It’s All in the Mind

Mindfulness helps us to stay open and equipped to deal with day-to-day difficulties in a positive and constructive manner

It's all in the mind

Being mindful is a state of living in the "present-moment."

It is also a practice that helps us to learn competent and judicious skills to harness the ordinary power of our minds. In the process, it makes our mind more receptive to a given, or a-not-given, situation and our internal states.

For instance, you are reading this article, or have just picked up a copy of your favourite magazine. But, chances are you're not reading this piece. May be, you only had a quick look at it as you gulped down your cup of coffee, or tea. You cannot be blamed for it, because you have so much to do and so little time.

But, you may be wrong - in spite of your good intentions.

Surely, you have more than a bagful of "to-dos" and, thus, are unable to give your full attention to more than a few items on your priority list. As a result, you push harder - and, the harder you push in activities, more than your limit, you often feel you haven't really accomplished anything.

Is there a way out of such a "gridlock?" Yes - and, you may not believe it!

First, slow down your pace, and be mindful. Speeding up things is not the best way to do it. Think of a process where you learn how to be in the present-moment, not what-can-be or could-be moment.

This is a simple, practical act - one that will guide you to pay close attention to what you're doing at any given point of time.

Attentiveness holds the answer

Being mindful, or aware, is a great tool-kit. Not that by being mindfully aware you will be able to embark on a great journey where difficult situations just disappear at the proverbial drop of a mantra. Rather, mindfulness is a state of being which provides you with the basic essentials to deal with difficulties in a more practical manner.

You don't have to be a Zen master to learn mindfulness. All you have to do is deal with situations, as they are, not what they aren't:

  • Choose what you'd most likely do in a given situation
  • Learn the rewards by responding in the most mindful way. On your own. It will be the key that will turn dull routines into rich experiences
  • Focus on the sights, sounds, and smells around you.

The next time you get worked up, go for a brisk walk or listen to soft, soulful music or jot down what you feel or felt like. Writing down your feelings or dealing with hostile energy provides you the means to deal effectively with your feelings.

Now, close your eyes.

  • Breathe deeply and "go" with what you are feeling
  • As you scan your body, you'll feel more relaxed, focused, and ready to get back to work.

To make mindfulness [smriti, in Sanskrit] work better for you, zero-in, as and when you can, on your entire body, your every muscle, including every cell within. Notice how your breath quickens, your joints loosen, and your muscles contract. This works on a simple premise. When you learn to read your body's signals, you will be the better for it.

Diverse methods, universal purpose

Meditative experts call breathing "mouth yoga." Because, when we breathe in, we smile and when we smile, we are able to release our worries, feelings, and "bottled" emotions.

Mindfulness calls for open receptivity and awareness of all stimulation. An individual practicing mindfulness experiences all objects that arise in the consciousness, as if it were his or her first meeting with it. What's more, mindfulness, like concentration, can be developed in any situation. This is because mindfulness encompasses maximisation of both the breadth and clarity of our attentiveness.

Now - let's look at a different approach. Imagine a commonplace example.

You are stuck in a traffic jam on the way to an emergency - or, may be, an important meeting, or job interview. To begin with, you'd have had these feelings in mind: you want to create an impression, or carry yourself with poise and elan. You would hate to lose your chance, and so on. You are now left in the lurch. How do you react in such a situation?

Let's sample a couple of responses:

You'd say to yourself that it is going to be outrageous. "You are a bloody fool." "Why did I not leave early?" Or, you'd react differently. "Let me face it. It was not the best thing that happened, all right. Getting worked up would only lead to pumping up more adrenaline. It's not going to make the traffic move." "I need to stay calm. Tune into music, perhaps." "Or, take a few deep breaths."

Where do you fit? Ask yourself.

As Herodotus, the great philosopher, puts it, "We are not disturbed by things, but by our opinion of things."

Anxiety, phobias, excessive anger, sleeplessness, depression etc., are feelings and have much more to do with how we think than what we do.

In the "pre-emergency/meeting/interview" scenario to bring home the point, again, your anger, for example, was caused by the traffic jam. If you had belonged to the "cool, meditative type," you would have reacted differently. You'd never have thought that failure was inevitable. Why - because you'd have adapted to the unavoidable situation quite comfortably.

Inference? It is not events that cause problems, but [y]our perception of events.

The bottom line: when you cultivate the right, being-responsive, attitude, by way of mindfulness-meditation, or focusing on your breathing, things will only be the better for you.

MINDFULNESS-MEDITATION MADE EASY

It doesn't matter whether you are new to meditation, or a veteran.

Here's a simple technique that is worth its weight in gold - one that money can't buy!

  1. Before you begin, sit on a comfortable, erect chair. Place your palms on your knees, and focus the attention of your mind, body and heart to slow down, or rest, in calm
  2. Switch off your cell phone etc., and also avoid getting side-tracked by bodily sensations that arise from physical discomfort. Try to make yourself comfortable
  3. Now try to relax. Slowly, close your eyes and mouth, and breathe through your nose normally, but not heavily. Take a few deep breaths, if you feel you are not able to relax
  4. As you breathe, try to focus your attention inwards - not to external stimuli
  5. Focus on your breathing, and try to become totally aware of it. As you establish a rhythm, begin to breathe into your abdomen, not lungs. Don't be rigid if you cannot attain complete relaxation. It will happen gradually.
  6. Focus away from thoughts about the past, or the future.
  7. Absorb yourself in the feelings of your breathing.
  8. Just be what you are with your breath.

Meditate once a day for about 15-20 minutes, preferably in the morning before breakfast, and, may be, twice a day, if time permits - more so, when you are totally at ease with the practice.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

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Rajgopal Nidamboor
Rajgopal Nidamboor, a trained physician, is a writer, commentator, and author. In a career spanning 25 years, Nidamboor has published over 2,000 articles, on a variety of subjects, two coffee table books, an E-book, and a primer on therapeutics, aside from an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy.

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