What is Mindfulness? And where can you learn this?
Mindfulness is an exercise that helps against worrying and stress. The advantage is that you enjoy more and feel better about yourself. More relaxed, less concerned and less concerned with reaching highs and avoiding lows.
The reasons for immersing yourself in mindfulness are many: it trains your attention for the here and now, you see thoughts and feelings come and go without getting caught up in them, you learn to take life as it is. With great effects, both physically and emotionally.
Starting with mindfulness?
Living with reality, satisfied with what is now, we benefit from that. But how difficult that turns out to be. Do you recognize this? We humans are restless and pursue all kinds of goals. And then we as humans are also constantly thinking and judging almost compulsively. Mindfulness can help with this.
What does mindfulness do?
What mindfulness does is develop an attitude to life that helps you stay with your experience in the now in a new way. Whatever it is. When worried about the future, it takes you to the relatively safe here and now.
When you experience pain, you experience that resisting it makes it worse and staying with it actually reduces the pain. By becoming more attentive you will see through ingrained patterns in your work or relationships and you can consciously take a step back - instead of reacting automatically. Not to just accept everything that happens to you... but to see from a broader perspective what is now and what is needed and to act accordingly.
For me, this definition of mindfulness gets to the heart of the matter best:
Mindfulness is stopping (stopping)
To be present in this reality with mild, open attention (watching)
So that you can deal with it with more freedom (act).
- Edel Maex (psychiatrist, Zen teacher and author)
How did mindfulness come about?
The concept of mindfulness is a Western invention. Previously we only spoke about meditation, but this is (especially then) known as floaty. When scientists wanted to research this, they were not taken seriously. But because they wanted to research the benefits, they took the most important components of meditation and summarized it under the concept of mindfulness. This also includes breathing exercises.
As a result, mindfulness suddenly became concrete and practical and the Western world now found it interesting, especially as a remedy for stress.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being fully aware of what you are experiencing in the present moment. You can translate 'mindfulness' with 'attentive' or perceptive'. By doing this you reduce worry and stress. The advantage is that you enjoy what you are doing more and feel better about yourself.
Somehow you do have an idea of what mindfulness means, at least doing something with attention, right? What you want to achieve with mindfulness is: intentionally present with open attention to what is now. By being mindful you learn to view people, situations and your own feelings that come your way with mild eyes.
That soft gaze is healing – as scientific studies have shown – for your own internal processes as well as for your relationships with others.
A mindfulness exercise with that soft look
To give you an instant taste of mindfulness - and not just read about it - you can do this exercise now, it only takes two minutes.
Short mindfulness exercise
- Make sure you are sitting comfortable. Become aware of your breathing and slowly look around you without focusing on anything in particular. See where you are.
- Then choose to rest your eyes on something and look at it with soft eyes, while also keeping your gaze a little open to the rest of the environment. Your eyes are kind, they are soft and your gaze is open and non-judgmental.
- If you notice that your gaze wants to narrow, no problem, just open it again by slowing down and going back to your breathing for a moment and then looking again.
(TIP) It is nice to do this exercise cross-legged, on a seat cushion. View our collection here to see if your color meditation cushion is among them.
Explanation soft eyes
Looking with soft eyes is looking with a friendly open look, with love for what you observe and also with a look where there is room for wonder. You notice the difference with concentrated looking or focusing first and foremost in your body. Tension behind and around your eyes, eyebrows and forehead.
How are you at the moment? Are your jaws relaxed? Is your forehead furrowed? What happens when you smile?
Why mindfulness is a superpower
Don't have the time or the inclination to read the rest of this blog and still want a sense of what mindfulness means and can do for you? Then watch this comical animation that aptly explains the power of mindfulness.
Benefits of mindfulness and science
Mindfulness has become extremely popular over the past twenty years, both in the mainstream media and in the literature on psychotherapy. In these twenty years, the concept of mindfulness has changed from a largely obscure Buddhist concept developed about 2,600 years ago to a common method.
Here are the main benefits of mindfulness:
- More self-control
- Being able to assess objectively
- Greater tolerance
- Improved flexibility
- Improved concentration
- Mental clarity
- Emotional intelligence
This will grow your ability to interact with others and yourself with kindness, acceptance, and compassion.
This article brings together several scientific studies on the benefits of mindfulness.
Getting Started with Mindfulness
If you are interested in doing 'something' with mindfulness, you can do so in different ways and with varying degrees of intensity; through a book, an app, a training, a workshop, online, yoga, or just applying the simple exercises I end this blog with.
See below what suits you best at the moment.
I pick three books from the huge mountain of literature that has appeared on this subject.
- Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices. - Thich Nath Hanh. The well-known spiritual leader and Zen master describes in the book the importance of a more attentive life and it is interspersed with practical examples. You will find many - practically applicable - meditations and exercises that have been developed over the past 60 years with the help of his meditation community.
- A Beginner's Guide To Mindfulness: Live In The Moment written by Ernst Bohlmeijer, is suitable for anyone who experiences life as unsatisfactory or who has difficulty accepting everyday life. It is an inspiring and accessible book, with a CD with pleasant mindfulness exercises.
- Mindfulness, the title is not that original, but the content of the book by Mark Williams is inspiring. Problems and symptoms are addressed and practical solutions are then given. There is also an 8-week exercise program with the book.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
If you really want to immerse yourself, learn what mindfulness means and how to implement it in your life - permanently - then you can do a training.There is a mindfulness training developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and given worldwide.This training is also called MBSR.
It is an 8-week training with weekly meetings.The last meeting is a full day and is spent in silence.As homework you will meditate for 45 minutes every day.You will learn, among other things, the following five meditations: body scan, walking with attention, sitting with attention, a yoga series with simple standing exercises and a yoga series with simple sitting and lying exercises.
Mindfulness course or online mindfulness
Are you looking for a course, or do you see somewhere that a mindfulness course is offered, then this is often the above training, but online.It requires a little more independence than the training.You often receive personal guidance from a trainer via Zoom or email.This is an example of such a course.
This form of yoga is a soft form of yoga that can help you in your daily life to be more aware of yourself and the impressions of everyday life.By carefully performing mild physical exercises (including from Yin Yoga), meditations and breathing exercises, a process of inner slowing down automatically starts.
You develop a gentle, friendly demeanor (hey, where did we read that before) that teaches you to stay close to the experience of the moment. Free of judgement, without feeding or rejecting a thought.
Mindfulness yoga can also be very suitable if you have followed a mindfulness training or course and you want to learn how to integrate this into your daily life.
The best way to capture moments is to pay attention.This is how we cultivate mindfulness.Mindfulness means being awake.It means knowing what you are doing.
4 simple exercises to be more attentive
We now know what it means to be mindful and the benefits of mindfulness, the hard part is reminding yourself to be more attentive. And once you remember, you're not likely to do it 24/7. But with the simple exercises below you can add a dose of mindfulness to your life.
1. Enjoy your morning tea or coffee
Try to take at least a minute in the morning to appreciate the smell, warmth, and taste of your hot drink. So don't read your email while sipping your cup.
2. Eat without distractions
Did you know that you have to let a piece of dark chocolate melt on your tongue to really taste all the flavors? Dark chocolate is the perfect food to raise awareness.
3. Take regular walks
Something that many have done over the past year and have also experienced that it works. Go for a walk and listen to the birds chirping, look up at the clouds and be content with how things are.
4. Take a bath
It's one of the best ways to get away from it all and focus on the present moment; the warmth of the water, the tranquility, the lack of distractions. Place a scented candle on the edge of your bath and let the scent penetrate your consciousness. And if you're not a bath person, a shower is one of the most underrated moments to be mindful.
If you want to delve further, read this post. It contains three exercises that you can do at home, at work and on the road.
Is mindfulness the key to your happiness?
When you get started with mindfulness you will notice that it is not the answer to everything. It doesn't make all your problems disappear like snow in the sun. It's a powerful practice, and it brings a wonderful awareness into your life. But sometimes it's becoming aware of all the difficult emotions you feel, of all the undermining things you think about yourself or about your future. Consciousness does not automatically make you feel good all the time.
What else is needed?
Mindfulness is only part of the job. What is also needed is compassion, for yourself and others. It calls for vulnerability and the willingness to open your heart. It requires honesty and the willingness to look at everything. It calls for a willingness to take life as it is, without the urge to control it.
It asks for your willingness to let go of your beliefs about how things should be. The job is also to be curious, open, and to embrace the not-knowing. And that takes courage!
I'm learning with you, and I'm glad we're doing this together.