Mindfulness

           

What is Mindfulness?

 

Mindfulness is the state of being ‘conscious’ or aware of something.

 

How can Mindfulness help us?

 

When we are mindful and aware of our thoughts and feelings and beliefs in all that we say and do- in a way that we feel Pleases God, we become ‘God-conscious’ and to be mindful about our morals and behaviour along with seeking Truth can help us to become more ‘Mindful’ and ‘Reflective’ and ‘God-conscious’ in the spiritual sense.

 

But even if one does not believe in God, mindfulness can be very beneficial in many ways:

 

Many of us spend our days either worrying about the past or the future. This gives little time and ability for us to focus on the here and now. Often our minds are ‘full’ of either what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future- and this can cause us anxiety and prevent us from really embracing what is happening in the present. Our lack of ‘awareness’ or ‘Mindfulness’ can result in causing us much trouble in our home lives, with family- partners, children, as well as our work lives. It can affect our interpersonal relationships and affect our ability to ‘listen’ to others and embrace our loved ones. It can affect our ability to concentrate and reflect, and prepare for the unexpected events that might take place in our lives- and often we find that when we are not mindful in the here and now, we do not enjoy life to the maximum potential. For example, worrying about yesterday’s events or which errands we have to run, while our child or loved one is speaking to us- are we really ‘seeing’ or ‘hearing’ them or are we seeing through them? How does this affect their feelings? How does it affect our relationship with that person? How does this then affect our lives?

 

Lack of mindfulness can result in us not getting much satisfaction in how we choose to spend our time. It can affect our ability to enjoy relationships, our children, our work, the food we eat, etc- and can lead to increased levels of anxiety, reduce our mood, reduce our energy levels, affect our appetite, increase feelings of loneliness and affect our ability to sleep- ultimately our emotional, spiritual, mental and physical well-being and our ability to function to the maximum potential.

 

For example- How much enjoyment can one get from eating something that we like? When we focus our energy into our taste buds while eating instead of talking at the same time, or watching TV, or working for example- we often find that the food does not taste as nice as it does if we concentrate on every mouthful, the texture of the food in our mouths, the smell, and if we are not distracted by trying to do something else at the same time. So being mindful while we eat and drink can bring enjoyment and happiness to our lives- as can be being mindful of everything else we do.

 

Another example- how well are we able to concentrate on our work and learn or take in information while reading a book or watching our favourite TV program- when we are constantly worrying about how the housework needs to be done, or what to wear at an upcoming event, or what to buy when we go shopping?- these are just examples- but imagine being able to not worry about a hundred things that might or might not happen, that need or do not need to be done, and being able to switch off from it- how much more could we learn from that book we are reading? How much more productive would we be at work? How much more satisfaction would we get from hugging our children or spending time talking to our loved ones.

 

How can mindfulness help others?

 

When we learn how to be mindful ourselves, we will find that our ability to ‘reflect’ is also more focussed. Through reflection we learn from past events and become more able to turn negativity from the past into positivity in our present and future. (see section on reflection). When we are able to be more reflective, we become more able to let go of our past worries and put more meaning into our ‘present’ through mindfulness.

 

When we are able to become more reflective and mindful of our speech and actions- this can have a huge impact on many areas in our lives that affect others either directly or indirectly.

 

Directly:

 

- Relationships with People: Many relationships have troubles due to one or the other or both parties feeling as though they are not being ‘listened to.’ If we listen more to others- this makes them feel like we care, and can help bring positivity to others’ lives. By Listening to others, we also help ourselves, especially if we are reflective individuals- we learn more from one another- through sharing experiences, emotions, beliefs, thoughts and ideas. We can understand their perspective better when we listen to others mindfully- which can then help us in our behaviour towards them and others. So mindfulness can help our relationships with our families and our friends, even our interactions with our pets, or other creatures around us.

 

Relationship with God: Mindfulness can help our ability to connect directly with God (If one believes in God) through meditation and prayer- because we are much more likely to benefit from these activities if we can ‘shut out’ other thoughts and emotions that occupy our minds. The ability to ‘connect’ with our Source or Creator, can then benefit our ability to become more mindful, and the more we are able to establish a relationship with our Creator, the more mindful we can learn to become by including Him in our speech and actions. When we learn about what pleases God: kindness, love, forgiveness, mercy, justice, etc- and if we are mindful of our duty to Him in all that we do and say- we are much more likely to lead a life that brings peace and happiness to others, and therefore also to ourselves.

 

Indirectly:

 

By Improving our ability to focus more and listen to others through mindfulness, we create positive energies which attract others to us, and can help us with feelings of low self- esteem, low mood, and feelings of anxiety and guilt that we might sometimes feel around other people. When our relationships are more balanced and the interactions between us and others feels more positive than negative- this can increase our levels of joy and happiness and inner Peace.

 

When we are more mindful of our speech, and our behaviour, and in any way we can be during our day to day lives, we embrace the emotion of ‘joy’ and ‘inner Peace’ especially if the activities we are engaging in, or speech we are using is ‘positive’. That positivity shines like a ‘light’ that reflects in others, and then back to ourselves.

 

How can we become more Mindful?

 

The ability for someone to be more mindful begins with ‘intention.’ For an individual to have a true intention to want to become more mindful- he or she often needs to convince oneself of the benefits it will bring to themselves and others. If we are not convinced sincerely of the benefits it can have on our lives, we are less likely to persevere, and more likely to fall out of a discipline of mindfulness prayer or meditation exercises that we begin. Being told by the content here, or by others that mindfulness can help us- may not convince us. Therefore- why not try it for ourselves? Below you can find some mindfulness exercises to try out- if that doesn’t convince you- perhaps a class, or lesson, or course on mindfulness may help.

 

At the UGC we offer mindfulness therapy sessions- which can either be done as an individual or a group. (Please see therapies)- the classes can be tailored towards the area in your life that you think it would benefit most.

 

Sometimes a major event that has happened in our lives can be a trigger or reminder to us that life is precious- and that the relationships we have, our loved ones, mean more than anything in the world: eg. losing a loved one, a family breakdown due to our partner feeling ‘not listened to.’  Or that we need to be more mindful at work: perhaps losing a job? Or that perhaps we need to be more mindful of the way we treat others- e.g. after a criminal record that has resulted in prison sentence or causing harm to another individual and the negative effect this has had on us?

 

 

Once we have convinced ourselves that mindfulness is important- the ‘intention’ to become more mindful can be very powerful in itself.

 

Everybody’s life is their own personal journey and there is no fixed way of becoming more mindful.

 

  1. Intention – must convince ourselves of its benefits

  2. Practice/ experiment- try it out

  3. Do not overburden oneself- take it step by step, then gradually increase

  4. Discipline and Routine (in Meditation or Prayer) – set time aside morning, afternoon and evening for prayer or meditation during mindfulness

  5. Perseverance- Do not give up- it can take a long time and sometimes be a slow process but if done properly- one will see the benefits to themselves and others immediately

 

For those who Believe in a Creator or a Source to Life- A good way to start is to try to ‘connect’ to Him. Establishing a routine for Prayer and meditation- often many find very useful. Even just taking a few minutes, at the start of the day, during the afternoon, and at the end of the day- to leave what we are doing and make time for ‘us’ to ‘switch off’ from the worldly distractions and to Remember God- and His Beautiful attributes, to Praise Him, and to pray for others, to ask Him to guide us, help us to better ourselves, to become more mindful of our speech and actions.

 

(see section on Connecting with God)

 

For individuals who do not believe in a Creator, or are not convinced within themselves of this, or do not feel able to establish a connection with Him due to certain blockages or emotions that they may be experiencing, meditation can still be very helpful. This still involves the need for discipline and routine often otherwise we can find we easily go back to our old ways getting easily distracted by worldly distractions, desires, and challenges.

 

 

Mindfulness exercises

 

Consider trying these out:

 

1: Next time your child or a loved one is talking to you about what they did at school today- (if your mind is pre-occupied with running errands, cleaning, shopping, cooking, tidying, work etc)- ask yourself this question: Would I be listening to my child fully and mindfully and enjoying every moment listening to their beautiful whining voice- if I knew that later on that day or tomorrow either myself or my child were to be involved in a major car accident that took away one or both of our lives? Sometimes we can ‘shock ourselves’ into becoming more mindful in our relationship with others by remembering that none of us know what will happen tomorrow- anything could happen- How would this change our interactions with others? Most of us would prioritise listening to our loved ones more and showing them affection and love, if we were to remember that life is precious, and that we may not even be here tomorrow.

 

2. Next time you are eating an ice-cream, or a chocolate bar, or a packet of crisps, or enjoying a meal- try not to talk at the same time as eating. Eat slowly, and chew your food- With each mouthful, close your eyes and feel the textures in your mouth, think about the different flavours and ingredients, and reflect on the emotions in your brain that it triggers off. Do not watch TV, or try to read a book at the same time, just sit there quietly and enjoy the food.

 

3. Next time you go for a walk to the park- take five-ten minutes to sit in a quiet spot by yourself. Close your eyes and use your ears to listen to the sound of the wind, the sound of water by a stream or a river flowing past, of birds chatting to one another, the sound of trees swaying gently, the sound of the buzzing of bees. Can you hear the music of nature? Now become part of it- us the imagination.

No open your eyes and look around you. What do you see? Choose something like the river, or stream, or a butterfly, or a flower, or a tree. look at it. Concentrate on its colours, its texture- imagine how it would feel touching it- look at how it is moving, the sounds it is making, the beauty of it - reflect on what it is, why it is what it is, and ask questions- try to connect with what you see around you. Now imagine becoming what you see. Imagine what it would feel like to be a tree, or a fish in the stream, or a bird, or a bee, or a flower…

 

4. Mindfulness during prayer: We can get much more benefit from prayer and meditation if we are more mindful. Things to consider while trying to become more mindful during prayer:  Ablution with water ( hands, faces, arms, feet) - then go to somewhere quiet with no distractions in a space which makes you feel at ease, comfortable and private. Seek refuge in God from distractions, or from dark thoughts…Put yourself in the prostration position with your forehead on the ground, hands and palms on the floor facing down beside your face, knees bent and bottom up in the air. Stay in this position for 5 minutes. Imagine all of your emotions, and thoughts flowing out of your body, through your brain and out into the ground. Any anxiety you may have, any fear, any negative emotions, sadness, guilt, anger- let them flow out of your body and concentrate on this flow of negative energy flowing out of you and back into the ground. After a couple of minutes, lift you head up, while knees still bent and kneeling on the ground- and close your eyes- imagine a light shining on your face- feel the warmth of the light on your face, imagine it like a blessing, a positive energy, a ray of hope and peace- taking over the space in your body that was occupied by the negative energy that has been removed. Repeat as often as you like- each time you prostrate and place your forehead to the ground- concentrate and ‘see’ and ‘feel ‘or ‘imagine’ the negative energy flowing out of you, and each time you sit up, imagine the ray of light shining on you, bringing positive energy into your life. You can try adding speech to these actions too – for example using prayers from Scripture, or having a conversation with God directly in any way your soul and heart direct you.

(Above writing is Based on 'reflections' of Dr Lale Tuncer)

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