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Mindfulness 2

I wrote recently about mindfulness and its many benefits. A key part of mindfulness is connecting with our bodies and experience the sensations our environment offers us.  While this means exploring our senses, what we can feel or hear, it also means exploring our thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Setting aside some time for mindfulness is an opportunity to stop, take stock and notice what is happening to you in that moment both physically and emotionally. Once you have done this you can analyse what you are experiencing and why. As Leo Tolstoy (Russian Writer) said, “There is only one time that is important– Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power.”

Now, there are four foundations of mindfulness – of the body, of feelings, of the mind and of Dhamma. That last one needs some explanation. There is no direct translation into English, it is normally translated as “righteousness”, “merit” or “religious and moral duties”.

So mindfulness of the body is quite straight forward. And is what many people imagine when they hear mindfulness. Focusing on different parts of your body and how they feel. Is there tension or pain? If so, why?

Mindfulness of feelings mainly refers to how one perceives feelings as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. According to Bhikkhu Analayo (Buddhist Scholar), mindfulness of feelings “requires recognising the affective tone of present-moment experience, before the arisen feeling leads to mental reactions and elaborations.” It also requires that “one does not get carried away by the individual content of felt experience and instead directs awareness to the general character of experience”.

Mindfulness of the mind is about being aware of your emotions and how that may affect your state of mind. It is often defined as noticing the presence or absence of the three “unwholesome roots” (lust, anger, and delusion). But it is worth taking a wider view of your feelings and not just focusing on these three emotions.

Mindfulness of Dhamma is trickier to define and there is some debate amongst scholars as to how to define and translate it. But Analayo translates Dhamma as “mental factors and categories,” “classificatory schemes,” and “frameworks or points of reference to be applied during contemplation”. Broadly speaking it’s about being mindful of feelings and emotions such as desire (in all its forms), anger, sloth (torpor, mental dullness), unhappiness about past events (remorse, guilt) and doubts.  

For me mindfulness is about being aware of your environment and being aware of your thoughts and feelings. Basically, understanding why you have these feelings and analysing what makes you feel the way you do in that moment. Once you have this understanding it will provide insight, wisdom and provide ways to improve your life. It can lead to you acknowledging unwanted thoughts and sensations and dismissing them. It may reveal a way to discover and resolve unacknowledged problems and emotions.

Now all that may sound quite involved and complicated. But start small, by carving out some time to stop, relax and reflect on how you feel and build from there. If you need help or want to share your experiences then get in touch.

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Mindfulness

Mindfulness originated in Buddhist teachings and has four main elements (foundations). These are Mindfulness of body sensations, Mindfulness of feelings, Mindfulness of the state of mind and Mindfulness of the contents of our minds.

It’s easy to rush through life without giving much attention to where we are and what we are doing. We can, easily lose touch with how our bodies are feeling. Stopping and giving your current experience your full attention can be enjoyable, beneficial and can reduce stress. As Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnamese Monk and Peace Activist) said, “With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment”.

Another key part of mindfulness is to connect with our bodies and experience the sensations our environment gives us. This means exploring our senses, what we can feel or hear or smell, etc. By doing this, we begin to experience, anew, things that we have taken for granted.

Allowing yourself to notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness. You can practise mindfulness anywhere and at any time. To help practise mindfulness in your daily life it is often helpful to pick a regular time. Perhaps first thing in the morning or at lunchtime. . I like to set aside at least ten minutes a day to be in nature and be mindful. Sometimes I find that I am tense or troubled and I use this time to explore why this is and try to resolve it.

Breaking routines and trying new things, such as sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch, can also help you notice the world in a new way. Recently, I tried a different route to walk near my house. I had for some time wanted to buy a Buddleia bush to plant on my front lawn. While on my new walk, I saw a very small Buddleia plant growing wild amid some rubble. I took it home and am nurturing it so it can take its place on my lawn in a few years’ time.

Some people find that it is easier to calm their mind and achieve mindfulness by doing something to distract them such as Tai-chi, Yoga or even just walking. Everyone is different and there is no right or wrong answer.

When you have a setback or experience a difficult time, we should be aware that brooding about it isn’t helpful as you are getting caught up in our thoughts. It can be especially helpful to take a mindful approach if you realise that you have been trapped in reliving past problems or imagining future problems. This awareness can helps us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier and helps us deal with them more effectively.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the UK health oversight authority, recognises the benefits of mindfulness to prevent depression in people who have a past history of it.

Mindfulness isn’t the answer to everything, but there’s encouraging evidence for its use in health, education and workplaces. And many people use it to improve their quality of life. As Kathy Bates (American Actress) said, “I have really focused on mindfulness. That helps me make better choices both physically, psychologically, and emotionally”.

For help and advice on Mindfulness, contact me. Hypnotherapy also has a number of techniques that can with stress, anxiety and burnout.