How to Be Mindful (and why it matters)
Mindfulness is your natural state of being.
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully aware of where we are, what we’re doing, and what is going on around us without being overly reactive or overwhelmed. Mindfulness already exists within each of us, but sometimes in the heat of the moment, we forget to access it. When "thought trains" lead us off into past events, or imagined futures, a few simple techniques can be employed to bring us back to the present.
Go with the flow!
Often times in yoga classes, I will ask students to bring their awareness to some tangible aspect of their being, such as a physical sensation, the movement of breath, or the thought that is present in their mind right now. Establishing the ability to be the "watcher" of our experience is the first step toward being mindful. As we continue to watch, we notice that there is a flow of experience.
5 Facts About Mindfulness
Mindfulness is how we naturally are. Being mindful feels familiar to us because it’s how we are when we are born. We don't have to add something special or change who we are to be mindful. We can cultivate our ability to access mindfulness with simple practices that benefit not only us, but those close to us, and even our greater community. Mindfulness recognizes and cultivates the best of who we are as human beings.
Anyone can do it. Mindfulness practices reveal universal human qualities and do not require one to change their beliefs.
It’s a way of living. Once you have experienced the benefits of mindfulness in practice, you will likely want to bring this clarity of awareness and caring into everything you do. Continued practice will lead toward a more mindful way of being in "real life."
It’s evidence-based. We don’t have to take mindfulness on faith. Both science and experience demonstrate its positive benefits for our health, happiness, work, and relationships.
Mindfulness has the potential to become a transformative social phenomenon. As we deal with the increasing complexity and uncertainty of modern life, mindfulness can lead us to effective, resilient, and innovative responses and solutions.
Meditation - Don't be afraid of meditation! The stereotypic visual of a person seated in a cross-legged position, and rigid rules of spinal alignment is only ONE way to meditate. There are also walking, standing, and moving types of meditation. It’s also possible to meditate while lying down but be careful as this often leads to sleep. I encourage you to explore some online meditations or take a meditation class. Sometimes working with a teacher in person is the best option until you feel confident exploring meditation on your own.
Short pauses we insert into everyday life - When you find yourself reeling from anxiety, paralyzed by depression, or unable to focus because the world seems to be moving too fast, take a mindfulness break. Stop what you are doing, close your eyes, and feel the breath moving in and out of your nostrils. Deepen your breath, and begin to lengthen the exhale.
Movement practices - Yoga, qi gong, and tai chi can be a great way to introduce yourself to mindfulness, as it is an integral part of these paths. Join us for a class at OCY and be sure to ask your teacher about mindfulness. We are always eager to talk to you about the deeper underpinnings of yoga!
Tips for Mindful Living
1. Upon waking, sit up in your bed or in a chair in a relaxed posture. Close your eyes and connect with the sensations in body. Make your spine straight, but not rigid.
2. Take three long, deep breaths—breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then let your body breathe itself. Follow the air in and out, noticing the rise and fall of your chest and belly as you breathe.
3. Ask yourself: “How do I want to be today?”
How do I want to interact with others? What do I need to do in order to take better care of myself? In difficult moments, how might I be more compassionate to others and myself? How might I feel more connected and fulfilled? What are the qualities I want to embody in my interactions with myself and others?
4. Set an intention. Be specific, and keep it simple. Today, I will be kind to myself; be patient with others; give generously; stay focused on one task at a time; make time to be with family/friends; have fun; eat well,” or anything else you feel is important.
5. Throughout the day, check in with yourself. Pause, take a breath, and revisit your intention. Notice, as you become more and more conscious of your intentions for each day, how the quality of your communications, relationships, and mood shifts.
"Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves. Consider, for example: a magician who cuts his body into many parts and places each part in a different region—hands in the south, arms in the east, legs in the north, and then by some miraculous power lets forth a cry which reassembles whole every part of his body. Mindfulness is like that—it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life."
Thich Nhat Hanh
One study of mindfulness concluded "that mindfulness brings about various positive psychological effects, including increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioral regulation." *
Oxford Community Yoga hosts daily yoga classes to help you get started on the road to a more mindful way of being. Come home to yourself! Join us!
*Keng, Shian-Ling et al. “Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies.” Clinical psychology review vol. 31,6 (2011): 1041-56. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2011.04.006)