Have you ever driven your car, gone on ‘autopilot,’ and arrived at your destination without remembering the journey or route you took? Did you ever read a page of a book and realize you don’t know what it said because you were thinking about what you needed to do around the house? We all have these times when our attention is not focused on what we are doing and when we are not ‘present’ in our own lives. We can all use a little mindfulness practice to keep us in the present, focused, calm, and engaged in what we are doing in the present.
Before we really talk about what mindfulness is, let’s start with what mindfulness isn’t: it is not meditation, it is not clearing your mind of all thought, and it is not sitting with your legs crossed and incense burning. Now that that is out of the way, let’s consider what mindfulness is and why it can help us to become. Mindfulness involves:
- Being purposeful – being conscious and deliberate in our thoughts
- Being in the present –thinking and turning our attention to the activity we are currently engaged in
- Being non-judgmental – watching or paying attention to our thoughts and experiences without allowing them to cause us anxiety
Commonly, mindfulness is practiced sitting in a comfortable position, with eyes closed and attention being paid to our breath, our bodies, our thoughts and our surroundings. We notice them, we think about them, and we let those thoughts just pass through our brains. It is calming and inviting and as you gain experience with the seated mindful practice, you will find that you will start to bring the awareness to your daily activities. Mindfulness can help to reduce stress, anxiety, insomnia, and negative thinking and increase your sense of well-being.
Why do we seem to hear about mindfulness more and more each day? More people than ever report that they are over-scheduled, stressed, and distracted by technology and media, and so more people are seeking an antidote to this mental busyness. In a time when we can do almost anything from home – work, order groceries, deposit checks and so on – people are embracing mindfulness practices because they can be done anywhere, anytime, by anyone. And- it makes us feel better!
If you want to learn more, there are lots of websites or even phone apps that can guide you through a meditation practice.
Or, better yet, you can enroll in an introductory course at the South Hills JCC – Starting on Mondays • 7-8:30 pm October 22-December 3. Enroll at the front desk!