Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behavior. You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise. You are the love and joy beneath the pain. ~ Eckhart Tolle
A millennia old practice, mindfulness has become increasingly popular throughout our society to cope with the stress and often overwhelming demands our current way of living places on us. To fill the deep gnaw of inadequacy that plagues our society, to find more stillness beneath the noise, to boost our mental and emotional resilience and to help us relate to our inner wounding in a healthier, more compassionate way.
Life has sped up at an overwhelming pace. Our brains and nervous systems are simply not wired to thrive in such a fast-paced world, where the outside stimulus places constant demands on the internal system, pulling us out of homeostasis, out of balance and into survival mode. The primary function of our nervous system is that of survival; to detect threat and adapt accordingly. And so, much of humanity is living in this state of survival, either in chronic activation (stress, anxiety) or chronic shut down (depression, hopelessness, feeling stuck)
Our brain has no particular interest in our happiness, that’s not its job, it really just wants to keep us alive.
The human brain is wired to more naturally notice the negative, the potential threats; it’s called the negativity bias. Rick Hanson describes the human brain as being like Teflon for the good and Velcro for the bad, right? Sot the good stuff just, whoosh, slips right off, whereas the not so good gets stuck on, to the point where that is all we can see. Let’s say you get 9 compliments and one insult, what’s likely to make the biggest impact? What will you still be thinking about hours, days, maybe years later?
But, but, BUT – this is the hopeful part – we can do something about this. We can work to retrain and reshape it, effectively updating it to actually work for us and not against us. This is what practising mindfulness is all about. It’s not about stopping lousy things from happening, but with space and perspective, we can dramatically alter how we respond to these challenges and in turn, dramatically alter our whole quality of life, our happiness, our wellbeing.
Being mindful, being aware, allows us to watch what’s happening both in our inner and outer world, without habitually reacting from unconscious conditioning. It gives us the space to choose.
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom ~ Victor Frankyl
So when we bring mindful awareness to where our mind is at, we can do something about it, we can take control back rather than being swept along in the passenger seat. The other side to being mindful and awake, is that we start to notice all the breathtaking beauty that surrounds us, the countless miracles showing up in our lives each day but that we completely miss out on while zombie-deep in our smart phones or unconsciously replaying that fight that happened 4 years ago.
Mindfulness helps us to notice the good and manage the bad – a powerful recipe for wellbeing and happiness in life.
We practice mindfulness both formally and informally. Our formal practice is when we choose to meditate, and this can be done either sitting, lying down, walking or standing. Most folks new to the practice will stick to sitting or lying – there’s no rights or wrongs here, it’s whatever blows your hair back.
Click here for the link to one of the first formal practices we learn, which is the body scan. If you’re on the sceptical side of the fence, this is a good starting point, no weird shit, I promise.
And our informal practice is an any time, any place, any moment of the day kinda deal. You can start right now; it’s simply pausing to notice where your head is at, and time and time (and time and time and time and time and time again) redirecting it. Here are some simple ways we can do that:
Pause and feel into the sensation of breathing: notice where you feel the breath most prominently in the body. Maybe place a hand on the belly and feel the subtle muscular movement.
Feel any contact we have – feet on the floor, bum on a chair
Noticing physical sounds
When brushing our teeth, taste the toothpaste, feel the sensation, hear the brushing
Pause to breath before answering the phone
Take a few mindful steps, noticing the contact our foot is making with the ground instead of rushing mindlessly
Choosing an activity and whatever it is, doing that and that alone with presence – e,g,, when eating, just eat (no tv, scrolling though our phones), when in conversation, really being there listening and not caught up in what we’re going to say next