Mindfulness in brief and 5 easy practices ~ there are many books and articles available on the topic of mindfulness so I thought I would write a brief summary. Just to add to the existing and vast literature….
This is how Thich Nhat Hanh answers the question ‘What is mindfulness?’ in his book for children ‘Is nothing something?’:
“Mindfulness is energy. This energy helps us enjoy what is happening right now. Mindful energy can bring us a lot of joy. It helps us suffer less and learnt from our suffering. A good way to get some mindful energy is to close your eyes and breath easily. Just pay attention to your breath. If you can enjoy your in-breath and out-breath, you are creating mindful energy.”
“Mindfulness is energy ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
To practice mindfulness you do NOT have to do any of the following:
- Become religious or change religions ~ mindful practice is not about being religious.
- Wear an outfit.
- Pay money.
- Change anything about yourself.
- Go to a special place
In other words, anyone can practice, wherever they find themselves and gain the benefits of being mindful, although one of the key points about being mindful is that you are not actually ‘doing’ anything.
Being mindful means you are aware of what is happening right now, accepting what is happening right now, accepting who you are and how you feel and what you are thinking right now, without judgement. This observation and experience of what it is like to be you creates insight into you and the world, seeing reality and seeing things for what they are rather that being judged or clouded by unskillful thinking. Instead of striving to be somewhere else or someone else, we accept who we are and cultivate compassion towards ourselves and others. Both are very important skills for being healthy.
We can simply practice mindfulness by paying attention to our (normal) breathing, which means that we are present in this moment. Much suffering comes from either dwelling or repeating the past, or from anticipating a future that is not pleasant. Some of the thoughts can stem form being hard on ourselves, telling ourselves that we are not good enough or worthy of happiness and health. This is wrong thinking and mindfulness allows us to see this and let go.
Further suffering comes from wanting to be somewhere else whilst not accepting where one is now. Similarly with material goods: wanting something but not being grateful of satisfied with what you have now. It comes down to the same thing really, that is accepting yourself and current circumstances with compassion. Acceptance is certainly not giving in, instead seeing things for what they really are and letting go of resistance. Letting go of resistance immediately eases suffering.
Of course you can download an app or buy a book, but by far the best is to be instructed by someone who knows the practice. The group dynamic is often a good start point, gaining the benefit of practicing together. Questions inevitably arise and it is important that these be answered so that you understand what you are doing and why. Having said that, here are some simple practices to start right now.
Mindfulness in brief and 5 easy practices ~
1. Set a reminder, and every few hours stop and pay attention to 4-5 breaths. This brings you to the present moment, allowing you to realise the effects of thoughts; and they are just thoughts. How do they differ from reality and what is actually happening right now?
2. Ask yourself how you are choosing to think right now?
3. Name the emotion you are feeling.
4. Pay full attention to what you are doing, whatever that happens to be.
5. Check in to your body and see what is going on — tension? warmth? comfort? etc etc. Notice the ‘what it is like’ and the thoughts that you have about the experience — the two are different and there is great value in knowing the difference.