Mindfulness is something I came across last year as I worked at rehabilitating myself following a brain haemorrhage. I have blogged before about how mindfulness helped me reconnect my damaged brain with a damaged body. Among other things, it also helped me manage anxiety, chronic pain and self-doubt.
I think a lot of my closest friends and family were surprised I of all people embraced this idea of ‘just’ being. Previously I never had the time to sit and just be. Life was a seemingly endless cycle of child rearing, studying, working and stress with extra stress and a side order of insomnia. Running to stand still, I was always going to slow down and look after myself I just needed to do a million things first and then I really would I promised.
Well I didn’t, then my brain exploded, I nearly died and was told that unless I did look after myself, my blood pressure and my stress levels recovery would be much harder. Not being dead gave me something of a sharper focus on what was actually important to me, every cloud has a silver lining after all.
Simply put mindfulness means being present, being aware of what is happening now. One of my favourite quotes from Professor Mark Williams, co-writer of my favourite mindfulness book, sums it up neatly. “Being mindful means that we take in the present moment as it is rather than as we would like it to be.”
I do practice more formal meditation daily but try to implement mindful practice in my moment by moment living. It’s called practice because no one is perfect but trying is the main thing. I asked a members of Everyday Mindfulness, a site I am involved with that aims to help mindful practitioners connect, what mindfulness meant to them.
Gareth, who has multiple sclerosis and founded the site, discovered mindfulness at a time in his life when he really needed it.
“I started practising because I got I’ll. It caused me a massive amount of stress and anxiety. I just read somewhere that meditating was good for stress relief. I picked up ‘Wherever You Go, There You Are’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn,and the rest is history. Mindfulness has drawn me in ever since I read the word for the first time. It has been so life changing that it is akin to a religious experience for me. The more that I practised the more peaceful that I got, and I like being peaceful.”
“I practice mindfulness due to my generalized anxiety disorder. I also realized that I am constantly on auto-pilot, not paying full attention to what I am doing at the moment, thinking too far ahead, living in the past, just not living at the moment. As far as I am concerned, mindfulness has slowly brought some clarity in my thinking and definitely organizing my thoughts more. What I mean by organizing is to give certain thoughts attention and letting go of others.This is the quote that seems to remind me always to be mindful: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
“I’ve practiced various martial arts and meditations since I was 6 years old, and the number 1 thing I have found is that, whatever it is you are practicing, it must integrate fully with your existing life; neither taking over your life nor being squashed out by it.
Ritualistic training, where you ‘set the scene’ with music, candles/incense, and “change” yourself to someone else for the duration of the training: this cannot work! From 10 until 12 you train, and after that, you’re the other guy… Out of a 24 hour day, you’re doing 2 hours of training, and 22 hours of anti-training.
My goal is to bring meditation out of the studios, where it is like bird with its wings clipped, and put it to work ‘on the ground level’ – I want to show people HOW to take their peaceful sitting and apply that throughout their lives.”
Personally sometimes I find setting the scene for formal meditation practice helps me focus more but equally I find myself practicing when sat on the bus or walking back from the girls school. The great thing is you get to find your own way and what works for you. Meditation is often linked to Buddhism but mindfulness is not linked to religious practice.
One Aware lives in Canada and was able to take part in a 10 week MBCBT (mindfulness based cognitive behavioral therapy) course as part of their treatment for reoccurring bouts of generalised anxiety and depression.
“That was a little over 4 years ago. I have continued my practice daily ever since completing the program. For the first 3 years I had the recurring bouts of anxiety and depression even though I meditated and even though I was on meds. It seems I couldn’t get through 1 full year without at least one recurrence (sometimes more than one). I even stopped meditating for several weeks a couple of times, but just as we return to the breath after the mind has wandered, I started to meditate again after each time I stopped.In the fourth year I started to notice positive changes in how I felt, how I looked at the world and how I moved through the world. I still take my meds but I am now well over a year since my last recurrence of anxiety and depression and I feel wonderful. I still meditate daily to this day and plan to keep meditating for the rest of my life. The meditation has taught me a better existence and I continue to learn every day.”
“I needed a release from everything! I used to be really angry, irrational and have bad anxiety but wanted a way out. I was always jealous of that other guy that could just not let things get to him…so I found the way to BE him.”