The Power of Mindfulness
Mindfulness means being aware of what is happening now in this moment. Paying attention. Our body, our heart and our soul and our mind is talking to us all the time. The body sends us messages through the vehicle of sensation. Our heart sends us messages through the vehicle of feeling. Our soul sends us messages through the vehicle of “knowing.” Our mind sends us messages through the vehicle of thought.
Do we listen to our body, heart, and soul?
In our society, we tend to listen to the mind/thoughts over our body/sensation, our heart/feelings and our soul/knowing. We value the mind over the feelings of the heart and the sensations of the body and the knowing of the soul. Unfortunately, the mind has a limited perspective and so if we only listen to the mind, we don’t see the whole picture. It would be like cutting off three of your fingers. Your hand would be much less useful with only a thumb. That is how it is when we only listen to the mind and not the body/sensation, heart/feeling and soul/knowing.
The body, heart and soul have important and very useful information for us. We need to learn how to listen and respond favorably to these messages and balance them with the thoughts in the mind. The question then becomes, how do we do this?
How do we learn to listen?
Here are some practical ways to exercise the muscle of mindfulness. Listen to your body when you eat. How does it feel after eating a certain food? Listen to your body when you exercise. How does your body feel after exercise? Self-inquiry is a tool with which you can deepen your connection with the body, feelings and knowing. Taking a two-minute breathing break is an important exercise to stop the habit of being only in the mind and reinforce the awareness of the breath and body.
The Importance of Slowing Down
In our busy lives, it is often difficult to slow down enough to pay attention to the messages from within. We are used to being guided by the mind and by listening to others through news, media, magazines, books internet. We are overloaded with information from the external world. In terms of balance, we also need to “hear” what our internal world is saying. So, once again, how do we do this?
Mindfulness is the practice of slowing down and paying attention to what is happening in the moment as you are moving through life. It can be as simple as taking deep breaths and feeling your body. It can be really paying attention while brushing your teeth. It can be taking a deep breath and feeling an emotion rather than distracting yourself with something or pushing the emotion down. You can ask yourself, what is happening right now, physically, mentally, emotionally in any moment in any situation.
Here is a mindfulness exercise that you can practice sitting or lying down. Perhaps at the end of a busy day. Or a night before you fall asleep.
1. Sit quietly and close your eyes.
2. Simply feel your body.
3. Become aware of your breath and notice how you are breathing. Watch the breath move in your body. Where does the breath move? Where is it restricted?
4. Allow the breath to lengthen and deepen. Lengthen the inhalation. Let the exhalation fall out of the body.
5. Continue to feel your body and the sensations within the body. Are you energized, fatigued, tense, relaxed? Are there areas of tension, areas of relaxation? Allow yourself to move if you feel drawn to do that.
6. Notice your emotions. Are you happy, sad, joyful, angry, frustrated? Are you neutral? Imagine there are many flavors of emotions, just like flavors of ice cream. What flavor are you today?
7. Then begin to notice your mind. It is busy or quiet. Is it slow or speedy? Notice the nature of your thoughts? What is the content of your thoughts?
8. Notice if there are judgments of right or wrong. Let them go. This is just about being aware.
9. Now, bring your attention to the part of you that is watching the body, the breath, the emotions and the mind. We will call this The Witness. The witness is the stillness within the body, mind and emotions from where you can watch yourself and the world. It is always there, we just have forgotten it in the business of our lives. The breath helps us connect to The Witness. Spend a few moments with this process. See if you can anchor yourself in the awareness, the witness.
10. Now, staying in touch with the witness, open your eyes. Keep your attention focused inside while watching what is happening outside of you. Look around the room. Notice whatever you see. Notice the sensations in your body. Notice the emotions. Notice the commentary by the mind. Notice if you lose touch with the witness. If so, close your eyes again and anchor you focus inside.
May you be aware, peaceful and free,