How much of your life are you actually present for?
How often are you reflecting on the previous day, worrying about the coming day or planning next week or the future?
Mindfulness is the mediative practice of ‘waking up’. This does not mean the process of waking up in the morning and going through the morning motions in automatic pilot.It teaches how to be present in the moment, allowing the ‘white noise’ in your head to just float by like clouds, letting go of the silly things that drag you down. Of course you cannot ignore your responsibilities, fulfilling the expectations placed upon you day to day but about looking after the mind as well as the body.
We are all too familiar with the 5 a day healthy living plan but have you ever heard anyone say “look after the mind as well as your body?” Probably not. Is this the reason why so many people struggle with stress, anxiety and depression? Do you repeat the same mistakes again and again believing each time will be different but it isn’t? This is because you may change your: outlook, your hair colour, join the gym but your mind is still the same. To present an analogy:
Mindfulness helps the mud to settle in the mind, allowing clear thoughts and more efficient thinking. Now who doesn’t want that?
I have only been exploring Mindfulness for the past couple of years and by ‘exploring’ i mean having the opportunity for a local Buddhist Nun to come and speak with my students (please see http://www.ksdscarborough.org.uk for more information). From these sessions I have gained two main insights that have really affected the way i see things:
Firstly: Be present in the moment! As a teacher i am constantly planning my next lesson, revising a previous lesson and updating my ‘Things to Do’ list. Mindfulness has open my awareness to just stopping for a moment and appreciating the present. Whether that is a beautiful flower or being in the company of a special friend or family member, enjoy each and every moment without focusing on everything else going on – ‘the white noise’.
Secondly: Don’t place your happiness in the expectations you place on others! Does your happiness come from the gratification you receive from your friends, family, money, job etc? If so, mindfulness recognises how you will be constantly disappointed and unhappy because people and monetary values come and go but the constant is always yourself. For example have you ever woke up in the morning happy, fresh and excited for the day then got stuck behind a driver who can’t find third gear, cuts you up or isn’t courteous and then your mood changes (this never happens to me!). What happens is your mood goes: up and down, up and down all day – it is exhausting!
Instead, through practicing mindfulness meditation, joining a mindfulness class or just taking a few minutes a day to nurture your mind you will become a happier person. And when your happy, the people around you are happy – it is contagious! You do not have to be a Buddhist to follow these teachings, just like you do not need to be a Hindu to appreciate Yoga. Buddhism (Buddha means ‘waking up’) places the responsibility on the individual: your mind is your mind, should you leave it in anyone else’s hands?
Each of our mindfulness classes finishes with the prayer of lovingkindness: