I’ve always liked the idea of mindfulness. Like many mums, I suffer with a nagging guilt that I don’t pay enough attention to the present, that I spend too much time on my phone whilst my children are growing up fast in front of me. I also liked the idea that mindfulness might help with my lack of patience and that it might help me to calm my brain from the constant thinking, planning and worrying; to enjoy more of the here and now.
After a taster session in July, I got hold of the book that was recommended by the tutor, and was immediately put off by the fact that you had to follow mediation exercises every day whilst reading the book. I was sceptical. I came up with a load of reasons this would be impossible to do, mostly revolving around having 2 young noisy children in the house. But in January with my resolutions for books to read this year, I decided to give this book another shot and MAKE time to do the meditations mostly whilst the youngest was at pre-school.
To start with, the meditation exercises are about 5 minutes and so I found it fairly easy to squeeze into my day and the novelty of listening to the CD meant I was concentrating but still frustrated that nothing was really “happening”.
As the weeks went on and the mediations got longer, I was finding it more of a chore. I was losing my concentration. Listening to the same mediation for a week meant I was often not really paying attention, I was just going through the motions to get the mediation done.
What Mindfulness is About
Ironically, this is what the practice of mindfulness is about. Recognising when your mind is wandering off and bringing your thoughts back to the present and what you’re supposed to be focusing on.
Things got interesting for me in about week 4 when the meditations began to focus more on thoughts and the thought process.
Mindfulness is about training your brain to accept what is happening in the present. It’s about calmly observing and accepting your thoughts and feelings and letting them be at that moment, whether they are happy or sad. It’s about recognising that brains often try to help solve problems or issues by reflecting on our past experiences. This can lead to a downward spiral of negativity, a constant feeling of “not being good enough” or “a failure.”
My epiphany moment came this week when I realised that mindfulness won’t make me a happier person or a more patient person. The book talks about how it won’t provide a bridge between being unhappy and becoming happy. The aim is be more accepting of ourselves and observing our thoughts and feelings. In doing this, we take the pressure off ourselves to try and feel something else.
Some Points to Help With Training Your Brain to Keeping You in The Moment
As well as the daily meditations here are some of the other exercises that the book recommends to help you appreciate your present moment:
- Changing routines and breaking habits. When we are on autopilot we don’t really think about what we are doing, so the book recommends you make an effort to sit in a different seat at work or at the dining room table and taking a different route on a regular journey.
- Taking a walk once a week. And clearly noticing the sights and sounds that go on around you.
- Fully concentrate on a daily job. Whether it’s brushing your teeth, boiling the kettle or doing the washing, by truly focusing on all the sights, sounds and other senses about that job that we often fail to notice.
- Creating a list of things to be thankful for.
- Only watching the TV programmes you want to watch instead of having it on constantly in the background.
What I Think Now
I’ve still got several weeks to go. I’m determined to finish the course. No doubt I’ll still have days where I feel that the meditations are a pain and a chore to do every day, especially as they now take half an hour out of my day.
Reading this post back, I realise that it sounds a bit fluffy and some people will think of it as mumbo jumbo, but I do believe that the brain behaves like a muscle which needs to be trained and exercised.
For me, I have found it useful to recognise when my brain is going into a cycle of reverting back to past situations or focuses on negative thoughts and to use the practice of mindfulness to break the cycle. Some of the tips mentioned above are also good to think about every now and then too.
I’m still a sucker for realising that I’ve been sat on my phone for 20 minutes or half an hour when I should be playing with my kids, but I’d like to think that I’m much more aware now of my mind patterns and keeping them in check now.
I’d love to hear about your experiences of mindfulness or if it’s something you would be willing to try?!