Mindfulness: Work in Progress
To go-getters and people caught up in this fast-pace world, mindfulness can seem like an airy-fairy concept practiced only by those on mountain-top mediation retreats. However, I have come to realise that mindfulness is not just a leisurely activity but a vastly enriching and rewarding life necessity. Previously, I would had said differently, but as I pass my one year milestone in the corporate sector, I am beginning to see how mindfulness is helping me find a happier, more wholesome and more productive version of myself.
Mindfulness is not definitive and its interpretation depends a lot on the individual. But generally, mindfulness can be defined as "the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”. When we relate this statement to the context of our busy lives, it is about being aware and in touch with our physical, emotional and psychological states. My view supplements this definition; mindfulness is about achieving the head space to relax, letting go of worries and essentially detaching your mind from its immediate reality, so you can assess your well being and mental state.
As an action-orientated person, I find it hard to relax and stop my thoughts from spiraling; so practicing mindfulness can be a real challenge in itself. Therefore, I could extend this definition to say mindfulness is also about gaining psychological composure, surrendering the constant need to “do shit” and being comfortable in stillness in order to “assess the damage.” Recently I have been researching mindfulness and here are some of my top reflections:
You don’t need to mediate to be mindful:
Mindfulness is about acknowledgment, awareness and acceptance. You can you practice mindfulness in less than 5 mins, without even closing your eyes. For example, when you are conducting a daily routine (e.g. walking/train-ing to work), savouring the scenes you observe and being mindful that no two experiences are the same. You can become more mindful of your health & well being, by simply “scanning” your body, noticing how you feel physically and the sensations in your body and building a new perspective.
Traditional mediation is only one form of practicing mindfulness, but ironically it can be the trickiest, as many methods involve no stimuli to focus your attention on. This means thoughts can whiz in and out, distracting you from the grander purpose of the whole exercise.
Build it into your routine and find the right “space"
So you might realise mediating or humming ain’t your thing. Practicing mindfulness could be something you enjoy practicing alone (I do) or in a cafe with lots of white noise. Whether it be jotting down ideas on a note pad or closing your eyes making a mental note of your physical and mental state, all forms that achieve greater awareness are good. In your moment of practice you can ask yourself self-assessment questions like “What is causing me X emotion?” or "What are the sensations I am feeling?" Being aware of these emotional and physical cues are important as they may trigger you to take certain actions - whether it’s talking to someone or exercising to de-frizzle.
Take small steps - you aren’t going to be monk in a day
There is no formula, recipe or ten-step plan to achieving mindfulness. I suggest starting with small milestones about what you want to build more awareness of - keeping the time frames short and activities manageable. There are mobile apps that give you guidance on Mindfulness practice (e.g. HeadSpace - take ten) and also small exercises you can find online. Don’t expect to do all of them in one day and don’t be discouraged if it takes more than a few times for you to adapt to mindfulness instruction. When I started practicing, I fell asleep so many times I thought it was hopeless.
Lastly, know that your thoughts don’t define you
I know it may be appear that mindfulness is all about achieving some sort of “zen” state, but usually our minds say otherwise. Just know that you don’t need to be “calm” to be mindful and that whatever you are thinking or feeling is okay. Your thoughts and feelings are fleeting, and are not necessarily a reflection of who you are. For example, feeling sad does not automatically make you a depressing person. Practising mindfulness is not about “fixing” or correcting the negative aspects of life, but acknowledging their existence and gaining better clarity of over your mind and body.
Ultimately, I will admit there are some weeks that go by where I feel absolutely out of touch and it’s challenging to sit down to practice mindfulness. Whenever I feel like this, I ask myself the question "What have I done for myself?” - and my respond is always - “Probs not enough, this calls for me-time” which may be in the form of a yoga class or an unplugged stroll in the park, without technology. You may also know this as “treating yo self” but honestly, it’s about using a physical release to let go of the 40 deadlines next week, to stop over-analysing a weird conversation you had at work and to postpone meal plan preparation until the next century. So to all those people with hectic schedules or those who are constantly moving from A to B in life; make sure you take a moment to reflect, remind yourself that you are human and stop to check-in to how you are feeling - in your own unscripted, unedited way.