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Trust in mindfulness for health, and an awareness of your body and self, and see it being translated into a positive lifestyle.
“The unquiet mind…Can you be with this one breath,…This moment, this now?” —Paul Salmon
Mindfulness is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts, as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
This rests on the simple idea that sorrow or distress is caused by not living in the moment, or feeling bad about past events, or wanting to be younger, thinner; simply wanting things other than as they are right now.
This practice is also deeply rooted in the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation, which cultivates concentration and mindfulness, saying that mindfulness is the sensitive one, noticing, understanding, leading you to wisdom. Mindfulness simply is the art of noticing, observing, witnessing, without categorising or judging.
Mindfulness is also used as an important tool in CBT, cognitive behaviour therapy, which helps you to notice your state, and then decide how you wish to react, or not. And this is key to managing emotional wellbeing, especially if you have ever suffered from any mental health issue like bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression, etc.
If you can just watch your mood, or your emotional state, and then step back, doing what is needed, you will never really reach the highs of mania or the lows of depression. You will become your own physician, knowing what you need to do to get back to a more balanced state, whether that be though more sleep, exercise, food, cutting time on social media, seeing a friend, and so on.
I know from my own experience, having flirted with bipolar disorder, perhaps wrongly labeled, but for sure, there were some issues of post partum depression and psychosis, that I have been distressed, angry, unhappy, with feelings of claustrophobia and helplessness in the past.
I have to say that the single most important tool in my own journey towards wellbeing was this trust in mindfulness and awareness, and I use it all the time. I am able to see the elevated states of a higher mood approaching in my breath, in my mind, the restlessness, and I just step back; in my case, using rest and sleep, and limit social interaction. But for everyone, their tools and remedies will vary. The important thing to do is to start watching, start observing, and watch the magic unfold.
Join a yoga and meditation class
Yoga, if done right, will help you tune into your breath. And that is where it all begins.
Learn to concentrate. Even if it is for a few seconds at a time. Follow your breath in, follow your breath out. Let your mind concentrate only on the breath. Do not think of work, or life, your girlfriend, your problems, etc. And see how long you can extend this concentration.
Watch the body
If you have ever been in a “good” yoga class, and God knows these are hard to find, at the beginning or the end, the teacher may lead you through a practice, naming all the body parts as you relax them. This simple practice leads you to mindfulness. You can try this by yourself as well, just being aware, or scanning your body, top to bottom, bottom to top, your awareness on the different parts, observing. As your mind wanders, simply come back to the watching, without judging, and without beating yourself up.
The most vital thing I learned in vipassana—and combined with mindfulness, this was truly the key to liberation—is that everything is temporary, all thoughts, all sensations, everything is temporary, so why fret about anything? And the second very useful thought was the awareness of the fact that in every breath we are born again, and in every breath we die.
Mindfulness often seems like a buzzword these days, just as wellness is. But it is truly a liberating tool, and one that will reduce or even eliminate your dependence on drugs, medication, alcohol and more. So, go on, just breathe.
Published earlier here.
Image source: woman doing yoga by Shutterstock.
Jhilmil Breckenridge is a poet, writer and activist who speaks out about mental health, incarceration
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