For many years meditation was thought of in the west as a bit of a ‘pseudo-psychology’ which belonged to the “hippie” subculture.
However, over the past few years a plethora of scientific studies have proven the positive effects meditation can have on our mind’s, brain’s and bodies.
Now you will find mindfulness meditation as a first-line treatment option in rehabilitation centres, mental health centres, schools and even prisons. People have realised it really works and is especially useful for those in recovery from addictions and/or those with depression and anxiety related conditions, including those that struggle with anger management.
Of course, meditation is not a “magic bullet” cure, but it brings positive benefits to anyone who practices it with dedication and consistency.
But what is mindfulness? And why does it matter?
Mindfulness is simply being aware of the present moment. Being aware in the present moment quiets our mind from all its chattering and lets us gain insight into our own emotions, thoughts and feelings by simply observing them. This in turn changes how we react to negative emotions as we can see even anxiety, cravings and negative thoughts are transient and always pass, as long as we remain mindful.
Usually, mindfulness meditation is done sitting down, but you can do it laying down or on a seat if you have problems in sitting on the floor. It usually revolves around focusing on the breath coming in and out of the nose and counting until our minds have become quiet and then simply observing thoughts feelings and emotions as they come and go, without getting side tracked. But sometimes a technique will say to focus on the rising and falling of the abdomen.
However, you can also use practice mindfulness while waiting on the bus, when you are washing dishes, cleaning, queuing or even if you are stuck in traffic, rather than becoming stressed, impatient and aggravated! These feelings – as we well know – can often lead to relapses…
But walking meditation is an especially nice practice, especially in spring into summer and autumn. You can say in your mind “yes, yes, yes” with every inhalation, and “thank you, thank you, thank you” on the exhalation of the breath. Saying “yes” makes us feel positive and gives us motivation, saying “thank you” as we feel the earth beneath us is thanking the earth for giving us life, and giving gratitude to nature because we have damaged so much of it as a species.
From time to time when you practice this you will naturally walk slower and really take in your surroundings, things in nature you never noticed before, and people will naturally want to talk to you. They will feel and see the positive energy you are giving off, especially if you are smiling and looking around you at colourful flowers and green trees.
It’s best to get a teacher to teach you mindfulness meditation, and fortunately meditation groups are popular throughout the world now, and many have evening groups that are free. If not, there are numerous books out there you can learn from.
Just remember you do not have to be a Buddhist to practice this! You don’t have to be remotely religious or spiritual at all. So, do not let that put you off this very useful life tool!
Love & Compassion
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