Practicing mindfulness gives us the ability to shift our awareness and attention. How does that happen and why is it important?
By sitting and bringing our awareness back to our “anchor” (our choice focal point – can be breath, sounds, our body, etc), we are training and strengthening the muscle that shifts our attention. During practice we focus on our anchor, then our mind wanders. When we remember, we shift our attention back to our anchor. We do this for the duration of the sit. It doesn’t matter how often it happens. The point is the remembering and coming back to anchor. That strengthens the muscle of shifting awareness.
If you’re like a lot of others, including me, your shifting muscle has atrophied. Our attention has been hi-jacked by so many other things, the news, advertisements, e-mails, the latest series finale, and so on. Not to mention the, closer to home, issues such as needing to make a dentist appointment or just remembering to pick up milk on the way home. Our attention is pulled in so many directions not of our choosing. It just seems to jump to the next “important,” maybe loudest thing. It’s no wonder we’ve lost the ability to put our attention where we want it. So we practice bringing it back over and over.
And why is this important? Because do we really need to pay attention to “The Top 10 Foods that Will Make You Fat. # 3 Will blow you away”? Sheesh! Maybe it’s healthier and more soothing to pay attention to our child’s smile, to the person that let you cut in line cause you only had 2 grocery items, to the rhythm or your own heart beat, to the smell of the breeze or to the tinge of sadness you felt when you saw that homeless person.
It IS healthier and more soothing. And our neurological system needs it to calm down.
Do me a favor. Put down what you’re doing. Sit quiet for just a minute or 30 seconds even. Notice 5 of your breaths, how they go in and out. Where do you feel them, in your stomach, nostrils, chest? Are they cold or warm? Just notice them.
Ok stop. What did you notice? Was it easy? Was it uncomfortable. Maybe you couldn’t even keep your attention on 2 full breaths. That’s totally normal. The mind wants to think and in this age of constant stimulation we’ve been flexing that muscle a lot. But practicing mindfulness will help you strengthen the muscle of shifting attention which will give you choice on what you want to pay attention to.
Please let me know how it went. I’m really interested.