Over the last few days you have made quite a few activities related to mindfulness. Well done! The last days were a really quick overview over some mindfulness principles, and a first attempt at training the mind to be present, which is often easier said then done! Maybe some of the activities seemed a bit unclear when you first tried them out. Maybe with hindsight, some of the activities seem more clearer now. Or maybe some will become clearer and easier. Remember, mindfulness is a skill that develops over time: there is no right and wrong here, however, in order to develop the skill you have to keep doing it. Even in small doses every day.
The key point from the last days is that the human mind is, unfortunately, quite happy to literally “run away”, especially when it isn’t required to be fully attentive to the here and now. It loves to wander off thinking about the past, think way ahead into the future, or think about what should be – rather than look at what is. The problem with this is that, with the mind not present, we often run the danger of simply going through life: not paying attention to what is happening right now. Thus, life can pass us by, and while the mind is busy with worrying, comparing, remembering or making plans, we easily miss the moment we are in now.
What can we do about it? Well, the solution appears to be simple (but I’m sure you’ll agree is much less easy to actually put into practice!): train the mind to be there with us in the moment- or be mindful. Science tells us about the many magical results simply being mindful can achieve: it relieves stress, depression, high blood pressure, reduces chronic pain… it even makes your sex more fun (although this hasn’t been scientifically studied yet,… but we will see how in the later parts of the bootcamp!). So, in fact, it almost appears there is not much it can’t do.
An easy and convenient way to be mindful is to focus the mind for a few minutes onto the breath. We can do that anywhere, the ultimate mobile device! Focusing on the breath, with a bit of practice, trains the mind to come back to the here and now. You can then observe everything else that is going on: this could be your emotions, your thoughts or sensations of the body. Incorporating these small breaks of simply stopping what you are doing, breathing for a bit and observing yourself before returning to everything else can be remarkably effective and a secret weapon. Being mindful makes unpleasant moments and experiences less annoying and helps to get more joy while you are having fun.
The key elements to take away and use this “secret weapon” are:
1. Be fully present in the moment. Even if your mind wanders off, bring it gently back to the here and now.
2. During mindfulness practice be open to what you experience. Thoughts. Feelings. Everything that comes up. Examine them kindly.
3. Accept things as they are. Don’t try and judge what is surround you, or even your feelings or emotions.
4. Remind yourself that all things are temporary: pleasant things will pass. Unpleasant feelings will pass.
5. Always be compassionate with yourself – and others. Try your best. If you don’t succeed don’t regard it as a failure or judge yourself. Just learn from the experience. And apply the same principle to others.
To build onto what you have learned, keep doing a few mindful moments every day. Try to experiment how it feels bringing your mind to the current moment in different situations: How does it feel to be mindful while having a break? While doing something? While someone is touching you?
You can also start to incorporate willing mindfulness stops into your day: When you feel you lack motivation to tackle a task. Try a quick body scan during the day. Or maybe at night. Just try and incorporate a few mindful moments here and there.
Tomorrow we move on and see how we can direct our mind more purposefully. But before this, why not share your experiences. Use the twitter #ug30bc or the comments function below! See you tomorrow!