As a working woman with two young children, I often struggle to find time for my mental and physical fitness. On top of these challenges, we all deal with traffic, household responsibilities, bills, aspirations, obligations, social demands and worries about the future. Staying sane can feel like a constant challenge. The energy of mindfulness can help us anchor ourselves in the present moment where life is happening.
My favorite teacher of mindfulness is Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. I encourage you to explore his books and videos. Here is some of his wisdom.
To stay in the present moment, we need to bring our mind back to our body. Often, we may be sitting in one place, someone may come talk to us. For example, our child perhaps, has come to show us something. Our body is there, but our mind is lost in the past or fretting over the future. Or, on our mobile phone. We are not present for our child. We are not able to engage. We miss out on the moment.
Mindfulness is the cultivation of present moment awareness. This means moment to moment living not running on auto-pilot. To do this, we must pay attention to one thing at a time. Make an appointment with life which only happens in the present moment. If we are not present, we cannot give love in the moment, so mindfulness is the practice of love. To cultivate mindfulness, begin with paying attention to your breath.
Inhale, breathing in.
Exhale, breathing out.
To bring the mind back to the body, use the breath.
Be aware of present moment, without judging it; there is no right or wrong. Use your breath to relax your mind rather than letting it control you, dragging you back to the past or towards the future. Rather, just sit, sit in peace, and breathe, like the Buddha.
Mindfulness has many benefits. It allows us to remain anchored in the present moment. It allows us to see reality more clearly. It allows us to manage stress and be relaxed. It allows us to come to each moment fresh like a flower, not cluttered with the past. All you have to do is breath and sit. And practice.
Stress is the body's reaction to perceived threat from change. Change is constant. These days we find ourselves overwhelmed with information, exhaustion, lack of focus, health burn out, anger. Mindfulness improves our ability to respond to stress by helping us identify stress and deal with it. Mindfulness teaches us to relax. Relaxation helps us release stress and stay in present moment. To do so, use breath.
To develop mindfulness, practice. Cultivate mindfulness by focusing on one thing at a time with full attention: mindful eating, mindful brushing teeth, mindful walking. There are many techniques, such as inhale love exhale gratitude, inhale fresh as a flower exhale solid as a mountain. Explore and find the ones that resonate with you.
Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that therapists, rather than asking us what is wrong, should ask us what is NOT wrong with us? We have a lot inside to be grateful for, including an abundant repository of joy and peace, but we may not be able to reach it. That is where we need the help of therapists. To help us restore balance, through mindful meditation and walking meditation, to restore the conditions of peace and wellbeing within.