What is Mindfulness?
It is awareness of the present moment. It is to be truly alive and awake in each living moment of your life. It is to notice your breath as it flows in and out; it is to the connection with everything you experience with your senses, it is the realisation that you are part of the cosmos as is everything around you.
Being mindful is a practice that we as adults often have to relearn. When we are very young children we are naturally mindful in everything we do. We felt the grass we sat on and were tickled by the feeling on our skin. We experienced creating in the moment with our art, stories and imaginative play. We felt emotions as they were, not afraid of being judged or afraid of expressing ourselves. We lived in the moment.
As we grew we learnt that our mind had to be focused and on task. Society did not teach us to be and stay present. Over time we learnt to forget the practice of mindfulness to allow room for our egos to expand and control.
Why live mindfully?
When you are fully present there is no room for the ego. There is only space for peacefulness and happiness. In a mindful state there is no fear, anxiety, criticism, shame, dishonour, judgement or sorrow. When you are mindful your mind and body are unified, they are working together consciously. Your mind is uncluttered and you can be fully present in what you are doing. When you are not unified your mind separates you from yourself. You lose the link to who you really are.
How to become mindful?
There is much research and teachings on mindfulness and many how to guides, but the clearest and most profound explanations that I have listened too are from Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist Monk who teaches the art of mindfulness all around the world. He explains mindfulness with such clarity and love that his message and teachings are adopted and received by many all over the world. These are some of his suggestions to live a peaceful and happy life.
1. The Breath – This is so important. When you are breathing in, know that you are breathing in. When you are breathing out, know that you are breathing out. This practice stops the thinking. When we are thinking too much we are not ourselves. Our body is present and our mind is somewhere else.
When you are not present you do not see things clearly…you miss things. Think of when you are busy in your mind and your family members want your attention. How can you be fully present and give them what they need if your mind is not there?
Be there. Be available to the people in your life. Life is only available to you in the moment. It is not found in the past or the future. See the world as it is. See the beauty and the freshness of what the world has to offer. Try not to miss life. Breathe in with awareness, breathe out with awareness. Happiness, peace and joy are all in the present moment.
2. Flower Fresh – When you breathe in see yourself as a flower, when you breathe out ‘I feel fresh’. Humans are born as flowers. Think of a baby…a baby is very fresh and very beautiful. Just like a flower. Buddhist’s describe our eyes like a lotus flower, and our lips like a beautiful flower too especially when we smile. You can offer this flower to anyone at any time just by breathing in and breathing out and smiling.
Our eyes can smile too. We can smile through our eyes. When we do this we can give 2 flowers and if we smile with our mouth as well we can give 3 flowers.
We need to know how to take care of our flowers. If we do not tend to them they will wither and become tired. So you need to breathe deeply and smile like a flower, breathe deeply out, you are fresh. Practice refreshing yourself and being a flower. Being a flower is happiness.
3. Mountain Solid – Sit in a strong position like the lotus position or half lotus…You feel solid in this strong position. Stability and solidity in the body help the mind to become stable. Practice breathing in see yourself as a mountain, breathe out… I am solid.
During our lives we experience strong emotions from time to time. Sometimes we can feel very overwhelmed which can make us feel vulnerable. But we are more solid than we think. When we practice being strong like a mountain we can weather these strong emotional times much better.
We are like a tree. Our emotions are on the top like the branches in a storm. They are very vulnerable. But our trunk is strong. Our trunk is just below our naval, so bring your attention to this place and see yourself as a mountain. Breathe in and breathe out watching your stomach. If you practice this, your emotions will not be able to destroy you. When you breathe in, say to yourself…”I see myself as a mountain”, when you breathe out…”I feel solid”.
4. Space Free – Space is the symbol of liberty.
Breathe in…”I see myself as space”. Breathe out…”I feel free”. Allow yourself space inside and space outside. If you do not have space around you, you cannot move. All human beings need space. Though space can only be obtained by practice. You can practice to offer freedom, to offer emptiness to yourself and to others.
If you are very busy with many things going on, you don’t have space. How can you be happy? You may need to throw away most of the things around you to be happy. People who have space around them are happier than those that do not. If you want your loved ones to be happy, give them space. If you want to be happy, than give yourself space.
5. Water Reflected – Visualise a lake in the mountains, the water so still, so clear. It reflects the blue sky and the mountains. You can look into the lake and see your face because it is not distorted at all. It is calm, still and everything is reflected just as it is. Breathe in…”I see myself as still waters”. Breathe out…”I see things as they are”.
When we are not calm we distort things. We cannot clearly see the message from other people and not be open to seeing the truth.
Imagine the full moon in the sky – she wants to reflect herself in the water of your pond. But the water in your pond is not calm. How can the moon reflect herself in you? Therefore it is not the fault of the moon; it is the fault of the water.
If the pond of the mind is still, your perceptions will be correct and you will understand what people are trying to tell us. When the mind is not still you cannot receive the truth from the cosmos. Therefore, practice breathing in and breathing out to calm you, so true understanding can be possible. Sitting quietly is a wonderful way to calm you and to be still waters.