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What is mindfulness? What are the origins of mindfulness? What are the benefits of mindfulness? What are the skills of mindfulness? How can I practise mindfulness meditation? What are some examples of meditation and training exercises? What is mindfulness based cognitive therapy? (MBCT) What does a 6 - 10 week mindfulness program include? How to practise mindfulness throughout the day? in the workplace? What are the differences between awareness, consciousness, attention and mindfulness? ... These are some questions you may have been asking yourself about mindfulness. You will find the answers to these questions and many more in “INTRODUCTION TO MINDFULNESS”, compiled by Dean Amory. Download your e-book of "Introduction to Mindfulness" here, or order a paperback copy and make it your loyal companion through the good and the bad moments that eventually form your life. paperback: http://www.lulu.com/shop/dean-amory/introduction-tomindfulness/paperback/product-21066108.html ebook: http://www.lulu.com/shop/dean-amory/introduction-to-mindfulness/ebook/product21066129.html
What is mindfulness?
In a nutshell, mindfulness is about being completely in touch with the present moment and being open to experiences as they come. Mindfulness involves taking your attention away from the past and future and away from your imagination - and instead becoming aware of what is going on right now. You can do this as you go about your daily life. Notice with your senses: what you are seeing and hearing, that you are breathing, standing, walking or sitting or lying down, the feel of the air against your skin as you move along. Your mind will keep drifting out of the present so you need to keep bringing it back. It is bringing your mind back to the present that makes up the practice of mindfulness. Never
criticize your mind for drifting away: just bring it back kindly and gently. Have you ever suddenly become aware of a background noise that had been going on for some time unnoticed? Or have you ever woken up just moments before your alarm clock went off, as if an inner force had lifted you from slumber? That was mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental faculty, like intuition or musical ability. It reminds you of what you didn't know you had forgotten, and wakes you when you didn't realize you were sleeping (or daydreaming). Mindfulness points out what ordinarily escapes conscious attention, what is hidden in plain sight -- or what we've overlooked or forgotten because it doesn't fit our interpretations, or pertain to our goals, or because it makes us feel uncomfortable. When you are mindful, your mind is quiet but alert, empty but present, sharply focused on the immediacy of the situation, knowing that anything can happen. Without mindfulness, we function as if on autopilot, only partially aware of who we really are or what we're doing.
What are the origins of mindfulness?
Mindfulness has been used for thousands of years in the Buddhist tradition to improve people’s experience of living.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Being mindful lowers anxiety and stress, interrupts harmful brooding and will help you to avoid endlessly repeating distressing or unhelpful thoughts, images and mental scenes. Mindfulness meditation has been demonstrated to provide relief from a wide range of afflictions including pain, depression and loneliness. It also contributes to enhanced focus, creativity and performance on a wide variety of tasks.
Among its many welcome side effects are deep serenity and a patient, tolerant understanding of others, but it is worthwhile in itself for reasons that must be experienced to be appreciated. In a word, it awakens us.
What are some examples of meditation and training exercises?
Exercises like those below have been used for centuries to help people practice mindfulness as they go about their daily life. The first two need only take a minute or so but will help you if you repeat them at intervals during the day. Awareness From time to time, notice your breathing. Notice your posture. Notice the points of contact between your body and the chair, floor, ground. Notice your clothes touching your body. Notice sounds in the room; sounds outside the room; the furthest away sound you can hear. Every time you drift into thinking, just return to noticing these sensations. Basic Mindfulness Meditation Mindfulness should be the simplest of tasks, an elemental challenge like no other. In the July 2012 issue of Shambhala Sun, James Ishmael Ford boils the practice down to its basic fundamentals. His instruction: “Sit down, shut up and pay attention.” Or, to expand it slightly, “Sit down, shut up and observe your breath and body. When your attention begins to drift, gently put it back on target.” This is the practice. Repeated re-engagement, over and over and over. Without judgment. Over time, this becomes a foundational, primal skill that we can bring to every other task and challenge in our lives. It is powerful. So don’t make it complicated. Just do it. Again. And again.
Mindfulness Cues This involves using habitual behaviours to remind you to practice mindfulness. Choose one or two and then decide that when performing them you will maintain awareness of what you are doing, rather than daydreaming or getting caught up in fears or anxieties: Using the telephone ~ Going up or down stairs or steps ~ Using a computer mouse or keyboard ~ Tidying ~ Washing up ~ Showering. Awareness of Breathing As you go through your day, notice your breathing from time to time. All you need to do is notice just a few of those 20,000 breaths you take every day. Are you breathing with your chest or your tummy (abdominal breathing is usually more relaxing)? As you breathe out, can you feel movement in your tummy? Can you feel the air entering and leaving your nostrils? Mindful Awakening When you wake up in the morning, spend a few moments savoring your dreams. You don't have to remember what happened in the dreams. Just taste their overall flavor. Even when you do remember fragments of the dream story or imagery, pay especial attention to the subtle moods that they evoke, which are like aromas or fragrances.
The delicate threads of your dreams will be lost easily in the morning if you enter your waking life too quickly. Take your time, lie still for a moment, and taste the herbal flavors that your dreams have left in your mind. Then, when you do begin to think about your waking life, notice its flavor, as well, as if it were also a dream. Take your time, lie still for a moment, and taste the herbal flavors that your dreams have left in your mind. Sometime during the day, when you remember to do it, pay attention to the sensations on the inside of your body. You might start by letting your attention rest on the sensations of breathing in your chest and throat. Notice what happens to your mind as you begin to focus on those inside-the-body sensations. Do you notice a shift in the overall tone of your mind? Then let your attention move throughout your body, like the gentle hands of a masseur, checking for spots where you feel tension or sensations of burning, tingling, or glowing. Don't forget your hands, fingers, and feet. If you're feeling a strong emotion, such as fear or excitement, where do you feel the sensations of that emotion in your body? What textures, colors, or flavors do they have? See what happens when you examine the sensations in detail, taking quick glances at them. Mindfulness is what lets you see in greater detail.
Mindful Walking While you're walking around outside, listen for spaces between sounds. Even the steadiest sounds are perforated by tiny gaps. Listen to the sounds as if they were music. Also, try tasting their aromas, the subtle impressions that they make on your mind, just as you do with dreams.
Try listening to the sounds as if you were listening from your belly or gut, rather than from your head. Let your belly become the center of your awareness. Let it feel just as sensitive and exposed as your face. Also, instead of looking at things as whole objects that have names and purposes, let your attention be drawn to their textures and colors, until what you're looking at doesn't have a name or description at all. Notice how the feeling of your mind changes as you do this. Mindful Conversations While you're having a conversation with someone, spend a moment listening to the spaces between the sounds of his or her words. Try listening from your belly. Feel its changing sensations as the person is speaking. Mindful Relaxation Before you fall asleep at night, lie still and look for feelings of tension that come from all your effort to get things done during the day. Look for knots of tension in your head, neck, face, and in your belly or in your limbs. The next day, as often as you remember to do it, look for those feelings of effort again as you're going about your day. Do you feel any tension around or behind your eyes? Pay attention to how the "making an effort" feelings are associated with thoughts or desires. In the same way that you were noticing moments of silence between sounds, also notice that between the feelings of effort there are gaps where those feelings diminish or disappear. Sometimes the gaps are so small that they're hard to notice at first, but let mindfulness point them out. Mindful Thinking Thoughts are like mini-dreams. When you suddenly realize that you've been having a thought (mindfulness is what reminds you), savor its flavors, savor the residue that the thought has left in your mind, just as you've been practicing with your dreams every morning. Does it produce any sensations in your body, perhaps behind your eyes? Notice gaps between the thoughts, where there's a bit of silence. What do you experience in that silence? Now listen to the sound of your thoughts -- not to what the thoughts are about, but to their tone of voice, as if you were listening to another person talking. What would that person's facial expressions or body language look like? What would that person want to say? With quick glances, explore the subtle sensations, the dream-like flavors and aromas of the personality that seems to be "you", the captain of the ship, the pilot that seems to be in charge of your body. Observe how it seems to break up into little bits, like pixels on a screen, as you glance at it up close and in detail. Mindful Self Consciousness From time to time reflect on the "I" that sees inside your mind. What is experiencing and how does it know that it is experiencing? What kind of light illuminates dreams and thoughts so that the "I" can see them? When seen with mindful glances, the most ordinary aspects of experience seem mysterious and remarkable -- and the more ordinary, the more remarkable.
How strange that the universe exists rather than that nothing exists at all, and that it exists just as it does and not some other way. And then, how strange that this "I" exists and is aware of the existence of that universe. Such bare reflections come as part of the process of mindful awakening. Once the process of awakening begins, it moves along at its own pace, under its own steam, as awareness awakens to itself.
What are the skills of mindfulness?
Mindfulness is made up of a number of skills, all of which require practice. These skills are briefly described below: Awareness One skill of mindfulness is learning how to focus your attention on one thing at a time. This includes being aware of and able to recognize all the things that are going on around you (for example, sights and sounds), as well as all the things that are going on inside you (for example, thoughts and feelings). Nonjudgmental/Non-evaluative Observation This skill is focused on looking at your experiences in a nonjudgmental way. That is, simply looking at things in an objective way as opposed to labeling them as either "good" or "bad." An important part of this skill is self-compassion. Being in the Present Moment Part of mindfulness is being in touch with the present moment as opposed to being caught up in thoughts about the past (also called rumination) or the future (or worry). An aspect of this skill is
being an active participant in experiences instead of just "going through the motions" or "being stuck on auto-pilot." Beginner's Mind This skill of mindfulness focuses on being open to new possibilities. It also refers to observing or looking at things as they truly are, as opposed to what we think they are or evaluate them to be. For example, going into a situation with a preconceived notion of how things will turn out can color your experience. This can prevent you from getting in touch with the true experience. Practicing Mindfulness Mindfulness takes practice. Some people may put aside time to formally practice mindfulness, such as devoting time to practice mindful awareness of their breath or thoughts. However, the good thing about mindfulness is that you can also practice it at any point throughout your day. For example, you can bring mindfulness awareness to a number of activities that we often do without thinking, such as eating, washing dishes, cooking, taking a shower or bath, walking, driving in the car, or listening to music. As you go about your day, try to find as many opportunities as you can to practice mindfulness. The more you practice, the easier it will become to bring mindful awareness to your life experiences.