The practice of mindfulness has many forms but can be described as paying attention in the present moment, with an awareness that is non-judgemental and compassionate. It is a way of being, a way in which we relate to what is going on in our mind and externally in our environment and in the universe. It is about being conscious and awake. It is about appreciating what we have in our lives, it is about being gracious. It helps us gain more feelings of happiness and contentment and leads to feeling calm, grounded and improves general wellbeing.
Mindfulness is about recognising thoughts for what they are, just thoughts. They are not necessarily true. Our minds can get carried away and can be very creative, the practice of mindfulness can help to free your mind of over-thinking and bring you back to the present moment, living more in the moment and less in the past or present.
Here’s a nice extract from a book called A Million Thoughts by Om Swami. “When I first started with intense practice. I didn’t fully understand the difference between mindfulness and alertness. They sounded almost identical to me. But after practising for a few thousand hours. Something remarkable happended. I discovered that if you are able to detect a thought with alertness just before if forms fully in your mind, the though disappears on its own, as if alertness actually shot it down’’
Mindfulness can help you let go of the auto-pilot mode that so many of us live in today. In auto-pilot mode we are stuck in habits and we are very detached from the present moment. A simple example of being mindful and practising gratitude would be when you sit down to eat a meal, rather than eating on auto-pilot, ask yourself where did this food come from, how did it get from fork to plate, who grew the vegetables, how did they get here, being grateful of having the privilege to eat such nice food and having enough to not go hungry. Take the time to really taste the food and appreciate the flavours, textures and colours. This simple practice brings you into the present moment. Practising gratitude does wonders for a happy state of mind.
The practice of mindfulness can be something as simple as being aware of the birdsong or trees or the colour of the sky on your daily walk to work. We can walk through city streets or fields and be totally unconscious of what is happening around us, our mind can be full of racing thoughts about the past or future and what-ifs, we are often in a state of auto-pilot, just wanting to get from a to b as quick as possible. It is possible to do the same walk and be aware of your environment, smells, sounds and this awareness of the what is gong on around you frees up your mind to allow you to come into the present moment. Mindfulness can be practised in many ways including meditations, mindful exercises, body scan meditations, mindful walks, breathing techniques and many more.