As mindfulness becomes more mainstream and more people become familiar with its terminology the real essence of the practice can become lost to those trying to understand its benefits and wisdom.
Not a concept
Mindfulness training practice
Ones own experience
One can experience the happiness that comes through effort or effortless effort. It’s significant and empowering to see that mindfulness is becoming more popular as the masses can receive its many benefits. The practice of “being mindful” is actually very simple, ready, are you sure?
The practice of “Being Mindful” is
Be here in the Now
Focus your attention on purpose, On what matters in that moment
Be with the present-moment, from moment to moment
Be Aware of any thoughts, emotions or body sensations
The present moment can be a lot of different things, like boredom, pain, joy or even a simple day to day task. The question is, where do you put your attention and how do you become more flexible with your attention. For example, a quarterback might broaden his awareness to the entire field to find an open receiver and then narrow his focus to the open receiver in order to throw the ball on target. This ability to narrow your focus and broaden your focus is a form of mental flexibility.
We can train ourselves to be more present with whatever the experience is. To be more present we need to develop more focus and concentrative attention. It’s like going to the gym for your mind, it’s simply applied mental training, learned through practicing and experiencing the process first hand. The main technique of mindfulness training is focusing your attention on the breath. In other words, you are anchoring your awareness to the present moment through your breath. The breath is the object of awareness and anytime our minds wander from this point of focus we do our best to become self-aware that our attention left our breathing and gently shift it back. This is training the mind to learn to focus and concentrate on one thing, one-center focused concentrative attention.
There are two different ways to practice the skill of Present-Moment Focus or Mindfulness
The first type is Informal practice
Informal practice is practicing in the moment; which could be a deep breath before reacting to an emotional situation or in the face of a stressor. Taking three mindful breathes after someone cuts you off in traffic is a good time to do informal practice. This can help a person stay calm under pressure, improve reaction time, focus, memory and recall. Informal practice could also be done while eating your food or transitioning from work to home. It usually takes between a split second and 2-3 minutes of deliberate practice in the moment to anchor or ground yourself to the present-moment and accept the situation or task.
Second type is Formal practice
Formal practice is taking time out of the day, putting it aside to sit or lie down to practice the art of, “being still”. As a beginner you can just take five to ten minutes to dedicate to practice. Many times, clients I am teaching say, I am not sure I can practice for five minutes or say they do not have time. I tell them, fine, how about one minute? I know you have one minute that you can practice. We make time for what is important and taking time for ourselves, and our own well-being is an incredibly valuable aspect of life.
Both are extremely important in order to develop the skill of presence, however they both serve distinctive purposes. The purpose of informal practice is to bring your attention to the present for tactical use, a reminder, or refocus. In my experience this usually brings small periods of practice, times it can bring longer or more effortless attention and clarity.
Our Daily Formal Practice
As we continue to do formal practice it provides us the opportunity to go deeper into more efficient brain wave states. Scientist’s used to think that this meant some parts of the brain would fire up. In other words the neurons in the brain would actually lite up with electrical activity. This is not necessarily the case. It means certain parts of the brain might light up but other parts would slow down or turn off. Our formal practice allows us to go deeper and extend our practice to train the brain to form stronger neural connections. This means that you will find formal practice produces some automatic changes. Informal practice isn’t always needed because your attention and awareness becomes refined. The benefits to formal practice are much more valuable and this practice is much needed for anyone wanting all the benefits of the practice.
Focus and Self Awareness
Formal practice allows us to bring a present moment Focus and Awareness throughout our entire day. In our society we often find ourselves just going through the motions on autopilot without any awareness of our internal or external environment. We’re often not aware of our own thoughts, emotions, physical sensations or pain that is coming up in the body. Stressful events happen and were not even aware of how we react to them. Formal practice allows us to become more aware and notice what thoughts are coming up, what emotions may be arising and any physical sensations we may feel.
This subtle awareness doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes practice day in and day out. Just like our first time playing baseball. We had to hit off a t-ball stand, then eventually move to a slow pitch without the tee. Same goes with Mindfulness practice, in order to see the benefits start to come to fruition it should be done often. It should become part of your daily routine, and eventually hopefully becomes a daily habit, a daily need. I’m not saying, judge yourself for missing a day. There is no judgment. Just move on from that thought and start the next day as it’s the first day you were able to live this fruitful life.
Insights from the Founder