Mindfulness is defined as the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not overly reactive to or overwhelmed by what is happening around us. Yet despite the fact that it is a basic human ability, it is not always easy to live mindfully, particularly in the fast paced, increasingly switched-on modern world that we live in. The benefits of mindfulness are plenty: it helps us live with less stress and anxiety, more positivity, better focus and concentration, and more self-awareness and self-regulation. It can improve our interpersonal relationships, and it can even help to boost our immune systems. With the rise in anxiety and stress levels of the 21st century, the need for mindfulness practices has become even more prevalent. But what exactly are they? From various different types of meditation and yoga to breathwork and sound-based therapeutic healing, or even small habits you can incorporate in your daily life, there are numerous ways to experience mindfulness. Ultimately, it is about being fully present, and using this presence to live in a way that is more enriching, self-aware, self-accepting, intentional, and authentic about how we show up in the world.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive to or overwhelmed by what’s happening around us. This state of mind can be challenging to reach, particularly in the fast-paced modern world we live in. With the rise in anxiety and stress levels of the 21st century, the need for mindfulness practices has increased.
When the mental activity of the “monkey mind” won’t switch off, life inside our own heads can become an inescapable nightmare. An analogy from Buddhist teaching, this term describes the restless animation of non-stop thoughts that crash around our interior world like monkeys swinging from tree to tree. A racing mind can keep us up at night, affect our work and personal lives, keep us paralyzed in inaction, steal our inner peace, drain our energy, and have longer-term consequences on our well-being. We can even get addicted to the incessant activity of the monkey mind, which reinforces the stress cycle rather than solving it. According to both Buddhism and modern clinical research, mindfulness is the most effective way to quiet things down. By “training” the monkeys to be calmer and less distracting from moment to moment, we can actually think more clearly and act more effectively. Here are some mindful methods for quieting the monkey mind.
The world today is a different place to the one we grew up in. Not literally, of course, but the tools needed to navigate a positive well-being existence for children are in rife demand. Bullying, for instance, is now readily available online with subtle, insidious effects. Teaching mindfulness – which, at its most basic, is simply paying full attention to the moment and not being overwhelmed by it – at a young age can nip it in the bud by promoting greater compassion.
What does it mean to be mindful? And how do we begin being mindful, or practicing mindfulness? It starts with taking note of how you feel and how you are interacting with the things around you, asking yourself some questions that inspire mindful self-reflection and self-awareness, such as: "Am I being present in this moment?" "What emotions am I feeling right now?" "Does this make me happy?" "Does what I'm doing, and how I'm feeling, align with my core values?" "What do these events and/or my current emotions reveal about my needs, desires, and relationships with others and myself?" "Am I behaving in a way that is true to myself?" Exploring these questions can help to take us closer to the inner journey that mindfulness involves, which can then allow us to answer questions such as: "What am I grateful for?" "How can I live more mindfully?" "What makes me feel alive?" - and in doing so, knowing ourselves better. Through understanding our core values, knowing who we truly are, learning what brings us genuine joy, and accepting ourselves fully, we can live more mindfully ー and through this presence, create a more intentional and fulfilling life.
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