Mindfulness has become all the rage these days. So what is it and how does it fit in our health and wellness journey? I like to think of mindfulness as living alive and awake to our everyday experience. Very simply put, the definition of mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn Ph.D., is “moment to moment awareness.”*
Practicing Mindfulness Meditation is the primary pathway to reaping its benefits. And here are the 4 core concepts of it with guidelines for applying them to your health and wellness journey.
Imagine approaching each day, each new project or challenge with a fresh pair of eyes. Not holding any assumptions about why, will, will not, might happen. Being curious about the possibilities and creative in your approach. Think about how a baby begins its journey sitting, then crawling, then walking. Each day they take a new stance, push in a new way and keep trying and falling until they get it.
Invite yourself to see old or new situations in this light, with a fresh pair of eyes. For example, you may have experienced some perceived failures in your health or weight loss journey. What if you took to looking at this process with a fresh and creative new perspective? You may be surprised at the spaciousness and freedom of seeing things in a new light.
Put it to action: The next time you feel stuck, behaviorally/emotionally/spiritually, consider that you have the capability to let your limiting thoughts and beliefs slide away. You can then allow new ways to see your struggles to come through and lead your way.
Imagine living your life without straining, without the pressure to fit a certain mold or reach a certain goal, just being. Non-striving teaches us to observe, to be without constantly defining a purpose or objective. Oftentimes when we can accomplish this, we notice more mental space to be curious about who we really are and what we really desire. The idea is that if you have goals in place, you will reach these by paying more attention to being in the moment and living out the journey, rather than focusing on the finished product.
Put it to action: You know that feeling when you are trying really hard to change or shift something in your life? Notice it. Notice the pushing and forcing and let them disappear. Allow an experience of just being, putting one foot in front of the other rather than trying to push so hard you lose your way.
Imagine living your life without judging and labeling your every thought and move. Imagine allowing others to live their lives without projecting your own insecurities on them. Non-judging teaches us to simply notice our thoughts, acknowledge them and let them slide away. Once we have awareness of our thoughts, we can focus our attention on observing them rather than feeding into them.
Put it to action: Practice compassion for self and compassion for others. When you notice a critical or harsh self-talk, either towards yourself or the outside world, notice it. Practicing this awareness, being curious about the nature of your thoughts and then allowing love to seep in provides an alternative pathway for your judgment to flow out. If you need some support in integrating healthy and non-judging thoughts into your life, my suggestion is learning and practicing loving kindness meditations.
Imagine following the flow that is life’s river of changes with the grace and wisdom of accepting what is. We can choose to fight against the things we cannot change or we can simply accept them and focus our energy on the things we can change. As humans, this is one of our monumental struggles; crashing up against the trials and unfair circumstances that life brings us.
Some things are certainly harder to accept than others, but the practice of this in our everyday lives allows us to be more patient with ourselves and utilize our emotional energy in a more productive way. Many of us are frustrated over a progress or lack of it. The freedom comes when we accept where we are and focus on the things we have the power to shift. This is how we move forward.
Put it to action: Next time you find yourself struggling against a reality you can't change, notice that feeling and thoughts, observe them and gently shift your attention to what you CAN do. This simple step in turning your mind can transform your emotional and spiritual energy and allow for a greater use of this energy.
After reading, I invite you to take some time and write down any reflections and possible applications of these concepts for your everyday life. Remember, tapping into the unique qualities of mindfulness is all about awareness and practice, practice, practice.
*Dr. Kabat-Zinn is one of leaders in this field who developed and implemented the Stress Reduction and Relaxation program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. His work has popularized this long held spiritual practice and applied it to the clinical world of physical and mental health. Source: “Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.