Most people come to Mindfulness with the desire to calm down or to lessen stress and anxiety in their lives. But once it’s incorporated, mindfulness has a more far-reaching and powerful effect than just stress reduction. Especially when we practice it in all aspects of our lives. These are powerful tools for day-to-day bombardment of the challenges we face.
Here are the different ways of being mindful that I teach and the benefits to be had. Each step is a building block for the next.
Mindfulness of the breath – We practice noticing our breath and when our mind wanders (which it definitely will) we bring it back to the focus of the breath. This exercise is actually training your mind to be able to shift awareness. The mind wants to jump and solve and plan and worry. That’s what it does. We may want to just be. By continuously practicing bringing our awareness back, we strengthen the shifting muscle so that we have some say in where the mind puts it attention.
Mindfulness of the body –Making the body the focus of attention has the same effect as focusing on breath by training the shifting muscle. It has the added benefit of now really paying attention to ourselves, starting with the body. You begin to be able to hear the communications that your body is continuously sending, which is a valuable tool for health and well being. Another way to be mindful of the body is to be mindful of activities that the body does such as eating, walking and movement. All of it is valuable.
Mindfulness of emotions –Did you know that the electrochemical hit of an emotion lasts only about 90 seconds? Then why can we feel horrible for hours or days? There’s a difference between our feeling emotions and getting caught up in the story that perpetuates the initial emotions. By being mindful of the difference, you are able to catch yourself reacting instead of responding to intense situations. You then gain control over your actions. You can make less impulsive decisions with skill and ease.
Mindfulness of the heart – This practice is really more of a cultivation of positive states. We focus on states like gratitude, forgiveness, and kindness. Our aim is to get in touch with the inherent compassion that is in us all. Many times we are unaware and so busy reacting that our compassion is bypassed. It is a very important tool to have at our disposal to serve ourselves and others.
Mindfulness of interaction with others – With the preceding tools in hand, being aware of your breath, body, emotions and compassion, we can now interact with others in a way that is mutually beneficial and productive. As we pay attention to how we’re feeling while we engage in communication, as we practice mindful listening, we are able to navigate challenging situations with more ease, skill and kindness.
And the list goes on – This spectrum of awareness makes for less stress, better decision-making, more productive personal interactions, a sense of competence and understanding. One more added benefit is that as we get better at noticing what is, we begin to become aware of subtle gifts that life is continuously offering, thereby adding joy and peace to our lives.
It all starts with a mindfulness practice. Let me help you get that started and keep it sustained.