are ultimately responsible for creating our lives. Problems, trauma, accidents and disasters do occur, but we have the choice in how we perceive them. We can choose to react with a victim mentality (Why is this happening to me?), and spend our energy and precious resources in trying to resist and fight with our current reality. What if we could take a step back and assess the situation? With practice, we can learn to separate ourselves from our thoughts, from those beliefs that cause us to re-act. Once we do that, we can choose to act from a grounded place that is aligned with who we are, rather than what we think we should be.
I can hear you say, that is all great Ariadne, but how do I do that? Well, as with everything, start small and simple. Transformation does not happen overnight; it is the tiny changes you make that you consistently keep that cause the grand shifts in your life. My favourite trick to introduce mindfulness in my day? The breath!
Stop + breathe – obviously we do not really need to stop to breathe. But mindfulness of the breath is an excellent way to encourage yourself to experience the Now. Wherever you are, sitting down on your desk, your bed, in transit (not while driving, please), at home; close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. Ask yourself: where do I feel my breath? How does it feel? Is it slow or fast? Is it deep or shallow? What feels more free, the inhale or the exhale? As much as possible, try not to change your breath and especially not to judge it. There is no wrong way of doing this. The point of it is to do it. Start with just 3 minutes a day and build on from there!
“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
With each step, the wind blows.
With each step, a flower blooms.”
― Hanh Nhat Thich
Join Ariadne on Tuesdays at 12:30pm – 1:15pm for Mindfulness Meditation (only £7 when you book online). Or for one-to-one mindfulness and meditation sessions, contact us on 020 3095 9735 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about Ariadne here.