Mindfulness. That word is everywhere these days, including on the February cover of Time magazine, which documents the cultural revolution taking hold in our country. What is mindfulness and why does it matter?
Mindfulness is the mental practice of paying careful attention to what is going on right here, right now. When you are being mindful, you are noticing what is happening in the present moment — around you and within you.
With regular mindfulness practice, you experience less “monkey mind” jumping around from one thing to the next, less getting lost in unproductive worries, less agony and anger brought on by critical judgments about yourself or others. Instead, you can see things more clearly, feel things more calmly and respond to people more compassionately.
Given the stresses of modern family life, such a practice — a way of seeing and being in the world — can come in handy.
So many distractions compete for our attention in today’s 24/7 information age. We constantly are bombarded by digital information and daily demands at home, work and school. Most of us suffer from information overload and emotional overwhelm. We are chronically stressed and tired. Our kids experience the same frustrating lifestyle; often they feel like they can’t catch up or measure up.
Mindfulness — a way of quiet reflection and contemplation — has been part of many cultural traditions for centuries. Recent neuroscience research has shown many benefits to the brain, nervous system, immune system and mental health for those who regularly practice mindfulness.
You can practice mindfulness “formally” — with purposeful periods of sitting meditation — that may last for one to two minutes, five to 10 minutes, or more. You can gradually increase your ability, with guided practice from a mindfulness teacher, to sit quietly and focus your attention on the present moment.
You can also practice mindfulness “informally” by pausing throughout the day to consciously notice the wind on your face, the sounds of birds singing, the excitement in your child’s face, the frustration in your child’s voice, the self-doubt that hinders your stepping up to something you want to do or the rhythmic beating of your heart as you drift off to sleep.
You can practice — and benefit — from mindfulness anywhere, anytime. As you read this article, are you fully attending to the meaning of these words and your emotional reaction to them? Are you feeling hope, confusion, excitement or boredom? Is your mind wandering off to the next task, criticizing yourself for not being more mindful more often?
Brief periods of awareness, repeated many times, become automatic and continuous. With continued practice, soon you will be responding to life’s stressors, and to your family members, with more peace, patience and compassion — something we all could use more of.
Join us for the next Straight Talk presentation at which I will share ideas and techniques for helping our children and ourselves deal with the stresses of modern day life through the practice of mindfulness.