Mindfulness: The Zen Formula to Happiness
Do you recall an experience from a holiday trip when you were so relaxed and you were completely aware about everything that was happening to you in that moment. The way the breeze felt on your face or the way you enjoyed that scrumptious meal in the scenic surrounding? Do you remember how relaxed and happy you felt? Now imagine feeling like that everyday!
Since the past couple of years, the term 'Mindfulness' has become quite popular. Its almost like a fad! And its a good thing. Its helping people world over live happier and stress free lives. A term that was introduced by the Zen masters from China, ever wonder what it really means?
Mindfulness simply put means doing something with your full mind or attention. Let me give you an example. When you are in the shower, how aware are you about taking a shower? Is it a mechanical process that you do everyday? Or is it something that you are fully focused on?
Now you may ask, what is there to focus in the shower about? A shower is a regular and routine activity that one engages in. But how many times have you really experienced having a shower? Maybe just once in a while. Because most times our attention is on our thoughts about the day ahead. Or something that has happened in the past. This barely leaves us with any time or energy to focus on the present moment (having a shower). I give the example of a shower because every person engages in this daily.
Mindfulness had largely been attached to meditation. Meditation being something that not everyone may practice. Mindfulness meditation is a beautiful practice and helps one to reach greater heights in their spiritual goals. However, i am referring to something as mundane as taking a shower or brushing your teeth.
Think about it. Our mind is constantly bombarded with thoughts. some researches suggest that we think about 70,000 to 80,000 thoughts in a day. And about 95% of these thoughts are repeated. So there is barely anything new we are thinking about. And all that constant thinking and mental chatter leaves us feeling exhausted.
The Dalai lama once said and I quote "Life is only in the present moment." This is absolutely true. If you have observed, as we are passing through each day we are either worried about what's going to happen ahead or we are thinking about what has already happened with us. And one thought leads to another and then another and eventually its a spiral of thoughts with no beginning and no end.
So you may ask how does mindfulness help? The answer is simple. When we begin focusing on an activity that we are doing in the present moment, we begin to experience it fully. If you were to fully experience a shower, you would feel the water on your body, the smell of the soap, the way it feels when you are scrubbing yourself. The way it feels when water touches your head, your hair, your eyes and every part of your body. How with every drop of water you are feeling fresher and cleaner. Now this is in short an experience of taking a shower. Now relate this to the example I gave you in the beginning about your holiday trip. Does it make sense now?
Mindfulness is essentially a way of life for many people. It makes people really experience life, as life is only in the present moment. No thoughts about past or future. Having said that, it does not mean you forget your past or never think about your future. It still is important to learn from past mistakes and plan ahead for the future. But here's the difference. If you are planning for the future, you would possibly think of practical ways to make your future better. There will not be any need to constantly worry about what will happen or how will things happen. Similarly if you are learning from your past mistakes, your focus will be on application of the learning in the present. Not really caught up beating yourself about all the past mistakes you made and how they have ruined you.
These are things that most people engage in. And they miss out on making their 'today' valuable. And anything that is happening is only in the present moment. Your future is an illusion and your past is a story. The reality is in the here and now. And mindfulness can get you to experience life in a completely different way by paying attention in the now and there by releasing unnecessary stress of yesterday and tomorrow that we carry with ourselves.
So here are a few tips that can be helpful in incorporating the practice of mindfulness in your daily life.
Focus on one thing at a time. That's right. We take pride in multitasking, however new research shows that the brain is functioning at its best when it is fully focused on one activity. It gives you the time to process what is really happening and allows you to fully experience the activity.
Each day engage in one activity that involves using all your 5 senses. It could be anything, from taking a shower to gardening, from eating your meal to cooking it. Anything that you would like to experiment with. Using your senses forces your brain to pay attention to the task on hand for it to process information.
Begin with deep breathing. Its one of the best ways to experience Mindfulness. Take a slow deep breath in and slowly release it. Now focus on this for 2-5 minutes daily. Just noticing your breaths and allowing any other distracting thoughts or noises to stay in the background, just like you would blur the background in a photograph to focus on a particular object.
Now that you have learnt a little about what Mindfulness is, I shall share how Mindfulness has helped me in my life and all the benefits I experience daily. Stay tuned...