Thursday, 1 January 2015

Why Mindfulness?


I have often been asked "Why should I learn Mindfulness? What's so important about the present"?

Well, when you think about it, only the present is our true reality: The past is already a memory, and is always influenced by our state of mind and prejudices. The future does not yet exist other than in our imagination. So there is only the present.

Mindfulness is about being in the present, without any pre-conceived thoughts or prejudices, other than one of non-judgement. Without our prejudices, we see more clearly, we are calmer and we make better decisions for the future.

In the present day society, being in the moment does not come naturally. It’s a skill that we have lost.

For example:

When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you usually think about? If you’re like most of us, then you’re thinking about the future from the moment you wake up. Stuff like:
  • What do I need to do today?
  • Who do I have to phone/email/text?
  • I have to take the kids to the dentist after school
  • I’m meeting with my friend tonight for a drink after work, I can’t wait!
And sometimes we’re worrying:
  • What if this doesn't go right?
  • What if I mess up?
  • What if that person lets me down?

All of this goes on in our mind while we’re in the shower, getting dressed, eating breakfast or driving. In fact, right throughout the day. When we’re performing a task that doesn’t take all of our concentration, we’re often already thinking of the next task, and the next. Meanwhile, we’re performing all of these tasks while on autopilot.

And when we’re not thinking about the future, we’re usually thinking about the past. Stuff like:
  • I can’t believe she said that
  • I wish he hadn't done that
  • If only I hadn't made that mistake
  • I had so much fun yesterday
  • I wish I was still there.

Autopilot or in the moment?

How often have you eaten your favorite food while watching television, working on your computer or reading a book, then looked at your empty plate in surprise because after that first bite, you don’t remember anything about eating it?

 Or how often have you just had to stop for a moment and admire the sunset, or a flower, or the ocean? Remember the pleasure that moment brought you?

 Of course, not every moment is as beautiful or joyful as watching the ocean or the sunset, but because we always seem to be thinking of a moment other than the one we’re in right now, we often miss out on important stuff that’s going on around us, or even within our own body.

 As I said above, mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment. It is noticing and acknowledging all of the body sensations, thoughts and emotions associated with that moment. When we’re practising mindfulness, we’re not thinking about the future or the past.

 This doesn't mean that we don’t plan for the future. But there is a difference between planning for or anticipating the future and constantly ‘living’ in the future.

 Meditation, and Mindfulness Meditation in particular, trains us to be present, in the moment. 

We already know from several studies that any meditation is beneficial to our physical and mental health (3). Specifically, meditation has been shown to be helpful for Chronic Anxiety  (4),and Irritable Bowel Syndrome 5; both conditions being associated with stress.(6,7).

 Afraid of Meditation?

 Yes, some people are afraid of meditation, or are unsure of what if involves. Well, here is what it does NOT involve...
  •  Mindfulness Meditation does not have to involve sitting on the floor with your legs crossed in odd positions.
  • It does not have to involve chanting, humming, drumming or movement.
  • Mindfulness Meditation does not have to involve any spiritual or religious beliefs or practices.
  •  It does not require that you close your eyes.
  •  In fact, you can even carry out a mindfulness meditation while walking, driving, standing in line or eating

Once you’re familiar with the technique of mindfulness, through mindfulness- meditation, then you can begin to incorporate it into your everyday life.
We must live through each moment in this life. So, why not live through the moment deliberately, with awareness and thoughtfulness, rather than wasting it by wishing we were in another moment?

Get online Mindfulness Meditation course here for just €12 ($10) LIMITED OFFER

  2. David M. Levy, Jacob O. Wobbrock, Alfred W. Kaszniak, Marilyn Ostergren.The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information EnvironmentProceedings of Graphics Interface, May, 2012i
  3. Friedman R, Steinman M, Benson H. The relaxation response: physiological effects and medical applications. In: Haruki Y. ed. Comparative and Psychological studies on meditation. Tokyo: Waseda University Press, 1996: 205-11.
  4. C. W. Lejuez, et al. "Meditative Therapies For Reducing Anxiety: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Of Randomized Controlled Trials." Depression & Anxiety (1091-4269) 29.7 (2012): 545-56
  5. Linda Carlson, et al. "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction For The Treatment Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms: A Randomized Wait-List Controlled Trial." International Journal Of Behavioral Medicine 20.3 (2013): 385-396
  6. Arias AJ, Steinberg K, Banga A, Trestman RL. Systematic review of the efficacy of meditation techniques as treatments for medical illness. J Altern Comp Med 2006;12(8):817–832
  7. Ospina MB, Bond K, Karkhane M, et al. Meditation practices for health: State of the research. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. US Department of Health and Human Services Evidence Reports/Technology Assessments, NO. 155. Rockville,MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2007.

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