We hear a lot about being mindful - not just within spiritual circles - but more and more in the work place.
What exactly is mindfulness?
Simply, mindfulness is awareness of the present or the ability to be present in all aspects of our lives. It's a honing of the mind to focus on what is happening right now.
Since the 1970s, there's been a growing recognition and movement towards embracing mindfulness in the United States. This is due in large part to the many Buddhists teachers who have come here as well as the American practitioner, Jon Kabat-Zinn, who began teaching mindfulness courses in 1979.
The first time I recognized mindfulness occurring in my life was shortly after I met my first husband. He's from Bali and being Hindu, learned meditation at a young age.
Part of what had attracted me in the first place was his calm demeanor and indefatigable kindness.
The day I noticed his mindfulness in action, we were in Indonesia visiting his family. We'd rented a van to take his extended family on a picnic in the mountains. I looked over at him and suddenly realized that the only thing he was doing in that moment was driving.
He wasn't thinking about the party last night. He wasn't going over the stuff he'd packed, making sure he'd remembered everything. Nor was he distracted by the conversation in the back seat. He was just driving, focusing on the vehicle, and the road ahead.
He was 100% present in that moment to his task- present and focused.
I resolved then that I wanted to develop this quality. And I discovered that mindfulness is achieved through meditation and the internal gardening of our thoughts.
Here's what's helped me develop a practice of mindfulness:
I started meditating 20 years ago. I still meditate today because it feels so good to release the stress of the world. It's a reminder that there's more going on than the chaos around me. It allows me to connect with infinite source and remember my essential nature. Finally, I sit to come into the now and this helps me bring silence, serenity and clarity into my working day.
2. Mining the Mind
I like to think of myself as a gardener of my mind. I pluck out all the thoughts that distract me or take me out of the present moment. I also pull out the thoughts (like weeds) that are harmful to me or remind me of old stories and ancient beliefs about limitation and lack that are no longer true for me.
3. Coming Fully into my Body
Being grounded in my physical body helps me experience the here and now. I can feel where I am- the sun on my face, the wind whipping around me. I see where I am- the trees bordering the road, the faces of people walking by. I hear the world around me- the birds chirping, the trucks rumbling, children laughing.
Being in my body allows me to fully experience life.
Life is only happening right now, in this moment.
When we leave the moment by getting distracted by our thoughts, we lose the opportunity to experience what it feels to really be alive. We can easily get caught fixating about a past hurt or worrying about a future concern. But when we can bring our focus back to this moment, we have the opportunity to heal.
Think about starting your mindfulness practice today.
Find a comfortable spot in your home where you can sit for just five minutes in the morning. Focus on your breath coming in and out.
I like to count to 11. Inhaling 1, exhaling 2 until I get to 11 and then starting over. If you lose track, start over at 1. Before you know it, your timer will be ringing. You'll be surprised at how quickly the minutes fly by!
As you commit to this daily practice of meditation, it will help you be able to listen to your mind and hear the way you speak to yourself. Then you can decide what thoughts you want to keep and ones that are time to pull out. And it will help you experience a greater sense of presence in your body.
Consider yourself an explorer of your own inner self - have fun with it!