Mindfulness – weird or what?…….!

Published Categorized as Mindfulness, Videos

Mindfulness, ‘presence’, being in the moment, ‘existing in the ‘now’, transcending thought etc, all seem to be about achieving a very similar goal: bringing the mind and body fully into the moment so that we are no longer tortured by ruminations about the past or anxious thoughts about the future. When we can do this, we are free to experience the bliss of simple and thought-free consciousness by existing purely in this moment. But it’s not that simple usually, is it?

Over the years, I have encountered a variety of different methods that all seem to be about practising ‘consciousness’: meditation, doing things mindfully, yoga, breathing exercises, engaging in creative flow, sensory experiences that fully engage you (gong therapy comes to mind in a field a few years ago!), etc. These things can have a huge beneficial impact on mental health but attaining frequent ‘consciousness’ is not usually a quick fix as it requires practice, and in order to dedicate yourself to practising it, you have to ‘believe’ in it! In order to believe in it, you need to practise it, so that you can start to really experience it, enjoy it and feel its benefits. I can see several barriers there already – aside from the fact it sounds downright weird to many people! This approach is not something the busy, cluttered, fast-and-furious world generally prioritises. The world encourages us to frantically think all the time: it distracts us, engages us, shouts for our attention, gives us a perpetual feeling to drive forward, hooks us, makes us addicts and teaches us that our entire identity is based on what we think. ‘Presence’ is somewhat counter-culture and I suspect the ‘mindfulness’ movement of recent years was an attempt to re-package and encompass it into mainstream thinking – because it’s good stuff when you ‘buy’ it! (I chose the word ‘buy’ deliberately there with a nod to neoliberalism. I am so funny 😉 )

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I made this video named Mindfulness to sum up what I believe are the benefits of practices like meditation and mindfulness and how they are all linked. I have aimed it at ‘grown ups’ but see that its benefits can easily be taught to children  – and there have been and still are many attempts to do this.

Further things I believe about ‘presence’/mindfulness/being in the moment/transcending thought:

  • It takes practice – by that I mean dedicating time.
  • Some people initially find it difficult to tune into ‘presence’ because they search really hard for it instead of realising it just is. This is not surprising because our minds are trained to search and apply thought to solving things. Trying desperately to apply understanding to consciousness won’t work. It’s something that already exists – but need to sort of tunr into.
  • It helps us to understand we are not our thoughts (and we can detach from the impulses they can drive us to).
  • It has strong links to being emotionally intelligent as greater consciousness/’presence’ means you see emotions as they arise so that you are detached enough from them so that you can have more control over them (rather than let them consume you).
  • It reduces stress because of a decrease in ruminating and anxious thinking.
  • It increases self awareness – again because of the ability to observe your thoughts, feelings and behaviours with a degree of detachment and less automated impulsivity/defensive reactions.
  • It limits (or with a lot of practice, eliminates,) unnecessary thinking so that when you do need to use thought, it is more efficient.
  • I personally feel that there is such a thing as ‘spiritual bypass’. I think practising mindfulness and presence can really accelerate self-understanding but that it can’t (usually) completely override the need to tackle childhood trauma – for example.
  • I don’t necessarily believe ‘presence’ is necessarily something ‘deep’ or spiritual although it undoubtedly was what the founders of many religions were originally telling us all about with talk of light and love etc. I suspect we simply access a blissful quietening of the brain that makes us feel fully awake in the ‘now’. However, I am open to the idea something ‘deeper’ is happening. I am a spiritual agnostic! It’s impact can certainly feel deep.
  • Despite what I said in the bullet point before, one of the benefits of practising ‘presence’ seems to be that you become less judgemental and feel far more connection to others. It also seems to make you far more able to deal with the trauma-related behaviours of others as you see them more clearly as the result of individual’s unique circumstance. You also judge yourself less and accept yourself more.
  • When we are not fully present, we don’t truly see others. This is true of most encounters as we are usually so busy and wrapped up in our own thoughts.
  • Consciousness, without thinking, means you become more attentive in any moment. You notice more but do not apply the thoughts that are usually triggered when we are less conscious.
  • Even ten minutes a day of consciousness or practices that make it more likely, can be beneficial.
  • The more you practice it, the more it just happens.