Sunday, December 14

The Art of Mindfulness

I just watched an story about Mindfulness on 60 Minutes where Anderson Cooper affected a kind of 'gee whiz, can this really work' attitude that reminded me that, to Americans, the idea of quietly being in the moment is far out. There is nothing new age or nebulas about this ancient practice. It's simply been forgotten in the clutter of modern life and technology.

The story pushed the idea that mindfulness can transform our society and it can, but only if it is embraced as a way to get in touch with the present and not some health gimmick to increase your productivity. Mindfulness can reduce stress, hospitals and doctors now regularly prescribe meditation for high blood pressure and heart patients. It can help those with mental illness, anger issues and addictions. It can benefit everyone.

In the modern world we think we have to fill up every available moment using communication devices to constantly take in more information. For what reason? We end up communicating less with people around us as we busily check e-mail and cruise the internet.

What is mindfulness and how is it practiced? It is done thru meditation, by doing nothing. Doing nothing is an active practice where one focuses on being in the present moment, not zoning out and wasting time.

Give mindfulness a try. It costs nothing and takes little time. Put away your phone, etc. and go to a quiet place where you won't be disturbed. Start by sitting up comfortably with your back straight but not tensed. Sit cross legged, seiza (sitting on your legs Japanese style) or in a straight back chair with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands in your lap and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing or feeling your body at rest. Relax and breath in through your nose and out of your mouth. When thoughts start to distract you (and they will) just gently let them go by like a passing cloud and refocus on your breathe. Don't worry if you get distracted, it will lessen as you continue. Don't be judgmental about your success or failure, just keep at it. 

Practice this before you go to sleep or when you wake up  and see what happens to your awareness.

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