Sometimes our mind wanders off into unconscious realms and decides to switch to autopilot mode. Here, we no longer have access to the engines that enable us to be consciously aware of what it is we are doing, we simply continue committing to the task at hand effortlessly. These moments might be considered as spurges of ease where we get things done without a thought in mind. But what if we want to tell our brains to snap out of it, stop running on autopilot, and get back to real life? We might then use mindfulness as a technique that encompasses the usage of awareness.
We often hear a lot of talk about how we’re supposed to try and stop dwelling on the past; that the “past is in the past for a reason”. We can find that even nowadays there are plenty of techniques that solely focus on staying in the present moment, one of which is practicing mindfulness. So, what is mindfulness? It can be considered a human ability, a mental state, or a practice that adapts these mindsets:
- Being fully present in the here and now “the now moment” with less focus on the past and future.
- Involves a heightened awareness of surrounding stimuli. Being aware of the usage of all your senses; for example, noticing your breathing or feeling the sensations in your body.
- Adapting to a non-judgmental, unattached approach to the thoughts, feelings, and actions we come across.
“Conditions are neither positive nor negative. They are as they are. And when you live in complete acceptance of what is-which is the only sane way to live- there is no “good” or “bad” in your life anymore” -From the book: “The Power of Now” by Eckart Tolle. It’s a new perspective to think of situations as such when we’ve always been conditioned to think of them as being either this or that. That they had to fit in at a certain point on a spectrum. They had to be labelled and reacted to accordingly. Mindfulness here teaches us to watch our emotions towards situations from afar, from a bird’s eye view. We can watch them come and go to make room for others to take their place. We can start to focus on being aware of situations that trigger our reactions, aware of how our senses respond, and welcome all of this with ease and nonjudgmental state of mind. It’s like taking a step back and witnessing our emotions happen right in front of our eyes. As if they are motions and motions of compacted feelings unattached from our bodies floating around, temporarily. We do pay attention to them, without being overly invested. There is a moment of peace in knowing that our emotions are not static, they move around and are constantly replaced with other ones, completing their never-ending cycle. In that moment, let’s try to be fully and consciously aware of them, of their mere existence without offering any judgment in play. Important disclaimer: being aware of your emotions is important. Having a moment to take them all in by being aware of their presence is important. We are not trying to disregard our emotions by treating them as if they do not exist. They do and they are indeed essential. But there’s a difference from being aware of them and offering heavy reactions, attachments, and judgments onto them. Here, it’s better to just let them be, without them weighing on you in any shape, way or form.
In moments of distress, we might need to take a few steps back to adjust. You might like to give mindful meditation a try when you stumble upon these signs in your life:
- Struggling with feelings of anxiety.
- Feeling stressed in relationships, workplace, home, or with yourself.
- Having a hard time practicing self-compassion (being understanding when you suffer, fail, or feel inadequate).
- Focusing on negative emotions or negative self-talk more often than usual.
- Finding it hard to focus and continuously getting distracted.
But what is mindful meditation? It’s simply a concoction between mindfulness (being aware of all our thoughts, emotions, and sensations of the now without judgment) and the act of meditation (clearing your mind of anything and start attending to the present moment in calm environment). It teaches you to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negative ones, and calm both your mind and body.
Ways to Practice Mindful Meditation
Let’s get comfortable
Begin by choosing the most comfortable place, position, clothes, setting, and mood that best suits you. You don’t need to have the typical meditating ambiance (candles, dimmed lights, music) to start mindful meditation, but if that suits you then go for it!
Pick an appropriate time
It’s better to give yourself specific time periods to practice mindful meditation. Not only does this mean to choose if you prefer mornings or nights, but also the length of the practice itself. That’s because sometimes we can get carried away, feeling like we shifted off to a different time zone, not knowing when to come back to “life”.
Breathe in… breathe out
It’s safe to say that breathing happens unconsciously without a thought in mind. To mindfully meditate though we might need to focus with our breathing, feeling every wisp of air flow in and out, tuning in with the responses our body makes, and feeling the rhythm with each breathe.
Thought and emotion radar
Remember when we noted that seeing our emotions from a “bird’s eye view” can help us unwind from being caught up in them? let’s hold on to that idea when we mindfully meditate. Whenever a thought or emotion comes to mind:
- Remain calm
- Acknowledge their existence (be aware)
- Use your breathing as an anchor
- Get comfortable with being the sole witness of them
- Allow them to pass without any sort of judgment or attachment
Give yourself a break
If you by any chance find yourself carried away in all your thoughts and emotions, observe where your mind went and try to get it back to the present moment. Focus on your breathing and try to return to your current unbothered state of mind. Remember that mindful meditation is a process, so if you ever feel that your emotions are taking over, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s okay if they do. By time and practice, being mindful will happen automatically when you’re on the go (you wouldn’t have to prepare an ambiance for it).
A Word from O7 Therapy
Understanding mindfulness is a new way of living life. It provides a present, more aware, judgement free way of thinking. In addition, practicing mindful meditation helps you deal with negative, anxious heavy emotions.