Over the years I have had many conversations with both clients and friends about meditation and mindfulness. In my line of work both of these are things that I come across on a regular basis whether it’s with individuals, or working on retreats, or reading about different ways to deal with anxiety or just life!
Now I’m no expert on either of these things and I guess this is what this post is about, we have all read about how meditation and mindfulness are good for your mental health, are good for your physical health and I’m guessing but at some point in time you have probably tried both or either of them? But personally I think that sometimes we try too hard as with many things in life.
I’m not going to teach granny how to suck eggs here and talk about what meditation is, I’m sure you’ve got a pretty good idea and if you haven’t there are plenty of books that you can look up the art of meditation. This blog is more about mindfulness or learning how to be mindful of things and it’s something that I came across and was made more aware of the health benefits when my mum was very poorly. I needed to be able to take time out, to switch off, to stop my brain going over and over the same things.
The counsellor I was working with was very keen for me to find space each day to be able to sit with myself and sometimes just breathe! I know that sounds daft and at the time even though I’d read huge amounts about the art of breathing it seemed that it should be something I was pretty good at having reached the ripe old age of 46 but apparently not. I focused on some easy breathing exercises and sometimes just allowed myself to sit in the chair by my window and focus on my breathing.I used various apps for help which sometimes helped but more often than not just making that time for myself even if it was for five minutes focusing on breathing in and breathing out, breathing in and breathing out sometimes counting my breaths just seemed to slow me down and give me some respite.
I then started thinking more about mindfulness and being mindful of what I was doing. When was the last time you ate a meal and actually thought about what you were eating, maybe taking in a large breath before you started the meal, the delicious aroma wafting up in front of you and actually tasting what you were eating, chewing your food slowly not gulping it down in a rush, appreciating the time is it taken to prepare the food and enjoying the moment?
When was the last time you went for a walk and perhaps took off the headphones, didn’t make that phone call? What sounds did you notice? What were the smells around you? Were the sounds familiar? How did you feel hot, cold, wet? How do you feel in that particular moment? Were you just concentrating on putting one foot in front of another?
For me being mindful is about living in the moment, I have an awful lot to learn and will continue reading as much as I can about being more mindful but what I have noticed is now, when I go for a walk I am more aware, I tune out from the other stuff and tune in on what is around me, I am mindful of the moment I am experiencing and it feels quite remarkable. I do take my phone but only for emergencies not to multitask and catch up with people at the same time.
The same goes for watching a television programme – how often do you sit there half watching and scrolling? I know I do. Do I need to be doing both, no, I don’t?
We are encouraged so often to be multi-tasking, to be making the most of every minute of every day – listen to a podcast, watch a webinar, read a blog post (yes I’m aware of the irony) watch the news, keep up with what everyone is doing on social media that sometimes we forget, actually I would say we often forget to STOP, to breathe, to do one thing at a time right here right now and focus on just that one thing.
I think we can all get a bit hung up on trying to do meditation or mindfulness right, what is right? It does take practice that’s a fact, there are people that have been doing it for years and achieve amazing results that is also a fact, but you can find your own way to use mindfulness in everyday life if we just give it a little bit of thought. It will reduce your stress levels, decrease your anxiety and help you live more in the moment something which personally I think we could all benefit from.