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How to be be aware of everything that goes on in your mind and body?
Do you know how to listen to your body well? Being aware of your health and knowing how to respond to it can have a positive impact on your wellbeing. To do so, you’ll need to be mindful.
Let’s start off with the fundamentals of ‘Mindfulness’ :
The basic premise of Mindfulness is, in essence, awareness. Through training, traditionally by practising meditation, we learn to become aware of what is happening mentally, emotionally and physically in each moment. This then gives us the tremendous skill of choice in how we respond. So rather than feeling a victim to our thoughts, emotional states or physical experience; we can learn to choose to respond rather than react and feel a sense of power and control in life.
Mindfulness can have a huge beneficial impact on your health. When we experience pain or illness, chances are that the body will have some unpleasant feelings such as parts your body hurting. If we aren’t mindful, we will almost certainly have some unhelpful habits such as tensing against the pain and holding our breath. This will make pain, fatigue or other symptoms worsen and become more severe.
With mindfulness, we learn to acknowledge pain with kindness and acceptance but to let go of the tension, breath-holding and resistance. This means that the overall experience of pain or fatigue or other symptoms will ease.
Mindfulness practioners use a model of dividing pain, discomfort or illness into two components: Primary and Secondary Suffering. The Primary Suffering is the actual unpleasant sensations or feelings in the part of the body which is hurting. Secondary Suffering is caused by the resistance and struggle and that includes things like secondary anxiety, depression, fear and physical tension.
General mindfulness program teaches people mindfulness skills to accept Primary Suffering and reduce or overcome the Secondary Suffering by letting go of resistance and struggle. When this skill is developed, people often report a significant improvement in their quality of life and a reduction in suffering and/or pain.
Meditation is the ideal way to cultivate mindfulness. It is to train the mind, like training the body by going to the gym.
In meditation, we turn our awareness inwards to get to know our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations without the usual distractions of daily activities. We sit quietly and close our eyes and put our inner world in the laboratory of awareness.
In the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism, the word for meditation is ‘familiarisation’ which is a very good description of what is happening when we meditate. We are going within and ‘familiarising’ ourselves with the inner world so that we can learn to gradually let go of automatic reactions and to bring much more space to our experience. The behavioural outcome of meditation and mindfulness is choice. It is amazing to feel that we can have some control over our minds and emotions and to respond with kindness, love and a sense of connection to ourselves and all the people we come in contact with.
It helps people to be calm, focused and to stop. Meditation is a fantastic way to calm down if we are stressed. Even stopping for just a few moments and focusing on breathing can interrupt the escalation of stress. There’s lots of evidence about how the brain and stress chemicals are positively affected by mindfulness. Cortisol and adrenaline production decreases and oxytocin and endorphin production increases. Vagal tone improves as well and studies show a reduction in inflammation markers with meditation, amongst many other benefits.
To be fully alive! Life is precious and fleeting. We would want to really live our lives while we have it and not to dwell in some kind of grey half-life. We won’t want to get to the end of our lives and regret not having made the most of it. With mindfulness and kindness practices, we would have some moments that are vivid and bright and full of wonder, which is wonderful!
We also want to feel more connected with other people and the world around us. Mindfulness is not a self-centred endeavour just so that we can be little a bit happier. It is great to feel happier, but it is also more important that mindfulness helps one to be a better person in the world and hopefully, to make the world a better place.