Are you a Human BEing or a Human DOing?
Today is World Mindfulness Day.
It is a day to focus on really being present with each moment, however mundane, uplifting or uncomfortable. Mindfulness is about being fully aware of what is around us – what we can see, hear, touch and taste – and observing our thoughts and feelings without judgement or wishing for things to be different/better/other.
The rise in popularity of mindfulness is interesting. It has come a long way from its humble Buddhist beginnings.
In a world where we have become busier, increasingly work longer hours, where we have so much choice (do we really need 10 brands of toilet roll??), where we multi-task constantly (I have been guilty of watching the TV whilst ironing, drinking tea AND checking my phone), practices like mindfulness and yoga provide the collective sigh out to get over all the stuff that crowds our brains and stops us from thinking straight. (Because, let’s face it; it’s not actually possible to watch TV and iron and drink tea and look at a phone at the same time.)
Mindfulness, like yoga, is the antithesis to this busy, fast-paced thing called life, which is no doubt why they are now both mainstream practices. In his book ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet,’ Matt Haig puts this perfectly:
“People are craving not just physical space but the space to be mentally free. A space from unwanted distracted thoughts that clutter our heads like pop-up advertising of the mind in an already frantic world. And that space is still there to be found. It’s just that we can’t rely on it. We have to consciously seek it out. We might have to set time to read or do some yoga or have a long bath or cook a favourite meal or go for a walk. We might have to switch our phone off. We might have to close the laptop. We might have to unplug ourselves, to find a stripped-back acoustic version of ourselves.”
Given the marked increase in anxiety disorders and feelings of overwhelm more and more people experience, I am all for a specific day that raises awareness of the benefits of mindfulness (there is a separate day for yoga already of course!)
And this day is all about prioritising mindfulness rather than the plethora of other things that might be overloading our brains.
Of course, the aim is not for us to practice a bit today so we’ve done our dash for the year. We all know that any practice of anything is just that – a practice. However, this dedicated Mindfulness day perhaps nudges people who have never practiced it before to have a go. As Headspace, a well-known meditation app says, “Brilliant things happen in calm minds.”
I, for one, never get anything done when I’ve gone into “headless chicken” mode. On the other hand, when I have breathed deeply, allowed my feelings to just be and tried to get out of my own way (and maybe practised some yoga as well), I definitely feel better able to think more clearly, be more empathetic and more accepting.
According to actionforhappiness.org, mindfulness has been shown to help us to be healthier, less affected by stress, more relaxed, more creative, more open to learning, sleep better, improve our relationships with others and feel happier and more satisfied with our lives.
That’s a lot of benefits.
I’m not saying you’re suddenly going to stop swearing into the fridge when your little darlings have been particularly trying… but practising being mindful might just help keep the Mother of Dragons at bay a bit more often.
So how can you start living more mindfully (aside from savouring every silently mouthed swear word aimed at the fridge)?
A few years ago The Guardian published a series of podcasts in collaboration with Headspace as part of its ‘Start Happy’ campaign.
The first of these introduces the concept of mindfulness, explains the benefits and guides you through two simple exercises. Once you have listened to this podcast, there are a further four podcasts in the series covering mindful walking, eating, commuting and sleeping. Check them all out here.
If podcasts aren’t really your thing, this special Yoga and Mindfulness publication from OM Magazine includes articles explaining everyday mindfulness, how to integrate a yoga and mindfulness practice and tips on how to use mindfulness to become happier.
Finally, I recommend using the Headspace app. It is free, very easy to use and provides meditation and mindfulness exercises for both long and short periods of time.
Enjoy the day. May it be the start of more being and less doing.
Namaste, Tamsin xx