Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday ~ Mindfulness

I've talked about this before but it's a topic I feel strongly about so I thought it wouldn't hurt to revisit the subject. Plus, I recently read an article that talked about the health benefits of living in the moment, and gave good tips on how to get started. 

But first, a little refresher course on what mindfulness is. Mindfulness is a concentrated state of awareness that can help you see and respond to situations with clarity. It's the ability to clear the mind of incessant chatter and diffuse the color of emotions in your decision-making.

Mindfulness can also help you to:
  • Better manage tension and stress
  • Be more objective
  • Communicate and make decisions more effectively
  • Be more productive
It's not hard for me to imagine that mindfulness could achieve all of those things. I love the TV show Life and in it the main character, Charlie Cruz, is totally into the teachings of Zen. One of the sayings he listens to is "One plus one is one." I believe it means that to be truly at peace, we must be at one--with the world around us, with people, with ourselves.

Some of the benefits of mindfulness are:
  • Reduced blood sugar
  • Lowered cholesterol
  • Enhanced immune function
  • Reduced headache, migraine and back pain (I need this benefit!)
  • Improved respiratory function
  • Decreased abdominal fat (oh yeah, baby!)
So how can you begin being more mindful?

Start the moment you wake up. Rather than jumping right out of bed, take a few moments to notice the various sensations in your body--your heartbeat, breathing, or the way the sheets feel against your skin. What are you thinking about? Take a moment to be mindful of yourself just be before you get swallowed up in the thoughts of your day to come.

In fact, continue your mindfulness through your shower and morning routine. Notice the feel of the water on your skin, the makeup being smoothed over your face.

Any time you have time, practice being mindful. 

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." 
~ Ferris Bueller

On your morning commute, turn off the talk-radio, and be. Take in the views around you, notice the other cars on the road, the feel of the steering wheel in your hand, the way your back feels pressed against the backseat.

Standing in line at the grocery store, pay attention to the muscles you are using to stand. Feel the measure of your breath.

I'm sure you can find many opportunities each day to practice being in the moment, to be mindful of yourself and all around you. I think all of us could benefit from being more mindful. I think we'd feel less stressed, less hurried, less out of touch with ourselves. 

I was glad to read this article because I needed the reminder to practice being mindful every day. Too often I'm rushing through one activity so I can get to the next. Too often, I'm trying to do multiple things at once, ultimately resulting in nothing getting done to the best of my ability.

That could actually be one of the reasons why I love writing so much--it's impossible to think of anything else, to be anywhere else, when you are writing. The craft demands that you be there, 100% wholly invested.

Just remember, that the benefits of practicing mindfulness begin immediately and are greatest when done consistently over time. So come on, join me for a moment and just ... be.