“Mindfulness is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your attention to the present moment, completely accepting the moment as it is. It is also about becoming more conscious in your life, cutting through self-delusion, and stepping into your personal power. This ancient practice is applicable to our modern-day world, offering a rich and juicy path to equanimity and freedom. This path shows us how to move from habitual reactionary patterns (think: suffering) to skillful responding to life’s ups and downs. Some benefits include improved immune system functioning, reduced inflammation, decreased anxiety and depression symptoms, increased stress resilience, and so much more! Some of the formal practices of mindfulness include sitting meditation, body scan meditation, mindful yoga, mindful walking, metta practice, and mindful eating. The informal practices are a guide to moving through the world with more peace, poise, and personal power. There are so many informal principles, so we created a shorthand to help our clients and students get started and remember their aspirations.
Calm must be the lead in the 4 C’s. Without this quality, it is very difficult to attain the other 3 C's. So this is our starting point. How can you experience more calm in your life? First, breathe. It’s simple and overlooked. Deep, slow belly breathing immediately calms the nervous system. When we are stressed or busy, we tend to hold the breath or breathe shallowly, both of which create a stress response. Slow down – how you talk, walk, schedule yourself, and so on. Create sacred pauses throughout your day to help you slow down. Take a few moments throughout the day to pause, breathe, and relax your mind-body. If you punctuate your day with sacred pauses, it will literally change how you feel and act as you move through the world.
Compassion is at the heart of mindfulness practice. In mindfulness, it is defined as the ability to bear witness to suffering, yours or someone else’s, without distancing from it or being debilitated by it. We must start with compassion for ourselves, similar to putting an oxygen mask on ourselves first on an airplane. Once we have cared for ourselves, we can then extend compassion and loving-kindness to others. One of our favorite teachers, Jack Kornfield reminds us that “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” For many, this seems counterintuitive (and even selfish) but it is essential to our health and well-being to care for oneself first. We coach our clients to ask themselves each morning, “what does compassion look like for me today?” On different days, it will look different. For example, this practice might mean packing a healthy lunch or setting a boundary. After you are grounded in compassion for yourself, the next important question is “And how can I be of service to others?” You don’t have to look far to see the suffering of someone else. And you can keep it simple. We often underestimate our loving presence. Simple gestures go a long way.
We all want clarity and yet it often seems to elude us. We often feel like a leaf flapping around in the wind at the mercy of external circumstances. Mindfulness offers us a path to feel more like the oak tree – strong and graceful, deeply rooted into the earth’s energy. If we are overextended or overstimulated, we will not be able to access much clarity. We each have profound organic wisdom within, but we must stop our busyness and listen deeply to ourselves in order to hear that wisdom. Connecting with oneself in consistent contemplative practice like meditation elicits clarity. We encourage beginners to start their practice in the morning to set the tone for the day, and then to eventually add another session in the afternoon or evening. This will propel your clarity quantum leaps ahead. The great sage Ramana Maharshi tell us that the wisdom is “always, already there”. If we will make the time to tune in and listen, we will reap the benefits.
The first chapter of our book CALM: Choosing to Live Mindfully (2011) is “Today is a New Day.” We say this to one another every morning and offer this idea to attendees of our retreats and workshops. It’s a hopeful message reminding us that we can begin again, regardless of what occurred yesterday. Stephen Levine tells us that “we are reborn again each morning with the in-breath.” Every day we can choose how we want to live, what attitude we will adopt, which thoughts we will indulge, and what behaviors we will engage. We can consciously set our intentions each morning around who we want to be and how we want to feel that day. If we get off track, mindfulness reminds us that we can begin again in any moment. The great poet Mary Oliver asks the poignant question “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” It’s your choice, and that is freedom.
Invite us to speak at your next event on the 4 C's of Mindfulness!
We will be offering a virtual class on the 4 C’s of Mindfulness soon. Like us on Facebook at Atlanta Center for Mindfulness & Well-Being, at atlantacentermindfulness on Instagram, or follow is on Twitter at AtlMindfulCtr to be alerted.
Enjoy our newsletter for announcements. You can also listen to our Newstalk 1160 AM radio interview on Mindfulness or download our free Mindfulness Meditation.