Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Practice Mindfulness for a Healthier, Happier YOU

Present-moment awareness, also called mindfulness, is at the root of the teachings of Buddhism, Taoism and—most recently—spiritual gurus like Eckhart Tolle.

But what is mindfulness and why is it so important?

Putting your attention on the present moment calms a mind awash in a flood of thoughts, constant thoughts. Most of these thoughts are negative, Monday morning quarterbacking thoughts. “I shouldn’t have done this. I should have done that. Oh why did I do that?”

These thoughts create an enormous amount of stress which, as we now know, negatively affects our bodies. But practicing mindfulness reduces the health effects of a rambling, anxiety-producing mind.

According to Psychology Today, “Mindfulness reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure and helps patients cope with cancer. By alleviating stress, spending a few minutes a day actively focusing on living in the moment reduces the risks of heart disease. Mindfulness by even slow the progress of HIV.”

Such powerful effects from the simple practice of mindfulness are not unusual, they are the norm. I guess Buddha and ancient Chinese Taoist Philosopher Lao Tzu knew what they were talking about!

Beginning Steps in Mindfulness

You can begin your practice of living in the present moment, or mindfulness, with a simple step.

Several times a day, bring your total awareness to the present moment. If you are washing dishes, bring your entire attention to the act of washing dishes. If you are writing a short story, bring your entire attention to the act of writing your story. If you are playing with your children, bring your total attention to your children.

During these brief, beginning practices of mindfulness, your mind will wander. Trust me. When your mind wanders just gently, without condemnation, bring your mind back to the present moment. Stay in the present moment as long as possible each session and then gradually extend those moments of mindfulness.

When you practice mindfulness, notice how peaceful you become. You become peaceful because most of your thoughts are anxious and pointless “what ifs” about the future or anxious and equally pointless guilt or regret about the past.

Only one event at a time is possible in the present moment. Whatever happens in the present moment, you can deal with it.

And then you go onto the next present moment.

Try mindfulness and see how calm, happy, and healthy you will become. Let me know of your results with living in the present moment.

In upcoming posts, I will give you some specific strategies for practicing that state of mindfulness of which Buddha and the Tao Te Ching speaks.

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