Although mindfulness has gained immense popularity in the West, many remain unsure as to what it truly means — apart from assuming that it is merely a buzzword for the latest health trend or fad. Others may believe that it is an esoteric Eastern practice, reserved for sages or select groups of individuals. Both of these misconceptions, however, are far from the truth.
What exactly does it mean to be mindful? Mindfulness is a means to unite one’s mind, body, and breath as a way to connect to oneself, and in turn, to others. Mindfulness enables one to move past the turbulent waves of restless thoughts to a deeper state of stillness and calm. To be mindful is to live in the present moment and to not be lost in the memories of yesterday or the anxious worries of tomorrow. Mindfulness is living moment-to-moment, free from any judgment or expectation. It is as though you are experiencing everything for the first time and bringing your full awareness, with purposeful intention, to all aspects of the present experience.
There are various mechanisms that are used to practice mindfulness, such as:
- Awareness on a focused point: bringing your attention to the external environment using your senses
- Awareness of your body: bringing awareness to your breath and the subtle sensations in your body
- Awareness of your internal world: bringing awareness to the emotions, feelings and thoughts that arise
With its notable emphasis on practicing these techniques free from any judgment, expectation, reaction or rationalization, mindfulness is considered to share an indissoluble bond with compassion and gratitude. A regular mindfulness practice can not only aid in countering stress and anxiety, but also in achieving greater focus, balance, clarity, cognitive control, and empathy. By doing so, mindfulness allows us to deepen our level of self-awareness, thereby providing us with enough space to disrupt our automatic and impulsive behaviours through increased levels of emotional self-regulation, and in turn, replace them with healthier habits.
Mindfulness practices picked up their first wind in the Western world in the 1960’s, and in the past 30 to 40 years, mindfulness became the focus of numerous scientific and academic studies. As compelling evidence was gathered indicating the measurable positive changes in the brain and nervous system resulting from mindfulness practices, mindfulness became accepted by modern medicine as a viable course of therapy to improve one’s overall quality of life. With its ability to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and profound effects on brain plasticity, now proven by neuroscience, mindfulness practices are successfully being used today in various hospitals, schools, prisons, rehabilitation clinics, and offices.
Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, at any time. Allow yourself a brief mindful moment today, and simply bring your awareness to your breath by becoming conscious of your natural inhalation and exhalation pattern. After all, the breath is the bridge between our mind and body — where the breath goes, the mind and body follow.
Originally published at www.mindfulessence.com on October 11, 2016.
Originally published at medium.com