Ask anyone what the benefits of meditation are and it's very likely they will be able to spout off various reasons why regular practice can keep you more cool, calm and collected. Some branches of meditation even claim to be able to transcend consciousness to a whole other level. Mindfulness meditation is unique in that there is no goal of changing who, where or what you are. It is a practice that welcomes you to embrace acceptance at every opportunity. Who doesn't have time for that?
It has taken over 2000 years, but what was initially a bizarre Buddhist concept has found it's way into mainstream psychotherapy practices. The aim of the game is accepting the here and now, no matter what or where, in it’s entirety. Whether we sit for five minutes or an hour, whether life is rosy or not, practicing mindfulness meditation forces you to actually show up to life, moment by moment. To become aware of and connect to, the present.
As mindfulness continues to flow into the mainstream, benefits such as reducing stress, alleviating depression, improving productivity, creativity, relationships and a myriad of other positive health outcomes are becoming common knowledge. By now you’ve gathered it’s way more than a passing fad. So, with only minimal amounts of time required to evoke so much goodness, why is it still so easy to make the excuse that there's no time for mindfulness? What’s making it so difficult to find five or ten minutes to tune in?
More often than not the same excuses arise. You’re too busy, too tired, too stressed, you can’t do it. Simply put, you don’t have time to be mindful. Unpacking the excuses leaves only the reality that you’re making a choice not to take action. Consciously or not, you’re pushing it down the list whilst filling your time with ‘other stuff’ prioritised ahead of it. If there are times during the day where you find yourself scrolling aimlessly through the internet or succumbing to the sofa watching back to back series' with the dog, you’re choosing to put other, possibly less productive and beneficial things first. Is it time to get intentional?
Maybe your reality right now is that you really are too busy with family, work, study or something else. We live in a fast-paced culture where it's a daily struggle find the time or place to introduce just about anything soul nourishing into an overly hectic schedule. There’s only so many hours in a day, after all. However, throngs of research has shown that mindfulness increases productivity, so investing 10 minutes and taking a break might actually do wonders for reducing the overwhelm and increasing what you can accomplish in a day. As an old Zen adage states:
"You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day. Unless you’re too busy:
then you should sit for an hour."
The first step in establishing a practice of mindfulness involves understanding what mindfulness is. Mindfulness is about bringing your attention to the present moment in a curious, non-judgemental way. It’s not about ‘stopping’ or ‘changing’ what’s going on in your mind in any way. When you try mindfulness meditation, at first your mind will very likely be noisy, negative, full, scattered, scary and self-critical. All of that (and more!) is normal. Your job is to become aware of it, whatever shows up, and simply notice as you let it all come and let it go. It gets easier to do over time and it won’t be long before you experience the positive benefits of tuning in.
Practicing the art of presence can very quickly relieve stress. You become more aware of what’s triggering your stress response and can choose how to respond rather than react. How liberating! In the long term, mastering mindfulness offers a deep and intimate personal journey of awareness and a richer and more connected experience of life. It will support you to manage difficult life situations as they inevitably arise and can help you to finally let go of unwarranted habitual thought patterns that haven’t served you for a very long time, if ever.
We all hold onto to false ideas about our selves and others, failing to recognise that thoughts are simply thoughts, not facts! Believe me, you deserve the truth. Engaging in mindfulness means you must be prepared to explore your internal world and closely look at what is going on for you by repeatedly coming back to the present moment. Taking this journey will steer you towards reality and that process is transformational.
Learning to simply be opens the door to empowerment, self-care and self-compassion. You’re tuned in and in-charge. Over time you’re shifting attitudes, mindset and belief systems that previously held you back into ones that open you up to embracing a richer and more authentic life. Imagine overcoming common issues such as social anxiety or a fear of public speaking by stepping out and authentically expressing yourself and your message? It’s a game changer. On the physical level, mindfulness allows you to tune into bodily sensations, leaving any harsh judgments or limiting mindsets at the door and bringing awareness and compassion to your being. By simply sitting with the unproductive (even harmful) stories you tell yourself in your head, and letting them fall to the side just as quickly as they arose, you gain true insight into who you are and what you’re capable of. You are not your thoughts. Your thoughts are not reality. The walls blocking you in aren’t real. You begin to see more clearly what is actually happening in each and every moment - accepting that thoughts are thoughts, feelings are feelings and all of it will come … and go. Hello infinite freedom!
Mindfulness is about more than sitting in meditation practice, it is a philosophy and it’s a way of living. Through the practice of simply being with life in the present, you create a space to connect to each miraculous moment as it unfolds and to nurture your best, most authentic self to appear. How can there not be time in your schedule for that? What could possibly be higher on the priority list?! Mindfulness infuses into so many aspects of daily life and ultimately brings with it a sense of peace and clarity, whether that be with a boss who has given you negative feedback on a task, a driver who has just cut you off, someone trying to reach out to you or most importantly, with yourself. Whatever life has in store, living mindfully enhances the experience.
I didn’t have time for mindfulness … until I realised that I didn’t have the time not to live mindfully. All you have to do is choose to show up.
WORDS: Annika Rose/ Charlie Hanna.