January 10, 2019
A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Mindfulness is the heightened awareness of the present moment. Let us say you are sitting at your table in a quiet room writing an article ( which is what I am doing right now) what are the things that will be happening around you simultaneously? Whilst you pen down your thoughts on paper your mind will be focused on your thoughts and at the point where the pen touches the paper, concurrently. Whilst you consciously focus on these actions, you will also be mildly aware of the sounds audible in the vicinity, any aroma or fragrance which is circulating in the air around you and any fluctuations in the room temperature. If you are conscious of all of the above, whilst coining your article, your mindfulness is at an acceptable level.
To illustrate the importance of mindfulness ,let us consider two real-life examples from my life, where a lack of mindfulness has caused huge negative impacts on the lives of two individuals.
Savithri, was descending the stairway from the first floor , where her office was located .Whilst descending, her thoughts were focused on the events planned for that evening. Her mind drifted away for a split second ,she accidently missed her foot on one step, lost her balance came sliding down on her buttocks and landed on the ground with a fractured hip. Today, four years later, though she has recovered from her injury( not fully though), the orthopedic surgeon who treated her gave strict instructions never to partake in competitive netball, a sport which she adored and excelled in from her teenage days. All this misery was caused by a brief moment’s lack of mindfulness.
Rohan was driving along a highway at less than the maximum speed limit. Suddenly a six year-old boy darted across the road out of nowhere. In his excitement, instead of slamming his foot on the brake peddle he did so on the accelerator. The car knocked the boy down and he died on the spot. Today ,six years later, Rohan is still on trial for involuntary manslaughter. Another unfortunate incident due to absence of mindfulness for a split second.
As it is evident, a moment’s lack of mindfulness can be life-threatening. However, you might argue that all your life you never knew about mindfulness yet you survived without any major calamities in your life. Well! all what I can say is that you have been simply lucky.
The benefits of mindfulness are immense and not easily quantifiable. Let me explain this phenomena by means of a hypothetical example.
Say, you are on a journey, driving your car by yourself from point A to B which are 100 miles apart. If your mindfulness is at a very low level, you might even dose off and run off the road or forget your final destination and linger elsewhere. ( not to point B). Similarly, if your mindfulness is average, you will get to point B but it will be just another journey for you. On the contrary, if your mindfulness is at a very high level, you will travel through enjoying the sights and sounds, observe the road conditions and vary your speed, and perhaps even find a new alternative route to get to your destination even quicker.
In effect, mindfulness will let you enjoy whatever you do whilst allowing you to execute your task to the best of your ability with minimum effort. In fact it will result in a total quality improvement in your life.
Before you embark on your journey to increase your mindfulness, it is important to assess what your current level of mindfulness is. As Leonard Bullen explains in his book The technique of Living, imagine you are writing an article and the telephone rings in the next room. You put the pen down, rush to the phone, answer the call and return to your writing position .By this time if you cannot remember where you put your pen, it means that your mindfulness is at an average or slightly below and needs to be improved.
The basic method to improve mindfulness is via meditation. There are many methods of meditation. However, the most common form is mindfulness of breath.
Sit in a comfortable posture, in a quiet room with your eyes half-closed. Focus on the process of breathing. Be aware of the breath touching your nostrils whilst the abdomen lifts up and your lungs expand with each inhalation. Then notice the breath passing out through the nostrils whilst your abdomen drops and the lungs contract. Observe this entire process as a seamless flow of breath whilst focusing only on the breath to the exclusion of any intervening thoughts .Continue this exercise for ten minutes a day for a start.
Focusing on your breath in the above manner for a defined time period, is only the beginning of a long journey. Gradually you need to expand this focus to your daily activities and throughout the day. For instance, if you are sipping cup of coffee, you need to observe the liquid touching your lips, then the tongue, and feel the dual sensations of taste and aroma of the brew. If necessary, you should verbalize your actions eg:” Now the brim of the cup is touching my lips” etc .When you continue to apply this practice to all activities throughout the day you will succeed in developing mindfulness over a period of time. It is not a quick-fix but an exercise which needs to be done painstakingly. However, you will never regret the time and effort you spend on this exercise when you reap its benefits which are tremendous. The return on investment is very high indeed.
It is not easy to quantify the benefits of mindfulness. Yet there are a few exercises which you can use to test your progress.
Whilst watching a movie carefully, you stop it with your remote. Then close your eyes for a few seconds and jot down the items which you noticed in the previous picture frame. Now rewind the movie to the aforesaid picture frame and check how many items you have noticed and how many you have missed out.
Whilst developing your mindfulness daily, do the above exercise three months down the line. You will definitely observe and remember more details of the picture frame,(not the same picture frame but something with similar complexity) than before.
In fact mindfulness is like a sharp lens of a camera . As mindfulness develops, the sharpness of the camera lens improves thus capturing intricate details which were not captured before.
Similarly, with increase in mindfulness, you will be able to execute more activities consciously, and effectively with less effort. At the end of the day, you will feel less fatigued and more accomplished.
I urge you to try practicing what is being said in the above paragraphs. You will be astonished with the benefits, over a period of say, 90 days. Even if it takes more time, no harm will come to you.
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