Jon's Blog

8 November 2013

What is Mindfulness in plain English?

Posted by Jon Treanor

Our mind is always active and busy. We become easily distracted! We are all the same. The mind is always chattering away often being somewhere before you have even left where you are. We seek more money, more friends, more recognition and more happiness. We are always thinking about something or very likely considering what we must do or somewhere we want to get. Mindfulness is effectively pressing pause on the mind, stopping the thinking to acknowledge that the mind is constantly wandering; we can find it difficult to concentrate due to the mind chatter. All the time thoughts flood in from anywhere and everywhere. If we get bored it is often because we have not occupied our mind, we try to entertain it with all kinds of distractions like work and games, debate, our opinions, but mostly our thoughts. This in itself is human and natural. It is when we don’t control it that it can become an issue. The more that is on our mind the more we can feel overwhelmed and stressed.

To assist the mind in being relaxed and more aware, it can be helpful to learn how to concentrate your mind on only one thing at a time initially for very short moments, specifically something as simple as breathing.

For example you can place an object in front of you and try to focus your mind on just concentrating without thinking. Just look at it and be totally aware of what is happening to you, the feelings and sensations. When you notice that you lose your focus pull it back to simply re focussing on the object– be still and try not to let your thoughts get in the way, perhaps see your mind as a clear blue sky and your thoughts are the clouds just drifting across the sky of your mind, you don’t need to concentrate on any one of them just let them drift across, let them go, if you find yourself following them simply bring your attention back to your breath.

Draw your attention to your breath. Without trying to breathe deeply just simply notice your breathing, maybe say to yourself inside you head, I am breathing in, I am breathing out this can be a good mantra to get you to focus on breathing. Notice the feelings and the sensations when the cool air flows into your body through the tip of your nose and when the warm air releases out of your body. Notice what it does to your body, how your tummy expands and contracts with each breath or simply just focus on the fact that you are breathing, in and out.

You simply do this exercise for 3 minutes; you don’t have to spend hours doing this. Initially you will notice that it is not as easy as it sounds, this is normal, so don’t worry, just go with it. Keep practicing. When you notice when you lose focus just relax and return your attention to the breath, try not to let yourself get frustrated, like everything it becomes easier with practice.

Letting go can be difficult at first, I certainly found it hard to surrender to it and even to focus, our mind might even tell us that we are out of control and that something bad might happen to us, it’s the minds way of playing tricks on us, and yes these are simply thoughts, let them go, return your focus on to your breathing.

You will receive a lot of information through your senses during this practice and three minutes can feel like a long time, the trick is to let everything go. Let thoughts, feelings and sensations come and let them go, drift away like clouds on the blue sky of your mind.

We often linger on thoughts or jump from one thought to another we even enter into inner discussions, what do I think, what do I feel. What is my opinion? We even convince our self we have no control over this process, it just happens. Not true. All you are really doing is defining who you are by the process of your thoughts; we actually become what we think. We react to what we don’t like and latch onto and identify completely with what we do like through our thoughts. This is all fine and perfectly normal, there is one slight problem with this, what this can do is lead us to actually believe we are limited to who we are as a human being by our thoughts. Confused? Put simply our thoughts of who we are not who we REALLY truly are! So if that is true, who is the me that is creating and watching my thoughts??

This is the question that confused me too initially!

In mindfulness we switch our awareness from our thoughts, gently at first, to include who or what is aware of what is going on in our mind, we actually watch our thoughts and realise that we are separate from them! We begin to slowly become more aware!

By slowly practicing this in 3 minute sections each day we begin to meet every situation with an open mind and we also begin to realise that we have control over our thoughts and how we choose to react or not to them. We learn to let go and not to judge.

The hard things to do at first are not to set any expectations. Resist the tendency to analyse. Just be with what is, however you might find it hard and want to run away, try and stay with the process, if not don’t worry try again another time. Mindfulness is total acceptance of what is. No matter what it might be. Letting go to saying yes and not saying no. Let thoughts come and let them go. I am breathing in, I am breathing out is the only focus.

The only thing you need to be in life is the best of who you are to realise who you truly are, then to let go of who you THINK you are!

Thoughts pull us away from the present moment. This does not mean that you should not think and feel, but instead we become Mindful while thinking and feeling. This kind of presence clears what is going on in the mind. It makes us able to look behind thoughts and feelings which leads to greater clarity self-understanding and self-control.

Whether you can accept this or not or think its crap, trust this; there is nothing outside of this present moment! The past does not exist anywhere else other than in our mind, they are our memories. The future is not here yet but we tend to need to have something to look forward to, like a holiday or Christmas for example, or we believe we can control it by creating it. These are just our mind setting expectations, a picture in our mind that more often than not fails to live up to expectation.

Mindfulness is becoming aware of who you really are, in control of your thoughts and feelings rather than thoughts and feelings controlling you in the present moment, here, right now.

To learn more about how mindfulness can improve your life and overall wellbeing either through one to one mentoring or our mindfulness training courses please contact Jon Treanor on +44 (0)7787 513205 or email jon@jontreanor.com.


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