Mindfulness and Meditation
“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.”
- Eckhart Tolle
What is Mindfulness?
There are many forms of mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is about awareness, this could involve awareness of a particular object, awareness of our thoughts and senses and the scope of our awareness varies (I will share more about this in another article).
Mindfulness is something we can practice all the time. Meditation is a more formal practice which can involve mantras, listening or using guided visualisations and it also involves maintaining mindful awareness.
A regular mindfulness meditation practice is one of the most crucial things we can do to foster emotional resilience. This is especially important during times of transition or when going through periods of difficulty. The practice enables us to regulate and stay present with our emotions without getting consumed by them or, on the other hand, pretending they are not there. We develop an ability to observe our experience and see our thoughts or emotions as something that are part of us, rather than the truth of who we are.
Mindfulness of the Breath
Our mind is like a movie that is playing on repeat; we are often reminiscing on old memories, constructing and making plans or focusing on fears and anxieties surrounding our unknown future. One of the most basic forms of mindfulness meditation is to focus on a specific object of attention such as the breath. This practice involves staying present with the constant in and out flow of breath while maintaining a non-judgmental awareness. When your mind wanders, or you get lost in thoughts and memories, you simply bring yourself back to the awareness of the breath. The mind will continue to wander or ‘trap’ you in these thoughts and stories! You are constantly training yourself to come back to the object of attention—the breath.
Even after years of practice, my mind still wanders! Actually, maintaining stable attention is something I have always found really difficult - my mind is constantly getting distracted and I can very easily get caught up in stories and find myself daydreaming. This is the main reason I practice mindfulness, because I have found that I’m able to ‘catch’ the wandering and bring myself back to my breath much more quickly than I used to.
I have also found that I can identify the felt sense of emotions in my body more easily, so when I practice, I feel into the tightness and areas where I am holding tension and use the breath to dissolve this tension. There is often a natural expansion that takes place and which gives some space between our thoughts. With a regular and consistent practice, which can be as little as 5 minute a day, the space between our thoughts will grow and eventually enable us to choose how we respond to our emotions. Hopefully, without feeling overwhelmed by them or reacting in impulsive ways, which we would prefer not to.
When we are struggling or feeling overwhelmed by powerful emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger or sadness, these emotions often show up as tightness, tension, restrictions and physical pain in the body. As well as the mental space I mentioned earlier, a regular meditation practice also creates physical space and an expansion between the actual cells and the tightness we experience in the body. We can breathe into the physical tension and the emotions, thereby reducing stress and the manifestations of physical illness in the body.
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