Mindfulness has recently become 'on trend' which is a great thing as it means more and more people are learning about it and hopefully practicing it. It is a method of naturally bringing more peace and calm into your life. However, in order for it to be useful for your body, mind and spirit it really needs to become embedded into the fabric of your everyday life-not just a 60 minute class to squeeze in between work finishing and a night out with friends. So what is mindfulness and how do I 'do' it?
Mindfulness is nothing special- it is something human beings do and have done since we first developed consciousness many millions of years ago. It is simply paying a greater amount of attention focussing on an object, concept, our body or an activity than we might normally do. Importantly we need to do this with a particular attitude-one of acceptance and calmness. The end result of mindfulness practice is a slowing down of the busy mind which results in more peacefulness; an increased awareness of what we see, feel and do which can increase our enjoyment and appreciation of other people and of life itself!
In its most basic form mindfulness is something that doesn't really require any special training but rather can easily be learnt from someone who has done it before, watching a video, reading a book or online article. However, many people find that it is easier to get into the discipline of the practice when they take time away from their busy lives and attend a regular evening class, a workshop or a retreat.
So how do I go about doing it?
Here are the basic steps involved in mindfulness practice:
1. Decide that you are going to do it and make a commitment to yourself to keep trying even if it may be difficult at first. Schedule a time and place where you know you will not be disturbed. Start with just two minutes and gradually increase so that you can feel comfortable longer and longer periods.
2. Sit down, lie down or stand and allow yourself to become fully aware of the present moment-find 'the power of NOW 'as Eckart Tolle's popular book title describes it. Allow your thoughts to come into your mind and let go of them effortlessly without judgement and without holding onto them.
3. Remember to keep gently and kindly bringing yourself back to the present moment whenever your attention drifts off into a day dream about the past or future.
4. Repeat. Set a reminder on your calendar to ensure you do the practice regularly and bring the practice into everyday life situations.
Expanding and Deepening your mindfulness practice
One way that I think helps to make mindfulness an 'embodied practice' is to think about its strong links with the concept and feeling of gratitude. If we are able to focus on a deep feeling of gratitude for our life, for others in our lives and for this amazing world that we live in then our mindful practice is taken to a much deeper, more meaningful and satisfying level. There are always things around us and within us to feel grateful for. If we forget everything that we might feel grateful for then we can just focus on our breath and the incredible, miraculous piece of machinery that the breath fuels while we are asleep or awake-our bodies!
A tried and tested and ultimately hugely rewarding way to practice mindfulness is while preparing food and eating it. We are all animals and almost no one is immune to the attraction of a beautiful piece of fruit or a refreshing salad!
Expand your mindfulness practice to include everyday activites, dressing, cleaning, walking in nature, gardening, shopping, work, drawing, sex, tidying your home, making something etc etc.
Mindfulness in Marrakech...
On our retreat we will have a mindful practice with an introduction to mindfulness, mindfulness in the souks and the gardens as well as mindful yoga, eating and dancing.