Mindfulness For Beginners

a beginner practising mindfulness in a cityPracticing mindfulness for beginners can sometimes be a challenge if they do not know where to start. However, practising mindfulness can be quite simple, enjoyable and highly beneficial.

Mindfulness is a powerful technique that can be used to help people control their thoughts if they are stressed, help them to improve their mood, and assist with the avoidance of panic attacks, anger and other unpleasant feelings and thoughts. Mindfulness is not a panacea, but it is a powerful addition to your toolset if you are looking to achieve inner peace, a balanced mind and an increased sense of well-being and harmony in your life.

Mindfulness is commonly taught and used in Buddhism. However, mindfulness is not a religious practice, and one does not need to be associated with any form of religion in order to practice. It is a simple technique, and something that can be incredibly beneficial to anyone, whether they are viewing it from a practical approach, or as a part of a wider view towards calm, and peaceful living.

Unlike many other stress management techniques and relaxation methods, which involve taking time out of your day and spending time “finding calmness”, mindfulness is something that you can work into every part of your life. If you learn how to do your day to day activities mindfully, you can keep a balanced mental state at all times.

The Concept of Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is to quieten the mind and bring a person fully into the present moment. If you are new to this idea, then you may be wondering why someone may need help to be present? The answer is that the vast majority of people are not really present or ‘mindful’ at all, but are rather operating from a state of auto-pilot conditioning whereby they allow their minds to run their life. The human mind is indeed a powerful thing and can create all manners of reality, which a person can get caught up in. Furthermore, the mind can create realities for a person that do not, in fact, have any bearing on reality as it actually is. Being in this state is known as being in an unconscious state.

To get a further understanding of this, just observe yourself, observe your mind the next time you are doing mundane tasks such as washing the dishes, ironing clothes or even driving your car. You will most likely find that while you are doing the activity you are not really present to the moment, but instead caught up in thinking a number of things, like, what you need to cook for dinner that evening, what a friend said to you last week that caused offence, or perhaps a situation that occurred in your childhood that still affects you to this day, or perhaps even a thought of something that you fear occurring in the future.

As we allow our minds to run wild and draw us into its drama, we get caught up in either our past regrets, fears of the future or simply just other day to day distractions. Thus, we miss our life.

From observing the mind you will most likely find that it is almost constantly operating in either the past or the future, but rarely in the present. The mind does this as a protection and self-preservation mechanism. However, the past and future do not actually exist, only the present moment exists, in each and every moment.

By practising mindfulness, we can train ourselves to stop being pulled into the past, which in turn often triggers feelings of regret, or being drawn into possible future scenarios, which lead to feelings of unease, anxiety and fear. Furthermore, by being mindful and present, you will also find that you are far more productive and effective in your daily life.

Beginning a Mindfulness Practice

Living Mindfully

mindful tooth brushingWhen you’re first getting started with mindfulness, you will find that it is easier to start with a few smaller activities. Pick smaller chores such as brushing your teeth or doing the dishes, and try to be ‘mindful’ for the duration of those activities, then work up to longer tasks over time.

For example, let’s imagine you’re brushing your teeth. Think about the environment you’re in. Is the bathroom cold? Is the rug under your feet nice and thick? Does the toothpaste make your tongue tingle? Can you feel the bristles rubbing against your gums?

Use your senses, and let them keep you grounded and present in the moment. Think about the movements you are making with your arm to brush your teeth. Listen for the timer or whatever indicator you use to tell you that you’ve brushed for long enough. Watch the water run down the plughole in the sink and listen to it gurgle. If you find that your mind wanders, just acknowledge that, without any judgement, and then focus on your senses again.

For those few moments, you’ll find that you are fully ‘present’. Your mind won’t have space to focus on whatever it is that you are worrying about right now. Instead of being stressed, you will begin to find your inner peace once again.

See also: Mindfulness for Children

Getting Started

When you first start with a mindful practice, it is generally easier to first begin with yourself. What do I mean by this? So, if we take the previous example of brushing our teach once again, during that activity there are a number of sensory experiences that are occurring. For example, you will be aware of the temperature of the room, the feeling of the rug under your feet, the movement of the brush against your teeth and so on.

However, to begin, you will likely find it easier first to start with the feelings and sensations of the brushing motion of the brush against your teeth as it directly relates to the activity of brushing your teeth. From there, you may then start to become aware of how the toothbrush feels in your hand, the taste of the toothpaste in your mouth and the aroma of the paste as you brush.

As you become aware of all these things, you may then find it easier to expand your awareness out gradually to other sensory perceptions. For example, how does the rug feel under your feet? How does your torso feel balanced upon your hips and legs? What is the temperature of the room and so forth?

After your mindful activity, your mind will eventually wander back to whatever it was that was bothering you, but simply by having a few minutes where you are focused on something else, completely, you will find that you start to feel less stressed. Your mind recharges, and you might be able to perceive and address the problems in a better way.

With practice and over time you will become aware that you are able to hold your awareness in the present moment for longer periods of time.

As you get better at thinking mindfully, it becomes easier and easier to do. You can practice mindfulness while eating, or even when you are stuck in traffic. Mindful eating can also be a useful weight loss tool. If you stop and savour each bite, thinking about the taste and the texture, and enjoying the aftertaste as well, then you will eat more slowly, and you’ll be more likely to notice when you are full too. This can help a person to break the habit of over-eating.

Mindfulness means being ‘present’ in the moment, and focusing on the things that you are experiencing. It’s rare that we really do this. We eat in front of the TV, check our phones when we are with friends. Listen to the radio in the shower, or just let our minds wander while we are doing simple chores. We rarely stop and think and feel, and our mental health, our relationships and our life are suffering because of it.

There is a great scene in the Tom Cruise movie, The Last Samurai, where he is training with the samurai in the Japanese village. During this scene, the Tom Cruise character keeps getting hit by his opponent, to which an observing samurai warrior comes over to him to offer some advice. The warrior says, “Too many mind. Mind the sword; mind the people watch; mind the enemy. Too many mind. No mind.” What the warrior means is to be present completely to the moment and empty your mind. From this mindset a person can be far more effective in whatever task they are doing.

Here is the clip from The Last Samurai.

Being mindful when we’re learning will help us to learn more quickly. Being mindful while playing will let us have more fun. If you want to spend some time simply “being mindful”, then you can sit and breathe, and focus on how that breathing feels – but this is a much harder activity focus wise.

For most beginners, first start practising mindfulness with daily mundane activities where you have more sensory perception occurring is a good idea and will help you grow mentally and find your inner peace.