I have been a mindfulness practitioner for the last 5 to 6 years. Although I practised meditation for more than a decade, I have no idea what mindfulness is until later years. The reason for my wanting to practise this ancient form of consciousness training is different from most people. Although like many, I began meditating on my own when I found my thoughts running incessantly causing stress. At that time, meditation was not as ubiquitous as it is now. There were no mobile apps or youtube meditation videos. In this post, I would like to share the effects of mindfulness and how to practise.
Mindfulness is not meditation
Although many people have attended mindfulness training, most think that it is meditation. Meditation is the quieting of the mind from incessant thoughts by focusing on one object such as the breath. It is the training towards mindfulness. But many people mistake mindfulness as sitting on a chair or cushion with the eyes closed. Some people even experience the bad effects of mindfulness. The bad effects come from wanting to control the breath and suppress the mind. This type of meditation is highly not recommended. The mind can only do one thing at a time. It cannot watch the breath and at the same time want to control it.
Controlling the breath while meditating makes the breath shallow and tight. One feels out of breath. The reality is you are not controlling your breath in daily life. You cannot decide when to start breathing or when to stop. Did you tell yourself to breathe and be alive when you came out of your mother’s womb? Can you tell yourself to continue breathing when the body has shut down? This tells us how out of tune we are with reality. Our bodies and breath have a life of their own.
There is no controller behind them. Just like plants going through photosynthesis, it does not decide to do that. It is just nature’s laws and designs. If one can just sit back and watch the breath like a movie running on a screen, it is enough. The image is the breath and your awareness is the screen. The screen doesn’t need to do anything.
How to practise mindfulness
Mindfulness is an awareness that accompanies every object that arises in the mind. You can experience this while sitting in meditation, when you are working, walking, and exercising. What are the objects that arise in the mind? We live in the thought world. When we are sleeping and when we are awake. It is hard to believe how we can be dreaming while awake. Observe yourself in waking life. For example, you may think someone has a romantic interest in you but that person is just being nice. You may think a colleague dislikes you when s/he is only having a bad day. Parents may think they know best when. it comes to their children when they don’t. Aren’t these dreams we create in our minds in a waking state? It has no relation to reality.
Mindfulness also accompanies feelings and body sensations that are companions to thoughts. When you are sitting or walking in meditation, the easiest way to practise mindfulness is to label the objects that come up in your mind. If there are feelings, label the type of feeling – pleasant or unpleasant? Sleepiness is a pleasant feeling for example. If thoughts come up, label the thought as past or present. When pain comes up, label the mind knowing pain. If nothing happens and the mind is in the present on the breath, just label watching the breath. In a half-hour practise, you will see how our minds really do not work in a linear fashion. It is in chaos. Due to its chaotic nature, it is easy for our minds to be triggered by outer events.
The effects of mindfulness
Practise mindfulness like watching the breath. Just label the objects in a relaxing manner, not trying to achieve something. This then becomes a fun practise because you are getting to know your mind. You will see how you cling to events or people from the past and look at your feelings. You see how the feelings are fleeting and may even laugh at yourself for beating yourself up for things that happened in the past.
Once you are used to the practice, the mind grows steady and quiet on its own, where the labels are no longer needed. Your awareness naturally arises and protects you from harming yourself with thoughts of anxiety, criticism, and anger. You may find that you find it hard to feel depressed or melancholic for a long period of time. Your mind naturally knows these thoughts and feelings are harmful.
Mindfulness is like building an inner armor against outer and inner influences that make you feel anxious, think too much, or feel unaccepted. It is not 100% foolproof. It does not mean we will never feel angry with mindfulness. It does not mean anxieties miraculously disappear on their own. But they are reduced. The more you practise, the faster these negative influences fall away. Therefore, don’t wait. Get in touch with us if you are interested in practising mindfulness.