Mindfulness Meditation: Relaxing into the present moment
Do you know what Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn CEO, Ariana Huffington, author and businesswoman, and Mark Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, have in common? They all meditate daily. The numbers of people who practice Mindfulness Meditation daily in the Western world either in small groups or on their own is growing fast, especially amongst entrepreneurs and business people.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is a technique to help us to learn to live in the present moment and to find peace, relaxation and freedom in the Here and Now.
Mindfulness is defined as the awareness that arises when we pay attention to the present moment in a particular way; on purpose and non-judgementally. Mindfulness Meditation is the technique we use to deepen this awareness
When you pay attention to your mind, what you notice is that your mind is constantly wandering. The great Zen master Tich Nhat Han and many other Buddhist teachers say: “Life is only available in the Here and Now. The past has already gone; the future has not yet arisen. There is only the present moment to live.” In many of his talks and books, Tich Nhat Han uses the example of a beautiful sunset to illustrate the difference between experiencing something directly when living in the present moment and missing out on it when our mind is wandering off: He says that, when we watch the sunset, but are elsewhere with our mind – we think about work, about what to cook for dinner, about the conversation we had with our neighbour or with some of our colleagues yesterday, about which play date our child might next go on -, we are not there for the sunset; the sunset happens, but we are hardly aware of it. The sunset doesn’t care about whether or not we are watching in amazement, but when we are not fully present, we are missing out on a great opportunity to watch something absolutely beautiful happening right in front of our eyes; “one of the wonders of life”, as Tich Nhat Han would say. Only when our mind is free from thoughts concerning the past and the future are we able to be fully there in the present moment to experience the sunset with all its beauty.
Many Buddhist teachers go on saying that not only can mindfulness help us to be there for the good things – “the wonders” – that are constantly happening in our life, but it can actually help us to be there for whatever life throws at us: to access all our inner wisdom, to access all our inner strength and to deal with our present situation in the best possible way.
The benefits of Mindfulness Meditation training
- When we train in Mindfulness Meditation, we work with ourselves.
- When we train in Mindfulness Meditation, we learn to recognise our thoughts and thinking patterns, our feelings and emotions, our beliefs and belief-systems and our behaviours/our reactions.
- When we train in Mindfulness Meditation, we experience, maybe for the first time in our life, that we can have power over our mind rather than letting the mind have power over us.
- When we train in Mindfulness Meditation, we learn that what we think and how we think determines how we feel, what we believe, how we behave and how we experience ourselves and the world around us.
- When we train in Mindfulness Meditation, we learn how to interrupt our thinking about the past, our thinking about the future, our day-dreaming, our fears, our worries and our regrets and we learn to be in the present moment, in the Here and Now.
- When we train in Mindfulness Meditation, our mind becomes still. In all traditions which emphasise the importance of working with one’s mind, the mind as it should be is often compared to a very still lake: When the water is really still, it reflects the environment perfectly clearly. Equally, when our mind is really still and when we have no disturbing thoughts, the mind reflects what actually IS.
- When we train in Mindfulness Meditation, we learn to be fully there for the present moment and to accept it without judgement. There are still good and bad experiences, happy and sad moments, there is still pain, frustration, worry and fear and all the rest of it, but we are now willing to accept our experience whatever it is.
Mindfulness Meditation leads to full engagement with your moments
Often people think that Mindfulness Meditation practice leads to a state of serenity where we watch present moment after present moment go by without engaging. However, the contrary happens. What happens when we train in Mindfulness Meditation is that we develop more awareness for what is going on in the Here and Now and that we fully engage with this experience using all our inner wisdom and our inner abilities and strengths. First of all, though, in order to have a very clear and precise understanding of what is going on, we have to be still and open for the present moment. Then our reactions to whatever IS will be much more focused, much more precise and much more appropriate. And you will have developed a natural interest in life; everything that happens with you and around you is interesting, it is of interest to you because you really want to understand what is happening and why.
What are the benefits of Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness Meditation benefits both your mental and physical wellbeing. Mindfulness meditation is beneficial at any time but can be particularly beneficial in times of high stress or anxiety. One doesn’t have to spend a large amount of time each day meditating; as little as 5 minutes daily can be enough and make a real difference. Mindfulness Meditation can be done in any place at any time; I know long term practitioners who even practise when on the bus or the train.
Misconceptions about Mindfulness Meditation
The method of mindfulness meditation is really simple, but there are misconceptions about how to do it properly. Common misconceptions include:
- Meditation takes up a lot of time. Many believe the practise should be done for at least 1 hour, but that is not true and it is possible to meditate less than 5 minutes every day and feel the benefits.
- Busy Mind = Bad Meditator. this misconception is more common for beginners. Of course our minds are busy, particularly when we haven’t yet done any Mindfulness Meditation training, and it does take time to train our minds to become still. The focus of practicing Mindfulness Meditation is training your brain for mindfulness (living in the present moment) and avoiding thoughts about the past and worries about the future. I always tell my Mindfulness Meditation students who complain about a busy mind or tell me that they “just couldn’t get into the practice because the mind was too busy” that this is actually the ideal situation for meditation because the more thoughts we have the more we have to bring ourselves back to the present moment – in other words: the more thoughts we have the more opportunity we have to train ourselves in Mindfulness Meditation.
- “It’s not for me”. everyone can practice and benefit from Mindfulness meditation, from any age or background.
- You must be religious to practice mindfulness Meditation. Mindfulness Meditation originates from Buddhist traditions, but it is a secular form of meditation – you can practice it anywhere and don’t need to be religious to reap the benefits.
There is no problem in the present moment
I remember a silent retreat I attended a couple of years ago. I had signed up for the retreat some months earlier and had been excited about the opportunity, but during the week prior to the retreat there was so much going on in my life –business worries, worries about my mum’s health, worries about money – that I felt that rather than go on a meditation retreat, I should stay at home and sort everything out the best I could. But I knew that I wouldn’t get my money back so I ended up going to the retreat. After a couple of days of sitting in silence, one of our teachers took me aside after a meal and asked me what was going on because he could see that I was quite tense and trying to get into the practice all the time. I told him a little bit about what had been going on prior to the retreat. And he said something to me that was so incredibly helpful that I have never forgotten it. He said, “But right here and now, as you are sitting in silence, you haven’t got any problem.” And I realised that he was right. In that moment, while I was on the meditation retreat meditating, I didn’t have any problem. Needless to say, I found the rest of the retreat amazing. And whenever my mind wanted to go to the “problems”, I called it back into the present moment. Also needless to say, when I came out of the retreat I was much better able to deal with “the problems”. When we are in the present moment – sitting comfortably on a chair, having our feet side by side on the floor, our hands in our lap, our back straight, our eyes gently closed, concentrating on our breathing, feeling safe – there is no reason for fear and anxiety. Right this moment there is no problem. The fear, anxiety and stress only arise when we allow our minds to wander into the future. But in the moment as you are sitting down to meditate, as you are experiencing the present moment fully, everything is all right. And as we continue to practice on a daily basis, we learn that the place of stillness and peaceful mind is always there for us to come back to, and the training also helps us to take life a little more lightly.
Mindfulness Meditation for stress, anxiety and depression
Mindfulness is proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Focusing on the present (mindfulness) can help lower levels of cortisol, the physical and emotional stress hormone. Meditation can train the mind to focus on the present moment and may reduce the propensity to overthinking while increasing creativity. The result is greater emotional control of both your personal and professional life.
Due to these benefits, many companies are adopting meditation as a tool to improve the workplace environment (less stress) and be more productive in real-time.
Mindfulness Meditation and the body
Research has shown that Mindfulness Meditation practitioners have a higher level of antibody numbers compared with people who do not practice. Mindfulness Meditation can also lower the risk of developing blood pressure problems, cardiovascular diseases and even cancer. Mindfulness exercise can also aid weight loss as meditation may help to control compulsion and eating disorders caused by Anxiety and Depression, it is currently subject for several studies coordinated by doctors and psychologists in North America. (Mindful Eating) (Mental Health & Meditation)