Mindfulness – it seems to be the word of the moment, and yet it’s an age-old concept.
What exactly is mindfulness? It’s a way of paying attention to the present moment, becoming more aware of your thoughts and feelings without self-criticism – using a ‘witness’ mind rather than being so wrapped up in your emotions that you can’t see straight. It helps you to achieve a state of deep relaxation, letting go of stress and anxiety. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism, but has been embraced in the West and can be approached in an entirely secular way.
Yoga is a mindful practice, coordinating breath and movement, observing body and mind – stilling all that inner chattering so that you can let yourself be, and rounding it all off by lying on the floor for ten minutes or more feeling absolutely fantastic.
The thing about meditation is that it is actually quite simple. It is the simplicity of the practice that makes it so challenging. Most of us are in a constant state of distraction with to-do lists as long as our arms to attend to. The idea of sitting still and doing nothing except focussing on the breath (for instance) for ten or twenty minutes is, frankly, a BIG ask. You aren’t entirely sure what is going to happen during that time – you may have some huge realisation, you may feel deliciously blissed out, or just a bit calmer, or you may fidget and struggle to settle.
The irony is, meditation could actually shorten that to-do list by helping you realise that you don’t need to do everything on it – and perhaps which specific items you could ditch. Plus, you’ll be a bit calmer, so you won’t run around in a silly flap. You’ll be a cool and collected, all-conquering master of the to-do list.
By now, surely we all know that meditation is supposed to be good for us, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to do it. A bit like losing that excess three kilos, or doing more exercise. In fact, you can even get a bit stressed out thinking about how you really ought to do it… Or you can just see what’s on TV. Much more relaxing, right? Wrong. TV is not relaxing. It’s just another distraction, albeit a fun one. However, the relaxation achieved through yoga, meditation and even prayer have been found to change you on a cellular level, actually altering genes associated with ageing, insulin production, various cancers, heart disease and more. Here, read this New Scientist article: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23480-meditation-boosts-genes-that-promote-good-health.html#.UeA2rTusjq4
Hmm. It’s certainly food for thought.