Una's Blog

24
Nov

Una’s little world. 11. Mindfulness and Meditation

by Una Hearne.

I’ve noticed a certain weariness when these subjects come up. We have heard rather a lot about them recently, much of it on the evangelical side – which can be a turn off.

In an effort to rescue their reputations as simple natural practices, I’d like to point out that we already practice mindfulness and meditation all the time. We might not use those names or conform to specific rituals – and while we can learn from great teachers and masters (personally I’m grateful to Oprah, Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle) – we don’t actually need to study or follow anyone.

Take meditation. It means simply taking a head break. In formal meditation we focus on our breathing, or visualise, or repeat a mantra. We focus on something because we can’t simply stop thinking. Instead, we replace our automatic thoughts with something absorbing and relaxing. Here’s the thing – we all do this naturally. Any time you do something absorbing and relaxing it’s meditating in my book. Ever put on your music and go for a walk or a run? Do you enjoy cooking, gardening, going to the gym, jigsaws, knitting, drawing or painting? We all enjoy different things, you know what works for you. I bet if you think about it you’ll find something you already do is meditation.

And then there’s mindfulness. This just means being aware in this moment right now. You can’t see, hear, touch, taste or smell in the past or the future. You can only sense something right now. When you can be fully present in the moment you can take a break from living in the past or future. It is a particularly helpful practice when your thoughts are negative or you are building up stress.

The reason talk about these practices has become so widespread is the increasingly frenetic pace of our lives along with 24/7 stimulation around us. Mindfulness and meditation are excellent antidotes to stress. Stress can escalate out of control if we get lost in ruminating about the past or panicking about the future. It can lead to such a level of confusion and circular thinking that we can’t think clearly or make decisions. It is also exhausting, and can lead to our missing out on the good stuff that is actually happening right now.

Even if you only interfere with the build-up of stress for a few minutes in your day, you can make a big difference to your state of mind and your health. So taking frequent head breaks during the day, in a way that suits you, is an excellent self-care practice.

 

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