The Art of Mindfulness

“Why do you do the dishes?”  This question was once proposed at a conference.  Common answers included, to get them clean, because I have to, or because they are dirty.  Again the question was asked, “Why do you do the dishes?”  The same answers were yelled out and this merry go round was repeated multiple times until the question was turned on the presenter, “Why do you do the dishes?”  To which he answered, “to do the dishes.”

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Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment all while acknowledging and accepting your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations without judgment.

The art of being in the present moment or, as the presenter suggested, doing the dishes simply to do the dishes, takes practice.

Mindfulness is paying attention to yourself on purpose.  Mindfulness is not being vaguely aware of yourself.  A practical example of purposeful awareness is mindful eating.  Often times when you are eating you may also be thinking of many other things, holding a conversation with another person or even watching television.  Mindful eating would include purposefully immersing yourself in the food you are eating, taking note in it’s texture, taste and shape.  Allowing yourself to pay attention to your bites, taste the food as you eat, and allowing your stomach to feel the sense of fullness from the food.

Mindfulness is being in the present moment.  Mindfulness is not past or future thinking.  You can allow yourself to acknowledge that this type of thinking is attempting to seep into present thinking but ultimately the goal is to keep thought focused in the present tense.  The direction towards the present allows you to anchor yourself and achieve a sense of feeling grounded.

Mindfulness is non-judgmental awareness of the self.  Mindfulness is not a reactive state.  This means accepting what ever thought or feeling arises for you in the present moment.  In this process you allow yourself to mindfully observe what arises, allow it to pass through and eventually disappear.  This means whether a good or bad thought, good or bad feeling or good or bad experience arises, you allow it to happen and do not criticize or judge it away.

Mindfulness is intended to help you achieve ‘equanimity.’  Meaning, stillness and balance of the mind.  Cognitively you can be aware that experiences are pleasant or unpleasant; however, at an emotional level, you do not react.

Why Mindfulness?

Studies have shown that mindfulness can provide physical, mental, psychological and social benefits.  Mindfulness can:

(1) Increase positive emotion, decrease negative emotion and therefore reduce stress.

(2) Boost your immune system

(3) Enhance relationships, allowing partners to feel listened to, cared for and accepted.

(4) Improve focus and attention skills.

(5)  Increase overall sense of happiness and well-being

(6)  Assist in relaxation and decrease anxious symptoms

(7)  Assist in achieving emotional regulation and distress tolerance

How to Cultivate Mindfulness

Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, highlights the key components to cultivating mindfulness:

(1) Pay close attention to your breathing, particularly in intense emotional moments.

(2)  Truly notice what you are sensing at any given moment- the sight, sound, touch, taste and hearing of the present moment.

(3)  Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting, they do not define you.

(4)  Build awareness of your body’s physical sensations.

(5)  Develop Mindful Triggers.  These are cues that can remind you to break out of the monotony of the every day and allow yourself to be mindful.  Examples can include post-it note reminders to “relax” or even object you can associate with the meaning of mindfulness.

 

For beginners, the technique of body scanning is suggested.  This includes focused attention along your body, from the toes to the top of your head, trying to be aware and accepting of whatever you sense in these body parts, without controlling or changing those feelings.

For further information on this technique,  CLICK HERE

As you learn more on the art of Mindfulness, are you starting to look at the question “why do you do the dishes” differently?  Take some time give yourself the gift of mindfulness!