What’s ‘Mindfulness’ when you’re at home?
It’s a popular word at the moment ‘Mindfulness’ but what does it mean? Unless we’re mentally incapacitated surely we’re all ‘mindful’ as we go about our days?
But we’re not always mindfully in the present moment though are we? How many of us go through our days on a kind of pre-set, almost out of body auto-pilot, routinely performing the same tasks in the same ways at the same times of the day? Routine saves us time but it also costs us time because routine can remove us from experiencing ourselves fully in the moment. And moments are where we live in time.
It’s like driving. How many of us have driven a routine journey and at the end of it thought ‘how did I get here?’ Whilst driving we might have imaginary conversations with people or work on a ‘to do’ list of future challenges.
We lead busy lives and in our busy-ness I think we can zone out much of our day. We spend our attention not on the present but in the past and the future. Things we have to do, things we didn’t do and we can give ourselves a hard time about both.
Mindfulness is practising an awareness of ourselves in the living moment. And here’s the difficult bit, it’s about not judging what we notice and being gentle and compassionate with ourselves. It’s about nurturing a judgement-free curiousity of our sensory experience of being.
You are not your thoughts
Mindfulness is about cultivating an awareness of our thinking. We have big, busy brains and we’re always thinking but we are not our thoughts, they’re just thoughts.
This can be a bit of a shock when we realise we are not our thoughts, like unplugging ourselves from The Matrix.
A useful way of visualising this is to imagine you are on a busy train station platform with trains coming in and going out again, thousands an hour. They are trains of thought coming into the station of your awareness and going out again. You can climb aboard a train of thought and be carried away with it down the track. In mindfulness meditation the precise moment you become mindful is the very moment you realise you can come back to the platform, the very moment you’re mindful without giving yourself a hard time. That’s what meditation practise is for, practise. They’re just thoughts coming in and out of our awareness and we can choose to get on a train of thought or not.
You are not your feelings
The same is true of your feelings. The image that I’ve found helpful is of a cinema screen, because films stir our emotions. So picture you’re in a cinema and the scene on the screen your brain is giving you is inviting you to feel certain feelings. You are not your feelings and you are not in the screen, you’re in the cinema. You can choose to go into the screen and experience the feelings that are aroused there or you can mindfully notice
‘ah that’s what I was feeling there, ok that’s interesting’ and go back to focusing on your breathing.
It’s all about the breathing
In mindfulness meditation the foundation is focusing on our breathing. The ‘anchor’ that anchors our existence to the present moment.
As we’ve given ourselves the distractions of modern living, we have also found very old ways to tune us back into the core living experience of ourselves.
Mindfulness is a way of experiencing ourselves outside the sphere of doing or changing things. It’s not about relaxation but awareness. Mindful meditation has been likened to ‘falling awake’. In mindfulness we focus on the breath and our breathing.
Mindfulness encourages us to be aware of our thinking, feeling and behaving and how much of our time is spent not in the present but the past or the future, where we miss our life in the here and now.
I believe mindfulness can be of huge benefit for people seeking counselling and psychotherapy. I think mindfulness and psychotherapy can help people gain more awareness to their experience of themselves in every living moment. I think that’s what mindfulness and therapy are all about, having more you for you.
If you live in Sussex and are interested in Mindfulness, Mindfulness Sussex run Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction courses which you can find out more about at mindfulnesssussex.co.uk