Mindful Monday14 December 2020
Being present, practising mindfulness, meditating – however, we may wish to call it, the act of consciously sustaining one’s attention on a given object or sensation has a myriad of benefits for body and mind. This one-pointedness of mind, whether the focus is the breath, the eyebrow-centre, a mantra or activity, is calming for the nervous system, improves mood, instils a sense of peace and even changes the stress-response in the brain.
Scientific research shows that regular practice of meditation or mindfulness techniques changes the way the brain responds to a stressful event or situation. When we encounter something stressful – whether this is physical or emotional – there is a reaction in the prefrontal cortex of the brain producing a feeling of anxiety, fear or unease. A regular meditation practice weakens this neural connection, so the response to a stressful incident is lessened, meaning a reduction in those uncomfortable feelings.
Now, meditation does not have to mean sitting bolt-upright, legs crossed, hands in mudra – although there are great value and benefit in this more introspective style of meditation. It’s not a one-size-fits-all affair and whilst carving out a more traditional meditation practice – sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, focusing on the tip of the nose, or mentally repeating a mantra, or observing the colours appearing in the mind’s eye – may work for a lot of people, this may not become a daily habit that sticks for everyone. My dear old mum, for example, would not really embed this style of practice in her everyday life. Yet, carrying out any task mindfully can become a meditation in itself, and it may be this approach that is more accessible.
Mindfulness, as a form of meditation, can be applied to pretty much any activity you might carry out in a regular day. You can mindfully carry out activities such as making the bed, having a cup of tea or watering the plants in a grounding way. As the practice becomes more and more of a habit, every activity becomes an opportunity to practice mindfulness, presence and with that, gratitude. I have found that the more I engage in this approach to my daily routine, the more peace, contentment and joy I experience. Joy is the default state, and often with the fast-paced, get-things-done style of modern life, these everyday opportunities are over-looked; usually carried out as means-to-an-end tasks. If instead, these activities completed as means in themselves, there is a heightened sense of meaning and purpose. When you live in this way, everyday tasks carried out mindfully become blessings in themselves, and every opportunity gives rise to expressions of love and gratitude.
Making the bed each day, for example, provides an excellent opportunity to be present as you fix the duvet and arrange the pillows, feeling gratitude for having a nice, soft bed every night, safe and warm. Give thanks to having woken up healthy and well, perhaps next to a loved one, send them your loving vibes and nurture a sense of gratitude for all that you wake up to each morning. You could also set an intention for the day, or bring an ‘I Am…’ affirmation to mind. Each morning provides this great chance to start the day mindfully, from a place of gratitude, an abundance mindset, to set you right for the day.