mindfulness is a quality of consciousness that involves: an active and compassionate awareness of the present moment and an attitude that is unattached to your thoughts and experiences. it originates from the buddhist tradition of meditation and contemplation that often consists of three core elements:
intention: where you are dedicated and committed to meditation practice
attention: where you actively observe your experience
attitude: which refers to how you pay attention
compassion: involves caring deeply about others and arises when you are confronted with another's suffering and you feel a genuine desire to relieve that suffering through kindness.
self-compassion: is a healthy attitude and positive emotional relationship with yourself that involves self-kindness and understanding; a non-judgmental attitude towards your experience of suffering and failure; and recognition that your experience is a part of a larger human condition.
self-esteem reflects your overall evaluation of your worth. it’s both your judgment of yourself, and your attitude towards yourself. it’s the degree to which we feel confident, consider ourselves valuable, and respect ourselves, greatly affects our well-being and low self-esteem has been found to relate to self-doubt, self-criticism, social isolation, suppressed anger, and shame.
kindness: is the quality or state of being caring, considerate, friendly and respectful; and it involves the following characteristics; optimism, compassion, empathy, generosity, tolerance, unselfishness and acceptance.
gratitude involves two stages: one where we experience that lucky, blessed, zip-a-dee-doo-dah kinda feeling of appreciation for all the good in our lives AND a sense of connection with something larger than or outside of ourselves – whether that’s other people, nature or a higher power.
wake up and go live
mindfulness has experienced a long and rich tradition in eastern philosophy and psychology, mind you (pun intended) it's only within the last three decades or so that the west has started to embrace mindfulness as an evidence based treatment for mental and physical health problems, such as depression, anxiety, stress, pain and sleep disturbances, as well as improving our satisfaction with life, our compassion and overall wellbeing.
one way to understand mindfulness is to consider a state the Buddhists call ignorance, which is a state where we lack self-awareness by routinely and passively responding to the world as if we are on auto-pilot (you know, like that time you ate all the tim tams without noticing or when you experience highway hypnosis and can't recall your drive home). for Buddhists, living mindfully and practicing meditation can help to wake us up from this dream like state so that we can witness the full spectrum of our everyday experience.
you are the sky. everything else – it’s just the weather - pema chödrön
the trick is to keep breathing...
on average, we take between 17,000 and 30,000 breaths per day and this is often an unobserved process.
for the next couple of minutes, try to observe your breath by placing one hand on your belly and one hand over your heart, gently close your eyes, and let your body relax and begin to notice your breath, just as it is… as you breathe you will feel the sensation of the rise and fall of your hands, bring your awareness to this movement and take note of which hand felt the greatest movement.
ideally the hand on your chest should remain relatively still but more often than not, many of us get into the habit of breathing only through our chest, which limits our ability to take in adequate amounts of oxygen and can result in short and sharp intakes of breath that can trigger hyperventilation and feelings of anxiety.
breathing into our belly allows our breath to penetrate deep into the bottom of our lungs and activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is often referred to as our ‘rest and digest’ or stress management system. the PNS is in charge of stimulating our digestion, slowing our heart rate, lowering our blood pressure and producing a sense of calm relaxation.
the breath is your anchor to the present moment. - panache des
let it go. learn to flow...
at the core of mindfulness philosophy is the art of ‘letting go’, which can be one of the most difficult principles to put into practice. why? because it takes courage to acknowledge our attachment to all the things that we’re holding on to – expectation, fear, cravings, control, anger, anxiety, approval, regret, permanence or possessions; compassion to try and accept them without judgment; the choice to let them go; and finally the ability to adapt and flow gracefully with all the good, the bad and the ugly that life has to offer.
something that can help us to let go is the acceptance of impermanence. in buddhism this little golden nugget is known as anicca and simply means that nothing in this life is permanent or fixed; everything is subject to change and like a river we live in a constant state of flux and flow.
you can only lose what you cling to – the buddha
negative experiences and emotions are a natural part of our human experience. without them the sweet just wouldn’t taste so damn good. living mindfully helps us to address these experiences in a healthy, balanced way through acceptance and compassion rather than suppression or exaggeration. when you’re next experiencing feelings of distress or discomfort, instead of trying to fight them or getting lost in them, just try to sit with the experience and observe it as it is, without judgment and with compassion. soon you may find that the feeling starts to naturally dissipate or you might find you’re in a better place to use a positive coping strategy.
break the habituation situation
when we’re repeatedly exposed to our environment or a sensory experience, we can begin to ignore it and take it for granted. bringing the philosophy of mindfulness into our daily lives can help us to tune back into our experience and expand our sense of satisfaction and appreciation of what we already have.
when asked if my cup is half-empty or half-full, my only response is that i am grateful i have a cup – source unknown
you can’t pour from an empty cup
stress, sickness and burnout can often be the result of pushing yourself to your physical, mental or emotional limits. often this occurs when we’re busy; when we put other’s needs before our own; or when we’re feeling overwhelmed or pressured. by living mindfully, we can tune in to our triggers, stressors and limits and make self-care, self-love and self-compassion our priority. moving forward learn to consistently check yourself before you wreck yourself by frequently asking yourself - how full is my cup right now?
self-love is an ocean and your heart is a vessel. make it full, and any excess will spill over into the lives of the people you hold dear. but you must come first ― beau taplin
cultivate your calm
creating daily mindfulness rituals, such as watching the sunrise while drinking your coffee, eating your lunch outside or practicing gratitude before bed, can be golden opportunities for bringing more mindful moments into your day.
eyes wide open… or shut?
if you’ve had any experiences with meditation in the west, more often than not, you would have been instructed to close your eyes. for some, this may be a comfortable process that encourages the relaxation response. for others, this can be a process that challenges a person’s sense of safety and can even provoke traumatic flashbacks or hallucinations. for this reason, closed eye practices aren’t recommended for those who’ve experienced psychosis or trauma. instead it’s recommended to follow the buddhist tradition of practicing with your eyes open and gazing down at a 45-degree angle (looking down your nose at a point just in front of you).
practicing with your eyes open can help to create an active and less distracted practice, as we’re less likely to drift off to sleep or to become distracted by mental images and daydreaming. our recommendation is to practice whichever way serves your practice. this is why in the daily dose pack we direct you to soften your gaze, which could mean gently closing your eyes or softly gazing into the distance.
if you attempt to suppress your thoughts or “not think”, what you’ll notice is that what we resist persists – for example if i told you for the next 60 seconds try not to think of a pink elephant, typically the first thing that’s going to happen is you're going to think of a pink elephant. instead when you notice your mind wandering, gently bring your focus back to your breath. this action right here is a moment of mindfulness in of itself. you have become aware of your thoughts, acknowledged them and then redirected yourself back to the present moment and as jon kabat-zinn says:
beginning again and refocusing on the breath is the heart of practice, not a deviation from it
mindfulness & relaxation
just a word of warning on this one. while mindfulness can elicit a relaxation response, it can equally be quite a challenging and uncomfortable process. it can bring up thoughts we're not willing to confront and sitting can cause physical and emotional discomfort. when practicing it may then be better to embrace the eastern perspective of mindfulness, which is simply to experience a compassionate awareness of your current conditions (mind and body) rather than a western perspective, which can often have goals attached to it like 'relaxation'.
remember mindfulness is about checking in - not zoning out
principals of posture
you should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. then you should sit for an hour - zen proverb
find a comfortable seat that gives you a stable and solid base of support. this can be on the floor; a cushion; a chair or a park bench.
if you’ve chosen to sit on the floor or a cushion, cross your legs comfortably in front of you (quarter lotus position). if you’ve chosen to sit in a chair on a park bench, it’s good if your feet are resting firmly on the floor and are aligned with your hips and knees.
once you have established a firm foundation, try to lift yourself up through your spine. remember though that we only want to straighten rather than stiffen our upper body. let the muscles in your back and shoulders relax and focus on pulling your shoulders back slightly. this establishes a strong spine, while opening the front of your body.
place your arms parallel to your upper body and then rest your hands gently in your lap or on your knees.
drop your chin slightly and let your gaze soften. take a few moments now to relax the muscles in your face, soften your brow, soften the eyes, cheeks and jaw.
taking the time to go through this process sets you up for your practice, allows you time to settle into the pose and gives you the opportunity to build a stronger connection between your mind and your body.
all day erryday mindfulness
one of the biggest game changers in mindfulness is actively cultivating our experience of mindfulness throughout our everyday moments. from taking a shower to sitting in traffic - from watching the sunrise to washing our face. it’s in these moments that the true magic happens. it’s here that we feel the shift. however sometimes it seems that mindfulness in daily life can often be overlooked. we pop on our mindfulness app and sit on our cushion for 20 minutes and while we may feel refreshed and recharged after practicing, we tend to forget to carry our compassion, awareness and acceptance with us throughout our day and fair play because our experience of mindfulness is being significantly challenged by the world around us. a world where a state of busy, distraction, comparison and ego have our hearts, minds and brains perpetually preoccupied.
instead we need to refocus and remember that formal practice is meant to train our brain so that dispositional mindfulness (one’s natural ability to enter into a mindful state of consciousness) becomes our go to state of being. one where we are able to take our mindful mindset from the cushion to the cafe, the mat to the meeting room, the app to the next activity (gym, kids, netflix). in this way we are not just practicing mindfulness we can be mindful…