Mindfulness can be defined as a “mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” It’s origins date back to ancient eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, where it manifested in yoga and vedic meditation in Hinduism, and also considered as one of the basis towards achieving “enlightenment” for Buddhism.
I first encountered the concept of mindfulness early last year as I was scrolling through Instagram, where I came across some quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh which were really heartfelt and tugged at my heartstrings. It was a transformative experience. Reading words that just flew out of a single image that could bring you back to your experiences in life: the good, the bad, the ugly; and how you have evolved as an individual over the years, as time passed.
One of the quotes I came across was this:
“Live your daily life in a way that you never lose yourself. When you are carried away with your worries, fears, cravings, anger, and desire, you run away from yourself and you lose yourself. The practice is to always go back to oneself.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
(Vietnamese monk who introduced mindfulness to the West)
Many a time, we can be caught up in the hustle of striving to achieve our multitude of desires, without stopping to enjoy fully being in the present.
What is harmful about this is that while we are busy trying to satisfy our external world, we neglect ourselves and our inner state of being which can lead to depression and various other mental and emotional imbalances such as chronic anxiety and stress.This can also result in physical pain such as headaches, or even insomnia which in the long run can be detrimental to our physical health.
From the quote, we can tell that it implies that mindfulness is a state of awareness that has to be put into practice in our daily lives. But how can we do so?
To bring our focus back to the present moment, we can choose to commit ourselves daily to practice meditation even just for 5 minutes, to calm ourselves down from thoughts that run in our heads and make us feel overwhelmed. I recommend listening to guided meditations if you are a beginner, which would really help in smoothing out the process and making things easier for you!
Try out this five-minute meditation here!:
Setting Intentions For The Day
On the other hand, to be mindful is to live life with intention, Hence, it is important that from the moment we wake up everyday, we take the time to set the intention or plan for what we would like to achieve that day. This can really help if you are disorganised or the spontaneous sort, as it is a form of pre-planning which can eliminate last-minute anxieties that may arise from over-commitment, and not having enough time to attend to important matters such as submissions.
Additionally, you can practice mindfulness through seemingly simple actions that we do in our everyday lives, such as eating! Mindful eating comes in the form of savouring your meal with all five senses, focussing on texture, smell and taste – all without the distractions of using electronic devices which can tempt you to check through your emails, social media, or YouTube videos. This is important as it gives you a chance to appreciate what you have, even if it is just food to eat.
Another way we can practise mindfulness is through the act of slow-living. I understand if it seems counterintuitive to our hustle culture and the hectic society we live in where its VUCA (volatile, uncertain, changing, ambiguous) nature seem to make it an impossible task. However, it being “impossible” is often just an excuse that people make up to justify how busy their lives are. It is said that 95% of our behaviour runs on autopilot. So ask yourself, “Am I on autopilot? Am I living my day-to-day mindlessly in a mindless world?” If the answer is yes, you can start making the change with awareness by living intentionally.
Remember you are not part of a rat-race, and you are not just a cog in the system. You are a human being, with a life, and a greater purpose to fulfil. You are the main character of your life. So stop living like you are a secondary character by just going with the flow in accordance with the demands of society. Take back control of your life. You are the one in charge.
A Mindful Workout
Last but not least, you can practice mindful workouts which helps in connecting your mind, body, and soul as they strengthen your mind and muscles, and make you more resilient to obstacles.
You can start by challenging yourself in your workout routine, for instance, to jog around the park without music. This enables you to get in touch with your breathing (which is also crucial in both yoga and meditation), and doing it right can serve to calm your nerves and improve your overall nervous system. You will be able to stay grounded in the face of sudden adversity, and keep your cool in stressful situations. Not only that, mindful running without music allows you to connect with your body and your environment, as you can pay attention to your steps, which prevents trips and falls. It also gives you a chance to fully appreciate nature and your surroundings, and perhaps allow you to reflect on certain problems in your life with a new perspective. Having perspective helps with being more understanding and not taking things to heart when you come across challenges. That way, you can experience life more graciously!
Whatever I have provided should be but a snippet into what mindfulness can bring and how you can begin to take part in this movement. So, start treating your body as a temple today! And slowly, but surely, your mind, body, and spirit would be transformed. And I am confident that your life will start to improve for the better, as you begin to recalibrate and focus on what is truly important in the here and now.