Can mindfulness help you reduce stress and improve focus in your daily life?
Who is more self-deluded than he who is careless of his own welfare after gaining a hard-won human birth and manhood, too?Sankaracharya
Work, eat, sleep, repeat. Work, eat, sleep, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. If this is all there is to our usual daily routine, how can you be happy with what you already have? Can mindfulness help you find a happier and more fulfilling life?
Essentially life is an endless pattern of repetition. Everyday we must sleep, eat, drink. Most of us have to fill the majority of our time with work we don’t find particularly interesting, motivating or inspiring. We drain ourselves of creativity and energy, and chastise ourselves for not doing better, not achieving more. But this harsh self criticism might be the very thing blocking our path to great achievement, or inner peace with ourselves.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is one of those words that peppers so many self-help and self improvement articles, and thrown around as some new-age cure, but do we really understand what mindfulness means?
Mindfulness is the practice of keeping something in the forefront of your mind. This is why we hear about things like mindful eating or mindful walking. Being mindful simply means keeping the activity or thing you are concentrating on, at the front of your attention- not being easily swayed to other thoughts
In creative pursuits, mindfulness can be linked to the state of flow, flow is a much deeper and fully immersed form of mindfulness, where we don’t have remind ourselves to focus back on the object or activity- we simply reside in a state of complete focus on the one task.
Repetition is a key element in ritual practice, mantras are repeated, their sounds can bring on heightened states of awareness and focus and in the same way a repetitive task such as painting, practising music or simply cooking can bring on those states of flow. Mindfulness is the doorway to finding that state.
How can I implement mindfulness in my daily life?
So how do you practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness is as we discovered above, is focusing our attention on what activity or object is in front of us now. As we sharpen our attention on the now, much like focusing a camera or microscope, the clarity with which we see things as they really are in the current moment becomes much clearer. Mindful attention helps us to stay present with what’s happening now, helping to reduce stress and anxiety for the future, and helps reduce the stories we can sometimes indulge in about the past.
The simplest way to begin to experience mindfulness is to take a moment where you are to listen to the noises around you. What can you hear? Are there cars, birds, the rustling of leaves in the wind? Is it silent? Or can you hear the rustling of your clothes as you shift in your seat? Can you hear the sound as you swallow or breathe? Now think, did you hear those sounds before, all of them, any of them? Did you notice them before you started to pay attention to them?
It’s quite likely that before you focussed your attention on the noises that are all around you and within you, you probably didn’t hear them at all. Mindfulness is simply the act of giving attention to something, and when we start to give this attention to the emotions that we experience in our daily lives, it can help alleviate them, as we watch them and allow them to pass like the gentle lapping of the sea on to the shore.
Emotions are not constant, they are states that come and go. Once we start to understand that no emotion, however intense, painful or pleasurable, doesn’t last, merely ebbs back into the sea of experience. Perhaps it will rise again, but it will surely go once more and other feelings take its place.
So if you are experiencing an overwhelming wave of anxiety, fear, panic, be kind to yourself by acknowledging the feeling itself, and rather than thinking around the reason why you feel that way, gently focus your attention on the feeling itself, and allow it be with you, then pass naturally, not pushing it away, nor holding onto it to stay.
It’s very easy to partake in the world only on a material level. It’s easy to looks at things as they appear, and not realise the fullness of their meaning. Stepping back momentarily in order to observe what is happening can help us understand the fuller meaning and importance of why things are as they are. We may not have the life we want, the job we want, the family we want, but believing in the connection that all is there for a reason can help us come to accept with what is happing now. This is not an excuse for inactivity! If something feels wrong, we still have the responsibility to make changes in this world to improve ourselves and help others.
Looking back on what you have achieved, could help you to improve focus for the things you want to achieve in the future- it could help you uncover what you really want to do with your life and reduce stress you are experiencing in the daily grind.
But by allowing mindful observation without criticism of all of life’s circumstances, can help lead us more gently down the path of realisation and find a place of peace in the present moment, without the desire for the future or regret for the past. Simply resting with what is now.
The Master who knows the reality of things declared: I verily am not contained in these things, nor do these creatures stand in me.Sankaracharya