Mindfulness – Meditation or Presence?
Defining Mindfulness Can Deepen Understanding
What is mindfulness? The renowned psychologists Jon Kabat-Zinn’s defines it as follows: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
A very crisp definition and yet very profound! It is all about being present, unruffled. The basic premise of mindfulness is absorbing everything tangible and intangible around you. It is not a ritualistic meditation practice, while deep and intense in its own way.
Overcoming Difficulties to Be More Mindful
In today’s chaotic world one may find it difficult to be mindful. There is also a simple exercise to become mindful. All you have to do is sit in a place, preferably in a garden, and access all your senses.
Visual – Rest your attention on everything you see. You can hold your head still or gently move it to look around. Take the world in with your eyes. Initially, you may want to use your mobile or look at your watch but soon you will begin to notice details you did not realize were there (the slight movement of the leaves in the breeze, tiny bugs around etc.). If your mind wanders off into thoughts, when you notice it has happened, return to taking in all that you see – shapes, colors, movements.
Hearing – Now do the same with your hearing. You can close your eyes if you are in a place where you can just sit and listen to the sounds around without getting disturbed. Take in all that you hear. You will be pleasantly surprised with the sounds in the neighborhood! As Buddha said: “In hearing, only hearing”.
Use Physical Awareness and Experiences
Body Sensations – With your eyes open or closed, move to bodily sensations. The first thing you will notice is the sensation of air coming in and going out of the nostrils. This is an interesting exercise, one can hear even the tiniest twitch in the body. If you wish you can focus your attention to different parts of your body and feel it.
Experience all – Now, open your eyes if they’ve been closed and take a few deep breaths. While breathing intake in sights, sounds, bodily sensations, any tastes in your mouth or odors you might smell, any thoughts or emotions arising in the mind. And slowly and deeply breathe out.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Let’s look at the benefits of mindfulness and why being mindful enhances all areas of one’s life.
Focus – It helps in eliminating procrastination and building focus.
Stress reduction – It helps in reducing day to day stress.
Boosting memory – It will help in fine tuning one’s memory and enhancing one’s performance.
Healthy relationships – Several studies find that a person’s ability to be mindful can help predict relationship satisfaction – the ability to respond well to relationship stress and the skill in communicating one’s emotions to a partner. Empirical evidence suggests that mindfulness protects against the emotionally stressful effects of relationship conflict.
Better Health – Consistent practice of mindfulness also affects one’s health in a positive manner. An experiment was carried out on a team of workers engaged in a weekly meditation class led by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Following the eight-week class, researchers hooked up the participants to an EEG machine to record their brain activity. The people who participated in the meditation class showed changes in their brain function associated with well-being and resilience.
Empathy – As one is open and aware, one becomes more empathetic. This again solidifies human bond.
Compassion – One can deal with any situation in life from the eyes of compassion rather than being judgmental.
Tolerance – It helps in attaining a good amount of tolerance level. Instead of being reactive one becomes more tolerant and forgiving.
Acceptance of things as they are – One can accept everything happening in life from the eyes of a watch keeper rather than from the eyes of a victim.
Mindful Leadership and Making Wise Decisions
As a leadership strategy, mindfulness helps people to be more effective by directing focus to the most pertinent task at hand. Deprogramming multitasking tendencies and intentionally focusing one’s full attention results in higher quality interactions and decisions. Mindful decision-makers take the time to consider all their options, and therefore make more informed decisions. Managers who model and promote mindful practices with their teams create an environment of engagement.
Several well-known and respected organizations have long recognized the benefits that mindfulness brings. So, immerse yourself in the present moment and swim the sea of life effortlessly!
As Eckhart Tolle so eloquently said: “Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment. Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life – and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”
February 7, 2018