Mindfulness, Meditation and Time Out
Mindfulness is a state of being which is accessible to every one of us AND it is also a skill which we can cultivate more deeply in our lives.
Some experience of “mindful” presence will have been felt by all of us at moments of our lives, but perhaps we did not call it that when we experienced it. Perhaps we have felt this in more peaceful moments, when we have been present in places of natural beauty simply “breathing it in”, whether this was a beautiful sunset or standing next to the sea or a waterfall.
Perhaps we have felt this in some heightened moments, being with a loved one, during the birth of a child, or even being present with someone who is dying. These are the moments we are more likely to remember and are less likely to be distracted by other more trivial concerns. Sometimes we could have even have experienced such moments of mindful presence when we have been fully engaged in an activity which we love, like playing a musical instrument, dancing, or sitting on a sunny plaza on holiday sipping a cappuccino.
This is not our usual way of living because during our stressful lives our attention is usually in different places because we are busy juggling a number of tasks and worries at the same time.
This often means that none of our actions or thoughts receives our full attention; we move from one thing to the next, like a monkey in a tree, grabbing at things that interest us or demand our attention, then drifting on to something else, being distracted, day-dreaming, being caught up in our thoughts and worries about what happened yesterday and what we need to do tomorrow, only giving things half of our attention, not hearing fully what is said to us, pre-occupied with our own issues and concerns, judging our experiences constantly as good or bad according to our own preferences and often reacting against the way things actually are.
This is our ordinary state of mind and not exactly a peaceful one. We can spend a good part of our lives like this, not being fully present and therefore missing most of the moments in which we live, living on a sort of automatic pilot, relatively ungrounded, out of touch with ourselves, our bodies and emotions.
Learning to reverse these habits and to cultivate positive ways of being will be greatly beneficial in making our lives happier and more wholesome. When we can get in touch with qualities of mindfulness, we will feel a sense of coming back home to ourselves in a more meaningful way.
We may find we can get in touch with a sense of brightness, clarity of purpose, playfulness, creativity and inner peace. It is said that mindfulness practitioners develop a more optimistic stance in their lives, and a courage which enables them to work with rather than avoid life’s challenges. Certainly, mindfulness is not just about having more blissful moments, it is about being more fully present in our lives, remaining curious, embracing all of our experiences, and most importantly, changing the relationship we have towards our suffering.
Here, we offer you some simple steps so you can begin to create an inner space within your mind where you can go to in order enjoy the inner peace, contentment and wholeness which comes from taking time to be in the moment.
Step 1 – Relax and get comfortable
Thankfully you don’t have to sit cross-legged on the cold floor of a cave somewhere in the Himalayas to successfully meditate! You can do it very well in the comfort of your own home on a seat, sofa or even lying on your bed. Wear loose clothes, support yourself with comfy cushions and wrap yourself in a blanket if there’s a chance you could get chilly. Actually, do whatever it takes to be comfortable – but not so comfortable you are inevitably going to go to sleep!
Step 2 – Watching your mind
Once you are perfectly comfortable, gently close your eyes whilst remaining alert. From the there and now, let your attention rest wide as you watch whatever is happening within your awareness, right now. This takes no effort, no straining or trying. Continue by very easily, comfortably and gently observing your thoughts as they flow through your mind – as if they are passing clouds in the vast sky. By watching your mind, instead of being your mind, you are changing your relationship with your mind – so it no longer has to impact your peace and wellbeing.
Step 3 – Watch and Allow Pretend you are having a holiday from your head. You have nothing to do except sit back and relax. Never resist your thoughts; they are a natural-by-product of stress releasing from your body. Irrespective of what the thoughts are, let them come and go. You are officially off duty so they are not your problem! The quantity of thoughts doesn’t matter. The content of the thoughts doesn’t matter. They might be pretty thoughts. They might be negative thoughts. Just allow your mind to do whatever it wants. Simply watch and allow. Out of habit you might start thinking. When you become aware that you are thinking, gently come back to watching and allowing.
Here are some recorded sessions which you might want to try for yourself. You can put on some earphones and listen to them during a break at work or if you need a “time out” or at home when you have some space to yourself.