There's been a lot of buzz about mindfulness in the media lately and it's certainly something people have been talking about as a practice to manage stress and calm the day. What's been lacking in focus is the principle behind the practice and the importance of tuning in to our body signals as they play a role in how we think, feel, behave and react. For instance, the "gut feeling" or "gut check" we talk about is not just a metaphor but a real connection that our gut and mind make through our complex body of networks. The gut acts as our second brain, sending cues to the brain that affect how we perceive and act. An example of this is when "the gut microbiota influences the body’s level of the potent neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates feelings of happiness." (Scientific American)
Jon Kabat-Zinn, an influential in the mindfulness teaching in America, defines mindfulness as "the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment non-judgmentally." Through years of research, practice and teaching, he was able to bridge science with meditation, a thousands of years old Buddhist practice, into something the mainstream society can comprehend and practice.
Living in the present moment and achieving equanimity are core principles to mindfulness living. In a society where most of us are caught between planning for the future and dwelling on the past, we forget to pause and be in the present with our body. The tendency to constantly occupy the mind and chase after the next thing keep our brains busy from tuning into our core. "What does your body feel like?" "How would you describe your hand to someone who can't see?" Those two thought-provoking questions from my recent mindfulness experience really prompted new understanding and purpose for mindfulness and meditation. Sitting or laying silently and focusing on the breadth is an effective way to deliberately practice observing from within. Pulling your mind back to each breadth as you wonder away is precisely the challenge we face trying to multi-task our lives everyday. This need to be aware and focus is what most of us fail to achieve when trying to just get through life.
Once you begin to build awareness of your physical being, you're better equipped to stay ahead of your feelings, thoughts, reactions and emotions when body sends signals to the brain to process and act out. The deliberate control and management are what help us achieve more calmness and evenness in temper and composure, referred to as equanimity. When you practice enough, you begin to operate less on autopilot and become more effective in regulating emotions and thoughts. Be more deliberate with now, let mindfulness be the foundation to experience more taste, smell, feelings and ideas as you make room for things to surface and unfold.
Here are some short videos to provoke thoughts about how you've been conditioned and to remind yourself the power you have to disrupt brain traps and live out a more authentic self.
*Slight graphic material present.