“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
Jon Kanat-Zinn, Founder of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the current buzz word in mental health and for very good reason as it works. Founded by Jon Zabat Zinn, this concept stems from Buddhism, which is not a religion, but a practice followed by like-minded people. Zinn’s definition of mindfulness is: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment in a non-judgemental way”. Western society is finally catching up with the need to slow down the pace of life and take in the present moment. Research is showing that mindfulness works equally as well in combating depression as anti-depressants.
Buddhism follows the eight point belief system the “Eightfold Path”:
RIGHT VIEW: Nothing is permanent. We are changing and this reality will pass. We cannot avoid suffering.
RIGHT INTENTION: Let go of the attachment to outcomes, control or meaning harm to others. Do not push away or cling to suffering – simply notice or observe it – then let go of it once identified.
RIGHT SPEECH: develop honest and kind speech patterns. Let go of controlling, abusive and malicious language. Listen carefully to what others are saying.
RIGHT ACTION: Refrain from aggressive physical action towards oneself or others. No harm to any living being.
RIGHT LIVELIHOOD: Refrain from any kind of dishonest or immoral form of work or anything that causes suffering to oneself or others.
RIGHT EFFORT: Cultivate an interest in all that is wholesome on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.
RIGHT REMEMBERING: Cultivate clear-minded awareness and not clinging to one’s emotions or material objects. But notice how we experience emotions, thought and body sensations. Live in the moment.
RIGHT BELIEF: Bring all the above into your daily experience with clear attention and intention to follow these wholesome beliefs. Keep the mindest clear and constant.
Mindfulness is from the concept of Buddhism, but is not Buddhism. It is intended to help you achieve INNER PEACE & ACCEPTANCE, by focusing on the present, not the past or future. Our mind is an energy generator that determines our energy level. Mindfulness will help manage anxiety and stress. Research has shown that it improves problem-solving, generates great personal insight and better attention span, we become less selfish and stop beating ourselves up with negative thoughts. It cultivates a POSITIVE & GRATEFUL ATTITUDE.
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”
Jon Kanat-Zinn, Founder of Mindfulness
Awareness of yourself and your thoughts.
Non-judgment – children accept and adults judge; come back to that.
Living in the present – without habitually reflecting on the past or worrying about the future.
Our ego is our CONSCIOUS MIND, our sense of self, who we are and what drives us. It is centred in the solar plexus and it wants to compete and win. Root chakra fear drives the ego and wants to take over to win the argument, getting us sucked into the drama and fearing change or unrest. We can start to believe what our thoughts tell us, creating a FEAR MENTALITY, producing reactions within us without us being aware. Our thoughts are a projection of our ego, and our ego is not always right. Mindfulness stops the destructive thought cycle and impulses, teaching us to look at the reality that we are in a constant state of change. Here are our fears which ego is driven by. Do you recongise any of them in yourself?
Fear of Change
Fear of Failure
Fear of not being good enough
Fear of Abandonment
Fear of Rejection
Fear of Humiliation
Fear of Loss
Fear of Being Disliked
Fear of illness
Mindlessness is: scattered thinking, not being present minded, being judgmental, being selfish or arrogant, trying to control people and events around you, noticing other people’s faults and not your own and overthinking. A victim mentality overthinks and questions the past, which leads to anger, mood swings, depression, confusion, clouded thinking and fatigue. It is exhausting! For more information see MASTERING FEAR.
FROM HEAD TO HEART
The ego-mind likes to be right, believes it is right and can take a thought and expand on its drama, taking us into conflict away from what is important and real. Modern life traps us into thinking instead of feeling. Mindfulness enables us to move from our ego-mind to our compassionate spirit heart. If you come from a sense of compassion for yourself and others, you cultivate love and kindness for both. By being humble, with boundaries so not as to become a push-over, you become more centred, calm and in control. You allow your feelings to be felt in your body, knowing what it feels like until it subsides. Ego plays a big part in our suffering as it clings to fear, our spirit heart knows we must suffer, but waits for the inevitable change to happen to release us from this suffering. The ego tells us that once everything falls into place, we will find peace, whist our spirit tells us that when we find peace, everything will fall into place.
This is the idea of NOTICING what is happening as thought and emotions arise on a daily basis, whether originated from an internal memory or an external factor. If this should happen, step back mindfully and apply the following technique. At first it will seem cumbersome, but eventually, it becomes a habit.
- Spend time thinking about the thought or situation and notice how your body feels.
- Instead of expanding on those thoughts and feelings – stop – begin with the intention not to deal with it with the usual thought process.
- Bring your awareness from your head to your emotions and how they feel within your body.
- If you can name the feeling, do so, if not just say “This is how I feel right now”.
- Simply be or sit with this feeling, without letting it translate into thoughts or overthinking it.
- Keep noticing and experiencing this feeling in your body and after a while, the feeling should start to reduce or become bearable.
- Bring your awareness back to your body.
- You may want to make short notes or keep a journal on your feelings as you process them. You may want to use the R.A.I.N Technique to process greater or reoccurring feelings under the section of EMOTIONAL COMMUNICATION.
It is natural to follow our thoughts and it is natural to judge. Judging comes from a place of fear of being inadequate or not being as good as the other person. We feel better if we criticise, but it is the opposite of love and so the less judgemental we are, the more open we are. When someone is speaking to you, listen with an open heart, adopt compassion, without overthinking judgement or ‘taking it personally’. We can unlearn it if we try and it soon becomes the norm. Judging ourselves is the worst habit and the most difficult to overcome. If we had critical parents, we are more likely to judge ourselves. As you start to judge, stop and ask how you are feeling. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Align with your true self and let go of that feeling of judgment.
LIVING IN THE PRESENT
This is the most important aspect of mindfulness – being in the present, in any given situation, as much as possible. You may want to read “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. Our butterfly mind flits from one thought to another, visiting different thoughts, never staying in one place too long. As the mind is an energy, this energy is scattered and not present. If you apply yourself to what you are doing now, and not your thoughts, then you become more focused and less fearful. The act of being present helps with awareness and non-judgment. It is in the present where the power lies. If you are worrying about the future or reflecting on the past, imagine getting a big blue net and catching those thoughts, bringing yourself into the moment.
“The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment.”
Thick Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Monk
An optimum degree of manageable stress in our lives is necessary and a positive. It is a stimulant and activator, helping us focus and perform well. An overwhelming amount of stress is a problem. Research has shown that 46% of stress comes from an excessive workload, 28% from personal issues, 20% from juggling private and work life and 6% from job insecurity. Stress is the primary cause of ill health and is a trigger for the healing crisis which causes pain and symptoms. Look at my section on BODY HEALING for more information and help. Managing stress is about being AWARE of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment and the way you deal with problems. It is about being mindful of changing a stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction to it, taking care of yourself and making time for rest and relaxation. Use the FOUR ‘A’s to help you manage stress:
- AVOID unnecessary stress. Not all stress can be avoided, but you can be mindful to learn how to say NO, distinguish between ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ on your to do list, steer clear of stressful people and situations and eliminate daily stressors.
- ALTER the situation. If you can not avoid a stressful situation, try to find ways to look at it. Be more assertive and deal with problems head-on. Instead of bottling up your feelings and increasing your stress, respectfully and assertively let others know about your situation and how you are willing to compromise to meet others halfway.
- ADAPT to the stressor. If you can’t change the stressor, try changing yourself. Reframe problems or focus on the positive things in your life. Look at the bigger picture. Is it something to really be getting upset about?
- ACCEPT the things you can’t change. There will always be stressors in your life you can not change. Accept the inevitable rather than getting angry with the situation. Even stressful circumstance are opportunities for learning and personal growth. Learn that no-one, including you, is perfect and use the situation to practise non-judgement.
Treat others with respect and expect the same back. Be mindful in your speech and become aware of others personal space as well as their needs. Physical boundaries, a 3 feet zone, for example, are easier to set than emotional boundaries. Give others time to speak and choose your words carefully and your kind speech will be noticed. Use T.H.I.N.K. when speaking: is what you are saying, TRUE, HELPFUL, INSPIRING, NECESSARY, KIND?
Set your own boundaries up by saying ‘no’ or speaking up for yourself. This will prevent you from becoming angry, aggressive or digging your heels in when you feel you have been taken advantage of. Feeling unfairly treated in itself leads to stress. If you frequently feel like this when dealing with another person, first notice the exact moment when an exchange becomes uncomfortable or confrontational. Immediately let go of the need to be right, then assess rationally if this person is being unkind or crossing a line. Are they giving their objective point of view, or is it getting personal? If they are pushing your boundaries, tell them that this is not OK. If the person has responded as you had hoped, then you have created your own boundary. If not, let go of the need to be right and heard, walk away and come back to it later. Repeat.
Do not let the need to be liked get in the way of you expressing your needs and sense of self-respect. Daily mindfulness and meditation will make you feel calmer, more assertive and in control. You will no longer need to react from a place of fear anymore, as this feeling will subside.
This is a very powerful technique to use in your daily life. To start with, you may have to take time out each day to do it, but eventually it will become a habit.
- Sit comfortably, close your eyes and breath deeply 3-4 times.
- Now intenitionally bring your attention inwards, so that all your awareness is within you.
- Make a mental note of the tension parts of your body – pain, dicomfort , tense muscles.
- Once you feel focused and centered, focus only on this moment now.
- As thought of past or future arise, let them go until they slow down or are not there at all.
- Now open your eyes and keep focused. Do a five minute task, such as the washing up, take a shower or go for a walk.
- As you are doing the task, keep focused on what you are doing, nothing else.
- You will find your mind wants to wander, but don’t let it. Catch your thoughts in a blue butterfly net and come back to the task.
- You may notice something negative e.g. my ankle is aching. Observe it, don’t attach a story to it. If you feel unhappy, question why, but do not expand any story onto it. Just observe and don’t judge.
- Once your mindful task has finished, you will notice you had a peaceful timeless quality and there should be less tension in your body. Make notes. Did your perception change?
10 TIPS FOR DAILY MINDFULNESS
And finally, I have listed my 10 tips for mindfulness every day. You don’t have to do all of these……..no-one is judging you if you don’t…….😊.
- Do one thing at a time – focus on the moment.
- Do it slowly and deliberately.
- Do less. Prioritise and let go of the unnecessary things to do.
- Leave space between jobs; it will make you feel more relaxed.
- Spend at least 5 minutes a day doing nothing: meditate, breath, listen to music.
- When connecting with someone, be present. Stress can come from a frustration of not being listened to, so help others reduce their stress. Listen to them.
- Eat, walk and do everything slowly. Savour every moment.
- Cultivate compassion and gratitude.
- Try not to judge. Say to yourself, “It’s not my business” or “It doesn’t matter”.
- Be flexible and open-minded. Remember the ego mind always wants to jump in. Move to your heart.
“Much suffering, much unhappiness arises when you take each thought that comes into your head for the truth“.
Eckart Tolle – Author of “The Power of Now”
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