Recently several people have asked me about the practice of mindfulness: what does it mean? How can it help me? It’s basically an amalgam of ancient Buddhist teachings about how to live in a more tranquil, accepting and attuned way. I think it resonates with us at this particular moment in time because it is the antithesis of our often frantic, over-achieving lifestyles with their reliance on electronic stimulation and ever-present anxiety. Here is a very simple guide to the main principles of living in a mindful way.
Focus on the Present Moment. When you find yourself getting lost in thinking about the past or worrying about the future, bring your thoughts back to what you are experiencing right now. Try to remain open to how things unfold in the present, rather than having preconceived ideas about how things will or should turn out.
Being Fully Present.. Practice being spaciously aware of whatever you are experiencing in the present moment as you go through your daily life. What do you feel in your body? What are you seeing, hearing, doing, right now?
Openness to Experience. Rather than dreading and shutting out your own feelings and experiences because you think you can’t handle them, endeavour to welcome with curiosity any thoughts and feelings that naturally arise, knowing they are merely sensations in the moment and the next moment can be different. Become aware of your experience as a flow of sensations, thoughts and feelings and watch how these change and transform naturally over time.
Non-Judgment. Don’t categorize your thoughts and feelings as good or bad, try to change them or feel compelled to act on them. All feelings have a purpose, whether to protect you from danger or open you to love. Watch and accept whatever arises in consciousness with an open mind. Extend this non-judging attitude to other people and things.
Acceptance of Things as They Are. Don’t try to force or change reality to fit your vision of what it should be, feel like a victim or bemoan the unfairness of life. Instead, try to see reality clearly and let it be as it is, knowing that you can tolerate whatever it is that comes up. Extend this acceptance to others, knowing they are the best judges of what is right for them.
Connection. Feel connected to all living things and nature in being part of a larger whole. Reflect on and feel grateful for the cycle of life and the food, beauty and protection that nature gives us.
Non-Attachment. Do not try to hold onto things, people or experiences but instead become aware than life is in constant flow. Learn to surf the wave of life, going with the flow and being confident in your own ability to adapt. When one door closes, another opens.
Peace and Equanimity. Know that life is a cycle and you can’t see the whole picture at any one moment. When things don’t go your way, stay firmly rooted in your own clear vision and values. Walk with a peaceful heart and adopt a non-harming, non-violent attitude.
Compassion. Deal gently, kindly and patiently with yourself and others. Rather than judging, or condemning, open your heart to really listen and try to understand your own and other people’s experiences. Allow yourself to feel other people’s suffering. Love people not for what they can give you or because you need something from them, but because you connect and empathise with their experiences.
Developing an observing mind that watches your own daily experience, notices your automatic patterns and gently redirects attention to the present moment is the beginning of growing mindfulness to help you navigate the winds of change and stresses in your life.
Slow your mind – follow your breathing – be gentle with yourself – enjoy the stillness – smile.