EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT MINFULNESS…

… but we’re afraid to ask

TaoMindfulness

So what’s the big hoopla about “Mindfulness”??

In its simplest form, it’s nothing more than focused-attention on the here and NOW — Using information from our senses: What we see, hear, feel, taste, and smell.

But in the fields of mental health, it can be tweaked to reduce anxiety, depression, and PTSD to name a few. Below you will find several brief definitions. Hopefully this will give you a better feel of the otherwise vague term, MINDFULNESS.
(What is Mindfulness? Explained. (20 Definitions That Clarify Mindfulness)

Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley:

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.”

Daniel J. Siege, Mindfulness practitioner and expert:

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“Mindfulness in its most general sense is about waking up from a life on automatic, and being sensitive to novelty in our everyday experiences.  With mindful awareness the flow of energy and information (that is our mind) enters our conscious attention and we can come to regulate its flow in a new way.  Mindful awareness, as we will see, actually involves more than just simply being aware: It involves being aware of aspects of the mind itself.“

Sharon Salzberg, another leader in mindfulness, says:

“Instead of being on automatic and mindless, mindfulness helps us by reflecting on the mind’s activities which enables us to make different choices.

It’s about doing so in a certain way – with balance and equanimity, and without judgment. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention in a way that creates space for insight.”

Research has shown that mindfulness helps us reduce anxiety and depression. Mindfulness teaches us how to respond to stress with awareness of what is happening in the present moment rather than simply acting instinctively, unaware of what emotions or motivations are working in the background, driving our decisions. By teaching awareness for one’s physical and mental state in the moment, mindfulness allows for more adaptive reactions to difficult situations.

Anxiety.org asks, Can Mindfulness Really Help Reduce Anxiety?

“A mindful person is reflective rather than reactive. They focus on the present moment.

Mindfulness is a process that leads to a mental state characterized by nonjudgmental awareness of the present experiences, such as sensations, thoughts, bodily states, and the environment. It enables us to distance ourselves from our thoughts and feelings without labeling them as good or bad.”

How Does Mindfulness Work?

By focusing our attention on the present moment, mindfulness counteracts rumination and worrying. Worrying about the future (e.g. I better remember to pay those bills and clean my house this weekend) and ruminating about the past (e.g., I should have done this rather than that) are generally maladaptive thinking processes. Of course, it is important to learn from our past and plan ahead for the future; however, when we spend too much time outside of the present moment, we can get depressed and anxious. In such cases, mindfulness can be an important tool for helping us to better focus on the present moment.

Mindfulness works through a number of ways. It encourages us to open up and accept our emotions. As a result we are better able to identify, experience, and process our emotions. Mindfulness also encourages us to see things from different perspectives. For example, if your spouse snaps at you, you might blame yourself and worry that you’ve done something to upset them. If you are able to distance yourself from your immediate response of being hurt, you might remember that your spouse mentioned a hard day at work, and perhaps they snapped at you because they’re tired and stressed out. The point is, we are actually lousy mind-readers! But here’s a piece of wisdom I’d like to share — Most people respond or act from a place that speaks more about them than you… This new interpretation could alleviate some of your worry and negative feelings.

The practice of mindfulness has been shown to benefit in multiple ways:

Body awareness: Body awareness is the ability to notice subtle sensations in the body and self-report findings indicate that mindfulness leads to greater perceptions of body awareness. Being aware of your internal emotional state is necessary to being able to better regulate those emotions.

Focused attention: Mindfulness practice improves one’s ability to focus attentionon a present task rather than being distracted by worry. Neuroimaging studies have shown that mindfulness increases activation of the brain involved in attention, executive functioning and emotional self-regulation skills. These skills depend on three sub skills: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control. These functions are highly interrelated, and the successful application of executive function skills requires them to operate in coordination with each other.

Self-perception: Mindfulness also changes one’s perspective of self. Buddhist psychology teaches that the self is not permanent and static, but rather made up of ongoing mental events. Two months of mindfulness meditation practices have been shown to increase self-esteem and self-acceptance.

Physical health: Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to produce other health benefits, such as reduced blood pressure and cortisol levels (a stress hormone).

Mindfulness in Practice

There is no big secret behind mindfulness practices. Any activity can become mindful by focusing on the experience of the present moment. For example, you can either mindlessly gobble down your meal or take a little bit of time and practice mindful eating by looking at the food, smelling the food, noticing the different flavors and the texture of the food while slowly eating it. Not surprisingly, it is much more enjoyable and satisfying when you eat mindfully than when you eat mindlessly. Interestingly, you will also notice that you will consume less when you start eating mindfully.

There are many practices that include mindfulness trainings, such as tai chi, yoga, and zen. There are many styles for each of these activities, so it is worthwhile to experiment with different practices until you find one that suits you. As you become more mindful, you will also notice that you will become more centered, happier, and less depressed and this in turn has a direct positive effect on your anxiety.

How to be Mindful Right Now

Focus on your breath for a few minutes. Feel your chest rise and fall, notice the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits your nose. When your mind wanders, simply return your attention to the breath. Focus on the present moment: the here and now. Notice this very moment; it feels good to be alive, right now.

If you don’t immediately feel a complete release of anxiety, remember: most of the benefits of mindfulness require consistent practice. While some changes bolster against anxiety even after one single yoga class, most benefits require practice.  And, like any skill, you will need to continue to practice mindfulness after you start to maintain the improvements.

 

Although more research is needed to illuminate the mechanisms at work, it’s clear that mindfulness allows us to interrupt automatic, reflexive fight, flight, or freeze reactions—reactions that can lead to anxiety, fear, foreboding, and worry.

By bringing mindfulness to our actual experience in the moment, we can increase the likelihood of exerting more conscious control over our behaviors and attitudes. In so doing we learn to work with our intention, wise effort, will, discipline, and capacity to be kind to ourselves. These are all resources that can be harnessed and cultivated.

Beginner’s mind is an aspect of mind that’s open to seeing from a fresh perspective. Meeting anxiety in this way, with curiosity, can play an extremely important role in transforming your experience. When you’re willing to adopt another point of view, new possibilities arise, and this can help you challenge habitual anxious thoughts and feelings.

You can acknowledge that anxiety is present and how much you don’t like it, even as you apply patience and see anxiety as your current weather system, knowing it will pass.

Nonjudgment means experiencing the present moment without the filters of evaluation. In the midst of anxiety, it can be all too easy to experience a secondary layer of judgment on top of the already uncomfortable anxious feelings. Stepping out of a judgmental mind-set allows you to see more clearly. When you let go of evaluations, many sources of anxiety simply fade away. When you feel anxiety, adopting a nonjudgmental stance can reset your mind into a more balanced state.

Nonstriving is the quality of being willing to meet any experience as it is, without trying to change it. With nonstriving, you understand the importance of being with things as they are—being with your experience without clinging to or rejecting what’s there. (Note that nonstriving relates to your present-moment experiences during meditation and doesn’t in any way negate the value of setting a wise intention to grow, learn, and change your relationship to anxiety.)
In the midst of strong anxiety, the first response is often to flee or get out of the situation. If you can pause and really be with your experience without exerting any force against it, you gain the opportunity to know your experience more clearly and choose your response. You can also become less fearful of the physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions that accompany anxiety.

Excerpts from:
10 Mindful Attitudes That Decrease Anxiety

Creating A Mindful Workplace

Worth Reading!

Toxic emotions disrupt the workplace, and mindfulness increases your awareness of these destructive patterns, helping you recognize them before they …

Mindful Workplace

Getting Clear With the Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh

I know I could use a reminder of what really matters…

We do our best when we remember that we are all connected… Let’s remember to look at our judgements with some detachment, and dare to ask ourselves, “Is It True?

The Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh developed the “Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism” in the mid-1960’, at a time when the Vietnam War was escalating and the teachings of the Buddha were desperately needed to combat the hatred, violence, and divisiveness enveloping his country.

Today, there are thousands worldwide who regularly recite the Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism which remain uniquely applicable to contemporary moral dilemmas. These are guidelines for anyone wishing to live mindfully.

“By developing peace and serenity through ethical and conscientious living, we can help our society make the transition from one based on greed and consumerism to one in which thoughtfulness and compassionate action are of the deepest value.”. – Fred Eppsteiner

 The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism

  1. Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means — they are not absolute truth.
  2. Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice nonattachment in order to be open and able to hear others’ viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.
  3. Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness.
  4. Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes to suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. Find ways to be with those who are suffering. Awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world.
  5. Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry. Do not take as the aim of your life to profit, accumulate wealth or sensual pleasure. Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.
  6. Do not maintain anger or hatred. Learn to penetrate and transform them when they are still seeds in your consciousness. As soon as they arise, turn your attention to your breath in order to see and understand the nature of your hatred.
  7. Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment. Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing — both inside and around you. Plant seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness.
  8. Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break. Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
  9. Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people. Do not utter words that cause division and hatred. Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain. Do not criticize or condemn things of which you are not sure. Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.
  10. Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A religious community, however, should take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.
  11. Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to live. Select a vocation that helps realize your ideals of compassion.
  12. Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and prevent war.
  13. Possess nothing that should belong to others. Respect the property of others, but prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.
  14. Do not mistreat your body. Learn to handle it with respect. Do not look on your body as only an instrument. Preserve vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realization of the Way. (For brothers and sisters who are not monks and nuns:) Sexual expression should not take place without love and commitment. In sexual relationships, be aware of future suffering that may be caused. To preserve the happiness of others, respect the rights and commitments of others. Be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings.

Question — Which of these will help you right now?

Edited fromInterbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism” 

Why Being Mindful Matters

Quite an easy task, right? Wrong!

Our minds are processing external information, internal responses and dialogue; all the while trying to balance our brain chemistry and alert levels. So becoming more conscious about letting go of This thought, then the next, and on and on requires dedication.

Start with 5 minutes several times a day. Tune into one of your senses to quickly get into the Now moment. For instance, I close my eyes and focus on my breath. Or I can close my eyes and focus on sound. If I can’t close my eyes (like while I’m driving), I can focus on color.

But don’t forget why. Why does it matter to be, quote: mindful? — To quiet the mind, to de-escalate and get to a more authentic relationship with our selves.

Counseling TidBits

For an answer, go to the place where there is no thought and listen.
Who cares if you are enlightened forever? Can you get it in this moment, now?  ~ Byron Katie

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