Mindfulness in Daily Life
Mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular as a useful antidote to business, information overload and rampant attention deficit disorder. The word translated as 'mindfulness' is smriti in Sanskrit, and sati in Pali, both literally meaning 'remembering'.
We don't see with our eyes, or hear with our ears…we see through our eyes, and hear through our ears, with our mind.
Of the 70,000 stimuli we are presented with each day, we only notice about 3000 of them. Ot these, which 3000 we notice is largely determined by our beliefs, what is important to us, and what we value most.
In effect, what we notice becomes evidence of our beliefs. If we have a negative belief about something, the things we notice around us will reinforce that belief and start a trail of subconscious thought that will strengthen the neural pathways associated with that thought, thus we end up getting the that outcome.
So… we don't see with our eyes, we see instead with our emotions, beliefs and values. Our eyes as well as our ears and other sensory organs are simply conduits that relay signals to the brain which, in turn, interprets them according to our values, beliefs and emotions.
To change our outcomes and results we need to first change what we think and also what we 'see'.
A starting point to practice this is to consciously and deliberately notice at least three things every day that you have not noticed before. Then you must associate each new thing with a new thought and a new belief that is aligned with a better outcome, one that you want to achieve.
For example, take the belief that you will never get the position you want unless you promote yourself as others seem to do. What you will notice is that all the people getting good positions seem to be also good at self-promotion. Instead, if you switch your focus and deliberately look for someone in a good position who is not a self-promoter, or in situations where an obvious self-promoter didn't get the position, you can start to associate the evidence you 'saw' with a new thought and a new belief that people like you can actually get the good gigs. The interesting thing is that it was there all along, you jusgt were not used to looking for it.
By paying attention to different things going on around us, instead of operating on auto-pilot and gazing at our own navels, we can reduce stress, unlock creativity and boost performance.
The process of acively noticing new things is called 'mindfulness'. By becoming mindful we are brought to the present moment and this very process stops us from making negative evaluations, and worrying that we will find problems we are powerless to solve.
It is a very simple process that anyone can undertake. The practice of cultivating greater mindfulness is incredibly simple and available to absolutely anyone, free of charge. The more you practice it, the easier it is to develop. Being in the present moment can become as much of a habit as most people's habitual state of 'mindlessness', where we are in a distracted state and completely mindless of what is actually happening around us.
Here is an example of having a shower in both a mindless and mindful way.
Mindless: You barely notice the water as you step underneath the shower becuase you are thinking about some conflict that happened at work the previous day and wondering about how you can resolve it. Oh, and is there any milk left in the fridge or did your teenage sun finish it up along with the last of the bread? Teenagers! Now you will have to run out and get some for breakfast, or skip breakfast, or is there something else in the fridge or pantry? Will the bean shoots be too far gone? Why is the water always too hot or not hot enough?
Mindful: You notice the warmth of the water as it hits your skin and you become aware of how soothing it feels. The scent of the shower gel permeates your nbose and you wonder what it is…a flower of some kind? You are mindful of the product and the clean and refreshed sense on your skin. You are mindful of the water, and of how much you are using, it's temperature and the sound of it splashing on the tiles. You are there in that very moemnt.
The opposite to mindfulness is auto-responding, where our brains simply respond subconsciously to the things around us. This sets in motion the same trail of thoughts we usually have, activating the same old neural pathways and therefore continuing to see life the same way. It is like placing ourselves on auto-pilot, where we do not consciously control our thoughts and actions, and our 'plane' flies by itself. This can certainly save energy in some situations. Imagine how exhausing it would be to think about every movement of your body when you are driving a car, or taking a walk. Some things work well on auto-pilot, but real change only happens when we apply conscious, deliberate, mindful thinking to it.
Being mindful and aware, rather than operating on auto-pilot, will allow you to choose how you respond to situations and give you freedom from the habitual pattterns of the mind,
By consciously and deliberately noticing new things, or the same things with fresh eyes, you will start to see fresh, new opportunities for changing your life.
MEDITATION IN DAILY LIFE
You can receive the benefits of formal meditation practice by weaving mindfulness into your daily life.
During your Shower
Enter the ‘flow state’
Let your mind be fully engaged in the breath and nothing else for that time .
Focus all of your attention in the present moment.
Slowly, with deliberate movements, go about your activity.
with an intensity of single minded focus.
Remain alert and keep your mind fully attentive to what you are doing in that moment only. Do not
allow it to slip off into unconscious mind chatter. Be completely absorbed in the activity as if you
are just born into this world.
You will find that the activity ‘comes alive’ when you practice it with mindfulness.
intensely engaged in what your are doing.
This is an adaptation of a Buddhist practice. Loving Kindness Meditation trains you to be a more compassionate, kind person. It reminds you to live a life of service, to see yourself as a citizen of the world, and to place the human race and our ecology above all else. Beyond this, it causes you to make the world a safer, more loving place. And this impacts how you show up in the world.
• Bring to mind the face of someone you truly love. It could be a child, a pet, a partner etc. Feel your love for them in your heart.
• Give this feeling of love a colour. Imagine it as a colourful light within your heart.
• Now breathe in and out. As you exhale, imagine this light expanding to fill your entire body with this essence of love.
• Continue breathing, and with every exhale imagine this light of love and compassion expanding into wider and wider circles to include the world around you…
First your home and all the life in it.
Then your city.
Then your country.
Then your continent.
Then the entire world.
As you do this, bring in all life. Not human being but also include plants and animals. Feel your compassion extend to anything that is living.
• The last image should be that of the Earth, covered in the light of this love. If you are finding it difficult imagining the Earth or a country, see it as if you’re looking at a map or globe. It’s the intent, not the imagery that matters here.
“May you live life with ease.”
Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.
Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography
Travel with Shanti & Peter Gowans this November for a trip of a lifetime.