Mindfulness is a word that has been thrown around a lot, usually with good intention. We hear it used to refer to many ways of focusing ourselves in order to create a better mindset and a more positive outlook. But honestly, how many of us really understand what true mindfulness is or where it comes from? Many of us may even ask ourselves how we can ‘use’ mindfulness and whether it can actually ‘do’ something in our lives.
For me, mindfulness was a discovery by surprise.
Although I had been exposed to many forms of meditation, yoga and spiritual practice for my whole life, somehow I never heard the word ‘mindfulness’ until I stumbled upon it a couple of years ago, and boy was that a game changer!
Mindfulness traditionally stems from deep-rooted Buddhist philosophy and is attached to many beautiful Buddhist rituals and practices. It is a process, a subtle skill for getting in touch with one’s present reality. Through knowledge and compassionate acceptance of self, mindfulness aids in the diminishment of suffering. Traditionally, ‘Right Mindfulness’ is the seventh guideline of the Buddhist programme which leads to the cessation and healing of suffering, known as ‘The Eight Fold Path’.
For many of us, mindfulness sounds amazing but seems highly impossible. You’ve probably caught yourself wondering how you can be mindful when your mind is just so full – full of what you have to do today and what you have to do tomorrow, even what you have to do in the next five minutes. But don’t worry, honestly – you can do it!
So here’s the plan. Let’s discover what being mindful is all about and see where it takes us, taking a step-by-step look at the mindful life. This article is the first of a series of articles on mindfulness in which I hope to share a couple small exercises (tastes, if you will) for mindfulness that you can use in your own crazy, crazy life, plus a whole lot more. Here’s everything that the series will cover:
- History: Buddhist roots, Psychological ‘discovery’;
- Definitions: from the west, from the east, from somewhere in between;
- Practices: examples of everyday mindfulness practices, some mindful meditations, the breath, etc.;
- Applications: how is it being used around the world, links to other groups, research in the scientific world, journal, articles, etc.;
- Experiences: who are some masters, who are practitioners just like us and what do they have to say.
So stay tuned for lots more! Although the path to mindfulness is a simple one, the truth is that sometimes even the simplest paths require us to travel a weaving and challenging road, so let’s get ready for this journey together and see where it takes us – you might be pleasantly surprised!
Until the next article in the series, here’s a mindfulness practice:
“Hang a branch, any other sign, or even the word ‘smile’ on the ceiling or wall so that you see it right away when you open your eyes. This sign will serve as your reminder. Use these seconds before you get out of bed to take hold of your breath. Inhale and exhale three breaths gently while maintaining the half smile. Follow your breaths.” (Thicht Naht Hanh, 1975)