Mindfulness – seeing the world (and yourself) a bit more clearly
As a student trying to figure out my place in the world, I find that the amount of pressure to succeed, along with the number of distractions that stand in the way of success seem to rise together. There is pressure to have good grades, but also be available to friends and family and have an exciting life outside of university. As exam season approaches, it can be extremely tough to be a ball of joy with your loved ones, or to let go and have fun when you’re thinking about the essay you haven’t written yet, or the exam you should be studying for instead.
A little while ago, I discovered Mindfulness, which is the modern interpretation of an old Buddhist practice – Sati – which roughly translates as ‘awareness’. Recently Sati has been made popular in the West by Jon Kabat Zinn, and revived and applied today as Mindfulness. The brilliant thing about Mindfulness is that it is not about doing anything, it is about simply being in the moment. Nowhere else. It teaches us to be completely present where we are; opening ourselves up to a world of possibilities, leaving the past in the past and the future for later.
When I started applying Mindfulness in my everyday life, I found I got a lot more done, and to a much higher quality, I was less stressed and I would take things in small steps rather than imagining the end result, which meant that I could do big tasks without a million thoughts rushing around my head telling me how difficult they are.
So without further ado, here are a few ways to practice Mindfulness in your everyday life:
Meditation Forget Buddhist monks in monasteries, all you need is a quiet space and comfy pillow to sit on. Set a timer on your phone for ten minutes and allow yourself to breathe. It is likely you will find a million thoughts rushing around your head, but don’t try to stop them, just simply watch them as if you were a compassionate friend, and remember that you don’t have to believe in them just because they are there. Always bring your attention back to your breath – the rising of your belly, or the little stream of air coming in and out of your nostrils.
Walking Go for a walk and really pay attention to your experience. Mindfulness is about getting in touch with your senses and body. I read once that you should imagine your feet are ‘kissing’ the earth as you walk. Don’t be influenced by the rush around you – go at your own pace. It can help to bring a camera or notepad to picture or write things down as you go.
Sleep I have found that Mindfulness has really helped me with falling asleep and the quality of sleep that I have. Try not to be on your phone half an hour before trying to sleep – just lay in bed, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Take deep, belly breaths and focus on the sensations in your body. Start at your feet, your legs, tummy, chest, arms, hands and Zzzz.
There are a million more ways to practice Mindfulness that you can read about online or in books. The benefits of Mindfulness are infinite, especially in stressful times and when you feel like you’ve got too much on your plate. Just remember to breathe, and be exactly where you are.