In today’s world, we often run behind misconstrued definitions of happiness. We are so wound up in our fast-paced lives, chasing after momentary merriment that we fail to find the anchor to our lives. We seek too much, that we often forget the joy of just being there and soaking life, one moment at a time.
A famous quote by Maya Angelou says that “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”. Now, if we are being truly honest with ourselves, how can we look past the beauty of this quote, to understand the easy yet deep meaning in it?
The simple answer to this contemplation is Mindfulness. The practise of mindfulness is what helps us bridge the gap between knowing a famous quote, as opposed to living it. Mindfulness is the tool for feeling Euphoric and what tethers us, ensuring our steady outlook. It is the key to living a healthy, happy and fulfilled life.
So what does Mindfulness mean?
We all know what a mirror does. No matter what the size, shape or angle is, it always produces a reflection of the surroundings in front of it. Practising Mindfulness is a lot similar to looking in the mirror. It is one of the most basic, powerful, engaging and universal capacities to become aware of and accept everything that is happening around us, and with us, as it happens.
In the same way that a mirror ‘contains’ anything and everything that is presented before it, the human mind, by refining our intrinsic quality of deliberately focusing our awareness on the moment at hand, accepts it with a non-judgmental outlook. With no distractions and full focus, the mind is able to reflect on whatever is happening in a person’s life, at that moment in time.
So, to put it into simple terms, Mindfulness is a state of mind that can be sought by focusing the awareness of a person on the present moment, while also acknowledging and accepting one’s thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment, all through a nurturing and gentle lens. It is a technique of honing the basic human ability to be intentionally fully present and aware, in the right amounts, without being too sensitive, overly reactive or overwhelmed by this new state of awareness.
The two main elements of mindfulness are awareness and non-judgmental acceptance of a person’s moment-to-moment experiences. They are considered to be effective antidotes against common forms of psychological distresses such as anxiety, fear, anger and other emotions that might lead to maladaptive tendencies to avoid, suppress or overly indulge in such distressing emotions.
The History of Mindfulness
Nyanaponika Thera, a Buddhist monk and a scholar, had described mindfulness as the “heart of Buddhist Meditation.” Mindfulness, as a practice, is central to all Buddhist traditions, penetrating the streams of customs being followed in Zen in places such as China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, to even various schools of Vipassana. Vipassana, also called ‘insight meditation’ in the native Theravada tradition of Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, has practices that when simplified, call for mindfulness itself. Apart from setting firm roots in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Ladakh, Tibet and Russia, mindfulness as a practice even penetrated its firm hold on the cultures of the West.
However, as a currently flourishing practice, the very essence of mindfulness is universal as it has more to do with the human mind of a person, than the ideologies, cultures or beliefs from where this practice stems from. Human life and their very presence owe a lot to the clarity of mind, which is what mindfulness helps us achieve.
The Pillars of Mindfulness
To simply state a few elements, along with some easy steps, that can help anyone reach closer in their journey of learning how to practise mindfulness, these are a few:
- Non-judgemental attitude
- Patience. Possibly one of the most important virtues
- A willing mind. Open to new knowledge and growth
- Trust. In the process and yourself
- Letting go. Of everything that holds you back from moving forward
Reasons to add it to your daily to-do lists
Mindfulness is a practice that becomes easy to master once you learn the basics, yet extremely powerful to wield. But is that reason enough to feel intimidated? Or possibly dismiss it because it seems difficult or exhaustive?
The simple answer is no. Mindfulness is a quality that every person already possesses. It is not something beyond us, that we have to conjure up. It is just a practice that we need to learn how to access.
- It’s not something obscure or unknown. It’s known to us, it’s familiar and natural. It is something that we do, more times than not. We already possess the capacity to be present, and by cultivating and refining such innate qualities with simple techniques, practising mindfulness can be beneficial to not just us, but also to our loved ones.
- You don’t have to bring any major changes into your life. Mindfulness recognises and cultivates the best of who we are, enhancing our greatest features, instead of pushing us to change ourselves, in any possible way. And it’s something that we have complete control over.
- Anyone can do it. While practising mindfulness, we aren’t needed to change our belief systems or tamper too much with our routines. It is a simple yet efficient practice that can be incorporated into our daily lives without feeling the pressure of a new addition.
- It’s a way of living. It’s more than mere practice. It consists of our intentional daily choices. It brings awareness and careful consideration into everything that we do. Even a little effort goes a long way and makes a noticeable difference in our lives.
- It’s evidence-based. Practising mindfulness is scientifically known to have numerous benefits for our health, happiness and social and professional lives.
- It sparks innovation and resilience. As we deal with today’s world’s increasing complexities, mindfulness can help us ease down and come up with innovative and effective solutions to even seemingly intransigent problems.
In conclusion, mindfulness is a moment-to-moment awareness of a person’s experience, without passing any form of judgement, but accepting things how they are. In such a sense, mindfulness is not a trait but a state of the mind. It can be promoted by other activities such as meditation but is not synonymous with them.