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Why & How to Get Started with Mindfulness

By admin

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Mindfulness – what is that? For a start, it’s a buzzword of exponentially increasing popularity. Yet, the practice of mindfulness is still a mystery to many of us. There’s perhaps an even larger chunk of the population who know roughly what mindfulness is but don’t know why they should bother with it. And then there are some people who both know what it is and understand the benefits but don’t know how to get started. This blog is for all of the above.


Being mindful is simply knowing what’s happening in your head and being able to zoom out to observe your thoughts without being carried away by them. Now, why would you want to be able to do a thing like that?

Imagine you’re standing in the queue at the supermarket and someone cuts in front of you. How do you react? You probably start by thinking something along the lines of “What a &%£!$er. I am annoyed now”. Not only do you let that thought occupy the forefront of your awareness in that moment, you allow it to barge in and permeate your mind. It gets to you.

Mindfulness puts distance between you and your thoughts, allowing you to filter and select which ones you entertain. So in that same situation, you would notice that your heart starts beating faster, blood rushes to your head and you might even get tunnel vision as you imagine tapping the queue skipper on the shoulder and slapping them into next week. But with just a little bit of mindfulness, you will allow that negative thought to pass quickly instead of dwelling on it, or worse, acting on it.

I feel that the best way to become more mindful is through meditation.

Meditation doesn’t mean donning your finest orange robes, shaving your head and sitting cross-legged in a temple for the rest of your life. Or at least, it doesn’t have to mean that. The easiest way to get started is with guided meditations. Apps like Headspace or Buddhify offer short, tailored meditation audio guides which help you to reduce stress, be present and get better sleep. All for less than the price of a cup of coffee. But if you’d rather spend your money at Starbucks, there are free options too. Headspace offers ten sessions on the house, and Youtube hosts a plethora of themed meditations of variable length. All you need is a quiet space and a willingness to follow the instructions from that soothing voice emanating through your headphones.

When I downloaded the Headspace app, I practiced with the free 10 minute sessions for a whole 3 days before I got distracted. Even though I was very much enjoying it, work and life were consuming too much of my attention and I started skipping days. Here’s a couple of ideas you can use to prevent this from happening to you:

1. Use the buddy system

I’ve always been a big proponent of holding yourself accountable to others in the contexts of academia and exercise. It works just as well for mindfulness. In the Tree of Knowledge office, we do a short meditation together every day after lunch. If I’ve been out speaking instead of in the office, I often need my better half, Giulia, to push me to practice. I’d call this ‘reciprocated encouragement’ but I think Tim Ferris puts it better with ‘mutual harassment’.

You don’t necessarily need to practice in the presence of others. For some people, that just doesn’t work as well as meditating alone. But you should converse with your mindfulness buddy about your progress regularly. Ask each other if you’re sticking to your plan. Ask about how you’ve applied what you’ve learned from mindfulness in everyday life. In your last few days of practicing mindfulness, what went well? What would make it better?

2. Take one mindful breath per day

Regardless of how long you can last in your meditation sessions, commit to taking at least one mindful breath a day. What does that even mean? For the duration of one (preferably slow) inhalation and exhalation cycle, try to pay attention to what you are sensing in the present moment. How does your body feel? Are there any areas of tightness? What thoughts are you having? Are they helpful? As Eckhart Tolle puts it, try to ‘watch the thinker’. You don’t have to schedule this practice, just let it happen. I usually remember to take a mindful breath when I get home after an intense speaking day or while waiting in traffic.

You may be able to argue that you’re so busy you don’t have 10 minutes to set aside for meditation, but can you really say you don’t have time for one breath? No. You can easily fulfill this daily commitment which allows you to build momentum. So that if you find yourself with more time later on, you can get back on the mindful horse without much effort. When traveling my dad always says ‘Got your passport? Got money? Everything else is a bonus’. For mindfulness, you can think ‘Have you taken your one mindful breath today?’ If so; everything else is a bonus.

In time, I think that mindfulness will become a universally accepted healthcare essential as much as brushing your teeth and eating healthily are today. The earlier you get started, the earlier you can reap the rewards.

Why not give Mindfulness a try and let us know how you get on? You can Tweet us @Tree_Of, or let us know on Facebook.

 

 

Whilst you’re here… Why not read our “Does the Journey Matter More Than the Destination?” blog by our guest blogger, Karen Urquhart.

Does the Journey Matter More than the Destination? by Karen Urquhart