A New Way of Life
Mindfulness is a concept that we in the Spiritual and Metaphysical communities have been hearing a lot about over the last few years. But what does this modern buzzword mean? Put simply, this new self development practice can be explained as follows:
“To be ‘Mindful’ means paying attention to your own thoughts and reactions, with a non-judgmental disposition, while being in the present moment.”
So the “Mindful” way to pay attention to anything, is to adopt a mind set where you observe your own thoughts and reactions to what is arising within you or happening around you. If this formula is practiced regularly and consistently, it can make a huge difference to your quality of life and make you feel more positive and much less anxious.
I first came across the liberating concept of Mindfulness when visiting Amaravati, a Buddhist monastery near my home in England. At the time I was in an extremely demanding job, had been signed off work with stress and needed to find a way to relax and let go of my anxieties.
Amaravati was a place full of peace, where the monks and nuns shared their wisdom and gave support. When I attended my first 5 day retreat, I was blown away by the beauty and peace of the monastery and grounds. During that first retreat, the young nun who lead it talked about meditation, living in the present moment and giving from the heart. Listening to her words truly opened my mind for the fist time ever to the idea that we can change our mindset to enhance our own life.
Before that first retreat I that I was a prisoner of my own mind; always analyzing, judging, controlling (or trying to) and generally living from the head, not the heart. Her ideas and concepts made me realize that I can be master of my own mindset and nurture a new way of thinking. And that this new mindset (also known as Mindfulness), could maybe set me free from my own self doubts and anxieties.
The concept of Mindfulness is within all of the Buddhist precepts, which form the foundation from which this new ethos is built. So when I began attending retreats at Amaravati, Mindfulness was unheard of, but luckily for me I got everything I needed from the wise monks and nuns there.
I took their guidance and began to live in the moment as much as possible, while developing an awareness of my thoughts and reactions. As I did this, I realized that a lot of the stress that my mind was generating began to dissolve away. I began to see that I was reacting a lot to situations that were based on the needs of the ego ie the need to win, be right and feel good about my self. I started to ask myself, “what if it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong,” and “what if I just let it go and move on.” I started to let go of things that weren’t good for me including the very stressful job. I began to look at things very differently and much more objectively; this shift in mind set then began to bring positive changes in to my life.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy. Change is never easy. But as I let go and moved forward I began to feel comfortable with the work I did, where I lived and the relationships I was in; whereas before I had felt frustrated and trapped in all three areas of my life.
After a while these changes made me understand that the mind is like an energy generator, i.e. “thoughts are energy” and to me it followed that negative thinking can generate negative energy in our system. So I practiced noticing, then letting go of any thoughts that were negative or repetitive; thoughts that were visiting the past or constantly building unrealistic stories about a negative future (which is what worrying is). I also began to practice letting go of thoughts that were unreal, judgmental or controlling and this in turn made me feel much more positive about myself and others.
Once I started to do this, my whole body and mind began to feel much more calm, focused and “present;” I no longer felt that my thoughts were controlling me. Of course this is always a work in progress but over time it became “who I am” and “the way I think.” It no longer took effort to observe and to take a non judgmental view, it became my way of being. Of course this is always a work in progress. I can’t honestly say I am never reactive or judgmental, but there has been a big shift that has brought a new sense of security and peace in to my life.
There have been many studies on Mindfulness based therapies such as MBCT and MBSR and all the stats show that this new concept of being aware of your inner thoughts and feelings can measurably reduce stress, depression and many other types of anxiety disorders. Many of the large corporations are now bringing Mindfulness in to the workplace and again the figures are proving that the workforce are using these new tools to cope with and reduce anxiety and stress.
There is a saying that “happiness is a state of mind” and I feel that there is a lot of truth to this idea. So joining a Mindfulness group, therapy or taking a Mindfulness course is the first step to this journey of self discovery and empowerment. If you are suffering with anxiety or any kind of anxiety disorder, it could be worth asking yourself whether you feel your thoughts are generating positive or negative energy. If the answer is “negative”, then it could be worthwhile taking up some kind of Mindful practice.