I was delighted to see a huge selection of books on Mindfulness and Meditation at our local bookstore recently. It’s no surprise, really, given the huge interest on the subject as a way to fix everything that ails us.
The words mindfulness and meditation are often used interchangeably. While there is much overlap, they are distinct. Meditation, to put it simply, is mind training, or a practice of focused concentration. It increases mindfulness and concentration. Research shows meditation changes the brain, bringing relief from stress, anxiety and depression. Meditation can also help manage chronic pain, even obesity. But for now, let’s focus on mindfulness.
It’s amazing how many things we do mindlessly, or automatically. There are definite advantages to that. Once learned, our mind delegates tasks to the subconscious mind, like how to ride a bike, for example.
But then there are other things we/I do mindlessly, like putting lettuce in the freezer, or leaving the room and forgetting why. That’s not so helpful.
“What information consumes is attention. A wealth of information means a poverty of attention,” said Herbert Simon, a cognitive psychologist. Oops! I happen to be an information junkie. I love the Internet and everything I can learn there. I’m kind of fond of Instagram too.
We’ve come to a place where we need constant stimulation or entertainment. The Internet and smart phones especially, have played a huge role in depleting our ability to pay attention.
I’m pretty sure I haven’t always been so distracted and that I’m not alone. Even though I’ve had a daily meditation practice for many years being present can still be a challenge.
If our minds are full it’s going to be more difficult to be mindful. This can cause us to feel disconnected, overwhelmed or even dissatisfied.
If, like me, you’d like to be more mindful, try these simple ideas.
• Leave your phone alone.
• Drive without the radio.
• Notice everything you put in your mouth.
• Eat slowly and mindfully, using all your senses.
• Make automatic processes less automatic, like getting dressed or making coffee.
• Tune it to your body and notice where you feel tension.
• S l o w down and notice your surroundings.
• Do one thing at a time.
• Notice your breath
If you want to explore mindfulness and/or meditation further, I happen to know there is a good selection of books at Chapters. Remember, you only need so much information. Practice is the most important part.