Mindfulness is a term that’s been around for ages, but it was Jon Kabat-Zin who brought it into the modern era. His start in meditation came while he was a student at MIT. A Zen missionary named Philip Kapleau came to speak while he was a student getting his Ph.D. Later, in 1979, he founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School which is now the Center for Mindfulness. He also created a structured eight-week course Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Many people who practice and study mindfulness credit Kabat-Zin with bringing mindfulness to the science world and ultimately the mainstream.
One of the great things about mindfulness is that it isn’t from any religion, sect, or cult. To be mindful, from the Mirriam-Webster dictionary simply means to be aware. That’s it. Many of us make a big deal out of this so-called mindfulness and meditation because it can be so difficult to sit in silence for 30 minutes at a time. This is why I’m writing, to tell you that you can improve your presence, your focus, and ultimately your happiness without deep meditation and just a little more mindfulness. Of course, meditation with help you deepen those things even further, but becoming more aware is the first step.
Three qualities of Mindfulness:
Attention – Pay attention to what you’re doing. If you’re spending time pondering, then do that. It’s fine to pay attention to your driving and let your mind wander, just not off the road into a ditch. It’s fine to let your mind wander when you’re taking public transportation, but not too much just in case something happens. It’s important to be vigilant about your surroundings. It’s okay to think about things, but not if you’re in a conversation with someone or if you’re spending time with your family and friends. It’s fine to bring your phone to dinner, but don’t check it unless you tell your guests you’re waiting for a call or it’s an emergency. You know how to pay attention and you know when you’re not paying attention. This is adulthood, not kindergarten.
Intention – Set your intention and add a deeper meaning to your breath and your movements. That’s what I start every single yoga class with, setting an intention. We embody an inner world and an outer world. I want you to connect the two and that’s what mindfulness is about. It’s about creating that awareness and knowing that life is a dichotomy. That you can be at a funeral and be laughing at the same time. That there is you and there is the part of you who knows there’s a you. In meditation circles, this is commonly referred to as the witness or the one who perceives.
When you connect with that side of yourself, you can begin to bring them together. Ultimately, we want all parts of our lives to work together. It’s never fun when we struggle against our own mind. There is a great parable that talks about the difference between Eastern thinking and thinking in the West. I’m paraphrasing here, but in the West, we believe we can control the river of life and in the East they believe that life is about using your oars to guide yourself down the river of that is already flowing. In essence, it’s about less control and more grace. It’s about going with the flow and acceptance. This doesn’t mean allowing people to walk all over you, but it does mean you must tap into your wisdom and surrender when necessary.
Attitude – It is one of the things we have complete control over. Our attitude is what we can control the most. Our reactions are a little tougher to deal with at times. If someone does us wrong, we typically react strongly without thinking first, or being mindful. Our attitude, however, is something that we can choose. Our outlook and our perception of any situation can always be changed. Think about your last heartbreak. When it first happened you were devastated, but over time the pain got a little easier, and years later you have almost no connection to that feeling. Now, if that is the effect of time on your pain, we know that things change. Since we are the master, or at least we have the potential to be, of our mind, we can choose to get to that place of contentment quicker. When I teach yoga, I always encourage people to connect with that place inside that is always calm, always centered. I know life throws of off balance, but the more we find that place inside, the easier it is to reconnect. Mindfulness practices will help you do just that.
Ultimately, it’s never about what happens to us in life, it’s always about how we deal with what happens to us. I know life can be difficult at times, but there is always a silver lining, even if it doesn’t appear at first. I’m always here to help if you need a little encouragement or direction. In fact, I created a program called the 7 day meditation. You can start your journey with the 3 free videos and always feel free to reach out @teddymcdonald
Originally published on the author’s website.