"Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, moment on moment, without judgement."
Jon Kabat- Zinn
To me, mindfulness is a dedicated meeting space to fully see and connect whole heartedly with your core sense of being. A rhythmic opportunity for silence, stillness and solitude that has a ripple effect and quality which permeates your daily life, creating a space where life can truly unfold. It's like having a soul friend who doesn't judge you. An inner sanctuary amidst the frantic 'doing mode' of modern living. If formal mediation, breathing practice, or zafu sitting is not for you, then fear not, as I have some suggestions coming right up. But first...
A Little Science Bit
Neurons that fire together, wire together. This is really important for anyone interested or practising mindfulness because growing scientific evidence shows many benefits from using mindfulness practices to directly work on the middle of the pre-frontal cortex (largely thinking part of the brain which is most developed as humans). The most typical psychological term for functions carried out by the prefrontal cortex area is executive function. Executive function basically relates to abilities to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different, future consequences of current activities, working toward a defined goal, prediction of outcomes, expectation based on actions, and social 'control' (the ability to suppress urges that, if not suppressed, could lead to socially unacceptable outcomes). Research outcomes show that mindfulness improves our wider perspective functioning, self-awareness and insight, empathy and emotional regulation and even morality.
In theory, this all sounds amazing but finding the time and practice that suits you can be challenging. Formal breathing mediation is not everyone's cup of tea. Others may find that they are quite energetic and would prefer to be moving around more. For others, they may be fearful of unwanted thoughts, feelings or sensations that might arise when they sit with themselves and so it can at times be overwhelming to even consider.
Here are some suggestions for anyone who is interested (or who has tried and struggled but is still interested) in finding what works for them. Let's get that executive functioning warmed up and see what works for you!
1) Keep An Open Mind - This is all about flexibility and being willing to explore other forms of practice.
2) Make Time - Finding what form of practice works for you will only happen if you actually protect and value the time in doing so. No excuses here. That said, it is also your choice if you decide not to, so there is no judgement attached. Don't beat yourself up about it :) We are all different.
3) Reflection - Reflect back on previous activities or tasks you engaged in that brought a sense of calm, attention in the moment, focus and presence. Also reflect on the things that didn't work for you and note down why that was. Was it a physical, emotional or psychological discomfort?
4) Try New Things - Finding your thing is so important. Give yourself permission to actively try new things for example, if it a moving form of practice for example yoga, or playing music, gardening, cooking or walking etc. Connection to yourself fully in the present moment for that time is really key.
5) Be Curiously Bored - Being bored is not a bad thing. It is a sign that you are being with yourself. It may be that you are finding it hard to slow down because of stimulation. Allowing yourself restful periods can be helpful. Don't rush into doing something right away. Refine how you wish to use that time with yourself that is calming, soothing and connecting.
If you would like to explore mindfulness reading and practice guidance further in more depth, including compassion and creativity, then check out our Connected Lifestyle Design eBook which you can download for free by signing up to the website newsletter. Feel free to send over any questions and comments on our Instagram grid. I look forward to chatting :)
Founder, CBT Therapist, Moore & Moore Living