Mindfulness has been around for millennia, and has been practised by Buddhist monks for hundreds of years.
In recent years it’s become incredibly popular and is recommended for everyone, at all stages of our journey through life. From school children, to professionals to those affected by serious illness, such as a cancer diagnoses.
It seems we can all benefit from taking some time for ourselves to slow down and bring our attention to the here and now, and really enjoy the moment.
This can take so many forms; such as a meditation, mindful walking, gardening, eating, and practising sports.
The idea is that instead of racing through the activity, instead you slow it down and bring your attention to the experience and become aware of the sights, smells, texture, noise, taste…as an example eating lunch, lunch can often be rushed, maybe at your desk, whilst working.
Here’s an example of a weekend lunch, at home enjoying a delicious nutritional bowl of carrot and butternut squash soup.
Immediately on bringing the spoon towards my mouth I get a strong spicy aroma of cumin, and the mouth-watering smell of sweet carrot and squash. My taste buds start to react by watering… the steam from the soup starts to hit my noise and its hotter than I can recall from previously eating soup.. as the warm thick liquid coats my toungue I notice the warmth around my mouth and the sweet and savoury flavours, building…
I hope this gives you an idea of the attention to detail that we can bring to everyday activities, and the joy we can experience from really enjoying the moment and savouring it.
Mindful meditation is a great way to introduce mindfulness into your life, and the art of bringing your focus to the here and now.
In its simplest form mindful meditation using breath cycles to focus your attention on the present and acknowledging any thoughts, feelings or sensations from a place of acceptance and without judgement.
I think it sounds more challenging to explain in words than to just have a go, so let’s start with a short four-minute meditation.
It really doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you won’t be disturbed. Your position is best upright but with a neutral spine, relaxed hands placed on your lap.
As we first start practising these techniques it’s easy to be critical of ourselves as our mind wanders to; I must answer that email, add this to the shopping list, call my sister, speak to the office. all the modern jungle noise that surrounds us. Over time you learn to easily accept the noise, acknowledge it and let it pass, always returning your attention to the breath.
Mindfulness meditation gets easier with practise. I recommend you start in your first week by giving yourself the gift of a few moments every day to find a quiet place and practice.
Mindfulness can also be enjoyed by really focusing on staying present and enjoying the activities you are engaged in. Stopping your mind from venturing into past reflection or indeed worrying about what may be. Just staying in the moment and taking great enjoyment of it.
I adore this photograph. I meet the lady painting, on a day that I’d taken off to spend precious time with my son. The two of us sat having a picnic at the river edge, watching the ducklings splashing about and chatting to everyone that passed. It felt like heaven, the world literally slowed down and we took time to really enjoy the sights, sounds and smell around us.
Activities that fully engage you, can also give you a mindful experience, Such as painting, it really doesn’t matter if you’ve studied fine art or have never picked up a pencil or paintbrush before. Painting may transport you into a flow that totally absorbs your mind, giving way to great depth of relaxation.
A great way to start any new activity is to enrol in a local class.
I’d always loved the idea of throwing at a Potter’s wheel, and I’ve always had a notion that I’d be very good at it… So to celebrate finishing radiotherapy I booked myself onto a throwing course. I absolutely loved it. It totally absorbed me. For those two hours nothing in the world existed except for the need to keep that pot on the wheel, and achieving the desired bowl, cup or whatever it may be.
I literally beamed as I left the first class. Over the next four weeks, I counted down the hours to my next class, it really felt like great art therapy.
When I finished my course the joy and pride I felt collecting my offerings was simply ridiculous. I raced home to lap up the praise from my family. I photographed them around the house and in the garden and put the photos on social media, for my friends to praise too. I also promptly emailed them transatlantic to my dear friend Hayley, who is a Registered Art Therapist, who specialises in cancer care, as she was the person who had encouraged me down the path of mindfulness, on the day I was diagnosed.
There are so many activities that could work for you such as; Gardening, cooking, sculpture, gentle exercise, yoga, painting and pottery, to name but a few.
Walking is one of my most enjoyed mindful experiences, hence why I started Bosom Buddies to create a walking support group.