Getting into the NOW
Why Should You Engage in Mindfulness?
The concept of mindfulness is simple and relatively easy to understand:
“Mindfulness is the self-regulation of attention with an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance.”
Self-regulation of attention is about orienting yourself to the present moment, and opening yourself up to whatever it brings with curiosity, acceptance and a little dash of self-compassion. I’ll say it again; it’s a simple concept, but incredibly difficult to do.
If you take a minute and watch your mind, you’ll find that it never shuts up. It cycles through defending, analysing, and obsessing over things that either never existed, or won’t come to fruition. You might notice that you tend to take things personally, believing that others’ behaviour or body language are telling you something about yourself. You’ll notice that you do this, because you can only see the world through your own lens of history, culture, socio-economic status, education, and your precious collection of wisdom gleaned from your own experience. You might also notice that you’ve become so identified with your mind spinning, that you aren’t even aware of it happening; you’ve become your mind and it you.
Mindfulness has (for 2600 years) provided an antidote for the tendency to behaviourally act out all the shit that’s happening in our heads. The Buddha, in his infinite wisdom, recognized that our minds are bound to our illusions. And these illusions are so intertwined with our identities that we can’t see what’s real. So he taught people how to practice mindfulness for the relief of suffering and sorrow.
Why should YOU engage in a mindfulness practice?
Working as a clinician has taught me that people can spend the whole of their lives in a sub-optimal, or mostly dead state. This state is characterized by a disconnection between the mind and the body and an inability to be present to what is real. It can take something serious to wake up to the potential that exists in every moment. But often, by the time that something serious happens, it’s too late.
On the other hand, practicing mindfulness is associated with greater resilience, and a decrease in depression, anxiety and rumination. Mindfulness also enhances emotional regulation, and with it performance, both professionally and personally. It increases coping and social skills, and decreases aggression and problem behaviours in children.
In committing to a daily mindfulness practice, recognize that the mind wanders. Your job is to continuously bring it back to the present moment when you notice maladaptive thinking patterns. The first step involves using breath awareness to anchor you in the present moment.
Start by focusing on your breathing. Resist the temptation to change it, just experience it. When you notice that you’re making up a story about WHY you’re breathing in the way that you are, abandon the story and re-orient yourself back to breath awareness. Repeat.
Tracey Soghrati, practices yoga therapy, the art and science of mind-body integration.Tracey Soghrati BSc., BSc.N, RN, RYT is a yoga therapist, mother and lover of life. www.soghratiyoga.com