Thousands of years ago, the ancient Buddhists understood the power of meditation.
In today’s society, with all the stress of technology and distractions, people are becoming more interested in how to quiet the mind. Scientists are studying the effects meditation has on the brain waves as the mind quiets down and it is proving the benefits. The brain waves of meditators show why they’re healthier.
Neuroscientists have found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex—brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. They were calmer and happier than before.
When I was going through my second divorce, meditation was a saving grace. And it is today as well. I feel it literally being medicine for the mind. It helps create more space and room to just be. To accept a situation without reacting out of that emotional place and not to get to attached to the story.
You don’t have to be sitting on the mountaintops all day or go to India to sit in an ashram to have a meditation/mindfulness practice. It can be as simple as five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night of sitting and watching your breath or using a mantra. Another accessible way to bring meditation into your life, is to have a mindfulness practice which is very simple to do.
How to bring mindfulness into your every day life.
1. Pay attention to your breath. When you are busy or relaxed. Even when you are in the midst of getting upset at your co-worker, stranger cutting you off on the road or your spouse or kids. Notice. Pay attention to your breath at this moment in time without judgement. If it is shallow, see if you can deepen the breath and create more space. “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” ~ Thich Naht Hanh
2. Take one task and focus your entire attention on what you are doing. This can be as simple as taking a shower. When is the last time you were mindful in the shower without thinking of something else or singing or wondering. Feel the water against your skin, temperature, the pressure and how it rains down on you. As you clean your body, be present through the entire shower. Focus on your breath. This can be done with washing the dishes. Driving. Anything you are doing, to use your breath and focus all your attention on where you are and how it feels.
3. Being present with your kids. With your loved one. With your friend. With yourself. Closing down the phone. Distractions. And paying attention to that person. Use your breath as your anchor and if your attention drifts, bring it back.
4. Eating. Mindful eating helps one taste their food and be conscience of what is going into the mouth. Most of the time we eat on autopilot and don’t really taste our food. This often leads to overeating and making the wrong choices. In Kriplau yoga center for health in Massachusetts they have a silent breakfast. In the dining room it is silent and most of the people are very aware of how they are starting their morning. Many begin with a prayer. This kind of eating would prevent so many health problems and weight issues if we were mindful of what went on our fork.
5. Looking around and being grateful. How often do we look up at the sky or the trees or just be aware of the fresh air we breathe in. With this awareness, we open up a vessel for gratefulness and to something much bigger than ourselves.
6. Of ourselves. In this moment. Right here and now. How aware can we be. To feel our feelings and emotions and not suppress them with food, alcohol, tobacco or drugs. To really feel our feelings takes bravery because it is not always easy. Sometimes they are scary. Instead, we can write them down, pray, move our bodies, do yoga, hike, call a friend, sit quietly and observe how we feel, anything to help us move through them.
Mindfulness is about being present and not judging what comes up. To use our breath as our anchor for whatever we are experiencing. As Jon Kabbat Zin who is a pioneer in mindfulness said, “Mindfulness is the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience.”
The Buddha sits on the mountain in stillness as the threads that are woven into the tapestry of his life are filled with chaos. He breathes through patches of love and at the same time despair. As the couple who is nearly 100 hold hands and kiss, it seems like they are in perfection. Could they have gotten there without heartbreak and grief and storms?
Just as a coconut has to be cracked to get the juice, so to our hearts have to break in order to love deeply.
Author: Simi Rubinstein
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Wikipedia Commons