Mindfulness isn’t a thing, it’s the absence of a thing. The thing that mindfulness is an absence of is unconscious conditioned responses. This is where we respond to an experience the way that we have learned to, without conscious awareness or thought.
How we spend our live in unconscious consciousness
This might be just how we spend our time while traveling our it could be something deeper such as how we respond to a family member or a colleague.
These sort if responses aren’t bad, but one unconscious response can lead to another and we can find ourselves with a complex pattern of behaviour that just limits our happiness and peace of mind.
Unconscious responses in action
Let me give you an example. Let’s take commuting. Thinking back to when I was working in central London, the commute, especially the morning commute, was a significant source of stress for me.
I was one of those people that calculates where the doors of the train would be, then stands there hoping to get into the train first. The reason for that is that I could then get a seat and I wouldn’t be squashed up against the other commuters when the train was busy which would add to my already significant burden of stress. When the doors opened I would dash for any seats I could find, but sometimes, someone would beat me to it. When that happened I would purse my lips and then spend the journey standing and seething internally. My thoughts were invariably about what I was going to do at work, going round and round in my head for the entire journey.
This would then be one of the many negative experiences that would add up to my having a bad day. I had a lot of bad days. I know I wasn’t alone.
In time, as I developed my mindfulness practice, that same scenario would still play out but at some point I would become aware of how my response to that experience was making me feel. This means that I would feel the Internal sensation of my personal stress and it would dissolve or dissipate. This is what happens to negative emotions when we develop mindfulness. They subside and we regain a sense of proportion. Our responses are proportionate to the experience.
Now, if that happened to me I would become aware instantly of any negative emotional response, I focus my awareness on it and it subsides.
Whether I’m standing or sitting, I can meditate to calm my mind no matter how crowded the train gets.
I still like to get a seat on the train but it has stopped being a problem when I don’t.
I hope this helps to give you an idea of how mindfulness can help you. If you’d like to try mindfulness training, come to one off my drop-in classes, book a course or arrange for a free online mindfulness coaching session.
Robert teaches mindfulness courses at Bromley Mindfulness. Click here to find out more.
There are a number of useful techniques that will help to bring mindfulness to your daily living. Here are a few of the ones I found, and still find, useful.
1. Mindful eating
It is easy to get in the habit of eating quickly and absent-mindedly which causes us to miss out on taste, smells and texture our food. Eating mindfully is a great way of bringing ourselves into the present moment.
I was in a cafe earlier today and as I looked around while waiting for my meal to be served, I noticed that everyone was either chatting, reading or viewing their mobiles while they ate. When I was served, instead of distracting myself, I ate slowly and tasted every bite. It was delicious. Try to eat alone yourself at least once per day and when you do focus on the taste and texture of the food. It adds another dimension to life.
2. Mindful commuting
Over the years, commuters have slightly changed their habits from all being buried in a newspaper, to being glued to mobile phones or tablets. Here is another situation where, if you look around, you will find yourself being the only person not focused on the communal activity. This “dead time” of commuting you can use to your benefit by focusing on your breath and experiencing the journey.
3. Mindful queuing
There was a time when I dreaded queuing. I found it stressful. I was one of those people that is constantly looking for a faster moving queue to which I would swap if I thought that I could be served faster. The ultimate frustration was when after swapping queues, I found myself behind somebody with a complex customer service issue requiring the attendance of the supervisor and much discussion. I would watch despairingly as my original queue moved forward and the people that were standing behind me left the premises!
For a while, queues became an opportunity for spiritual practice where I could take a few moments to meditate and learn to deal with the cruel unfairness of a slow queue with a sense of equanimity. Since then, as my patience has grown, queues have progressed to become not in the least bit remarkable.
4. Look out of the window
It is interesting how, when we are busy, our confinement in a room becomes almost absolute. We seem to forget that we are part of the world outside. Just looking out of the window for a few moments can help us to return to the present moment for a while. This works particularly well if there is some nature outside such as: trees, plants, flowers or birds.
5. Present moment anchors
For a while, when I was practicing very hard to bring mindfulness into my everyday life I used what is called an anchor. In my case, these were small stones that I would put in my pocket. As they are out of place they tend to cause our chain of thoughts to pause and enable us to become mindful at that moment. Any object can be used for this provided that it is something that is in someway unusual and that will cause a momentary pause in the train of thought enabling mindfulness.
6. Mindful walking
To initially practice mindful walking, it is best to get away for a solitary walk. Meditating or praying while walking is an ancient practice characterized by pilgrimage. Focus on your feet, the feeling of your feet on the floor and your breath entering and leaving your body. Once you have spent some time doing this on a few occasions, you’ll find that as you walk around in daily life the memory of mindful walking will prompt you so you can make it a part of your daily practice,
7. Take your breaks
Whatever it is you’re doing, you can retain your focus better and be more productive if you have some breaks. Often, we will use our breaks to chat to friends, colleagues or family but if we take some of our free time and use it for mindfulness meditation then we will have found a useful way to introduce mindfulness into our daily lives.