Every single day, we perform thousands upon thousands of actions. We are not even aware of most of them. In fact, if you make a list of your daily number of activities from morning to night, you will be astonished to find that the list just goes on and on.
Even when you’re not doing anything and just sitting idly, you will be thinking about something or other. If you’re not doing even that, you will at least be breathing.
Out of all the countless actions that we perform every day, we are hardly ever aware of more than a handful in an active capacity. It appears as though we have learned to operate on autopilot.
While that might seem like a good thing, it really isn’t. When you’re on autopilot mode, you tend to do things on a whim.
You are not completely involved in your decisions and as a result; you do not completely pay attention to the consequences of your actions. You let the noise of the outside world cloud your judgement and therein lies the problem.
Mindfulness solves this. That is why it is such a popular topic these days. What was once considered to be in the realm of spiritual gurus is now being actively pursued by everyday people.
So, what is mindfulness? In very simple words, it is the state of being conscious about the present moment and everything it entails. The immensity of its importance, especially in the modern era, cannot be stressed enough.
What Are The Foundations of Mindfulness?
Even though mindfulness may sound like a simplistic concept, it is anything but. The depth of it reaches deeper than the deepest of oceans. But once you understand it in its entirety, you will be all the wiser for it and your life will never be the same.
To do so, you must fathom the four fundamentals of mindfulness that were proposed by Buddha himself. The four foundations are:
Mindfulness of The Body
Your physical body is the first thing that you identify as your “self”. It’s literally the basis of your existence on the planet. But how much do you pay attention to the different aspects of it?
The first foundation of mindfulness is all about being conscious about your body as a collection of parts, all coming together to make what you call “you”.
The most prominent method to be mindful of your body is to pay attention to your breath. It is best done as a daily ritual. You can simply sit or even lay on the bed and just notice how you breathe.
Even when you are walking, standing or lying down, just be conscious about your whole body. These simple practices will go a long way in ensuring you establish the first foundation of mindfulness.
Mindfulness of Mind
Your mind plays an important role in how you lead your life. It encompasses your thoughts, mindset, desires and much more. To be mindful of all these different aspects is to understand the quality of your mind.
If you just sit down and consciously realise your general mental state in a non-judgmental way, you will be able to lay down the second foundation of mindfulness.
This involves exploring whether the mind is concentrated or scattered, contracted or expanded and whether it has lust, greed, desires, hatred, delusions, etc. Only when you explore do you know. Only when you know, can you be mindful.
Mindfulness of Feelings
Your feelings, believe it or not, influence all your actions directly. They hold control over the steering wheel of your life. If you want to be mindful of your feelings, you need to discover the rudimentary feeling that is associated with all your experiences.
This means you need to determine whether a certain experience invokes pleasure, displeasure or neutrality and whether your feelings are worldly or spiritual.
Mindfulness of Dhamma
This foundation is kind of an amalgamation of the previous foundations and is a stage where you have total awareness of the various physical and mental processes.
It is these processes that makeup dhamma. As far as your “being” is concerned, dhammas are all there is, at the most fundamental level.
Are Mindfulness And Meditation The Same Thing?
When people talk about mindfulness, they mainly refer to the quality of being rooted in the present moment and viewing everything in a non-judgemental manner.
It evokes a sense of calm and peace within yourself, and that’s why it is quite easy to mistake it for meditation. While meditation and mindfulness incorporate similar concepts and can even overlap, they are different in some fundamental ways.
Meditation is an intentional practise that is usually done in a fixed posture – by sitting down in a cross-legged position. There are many types of meditation, each focusing on a different dimension of being.
Some meditations require you to remain thought-less while some require you to pay undivided attention to a single thought. Some types are done to increase calmness and emotional balance while others are done to visualise your desires so that you can manifest them by mobilizing the right type of energies within you.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, is all about being aware – awareness of thoughts, emotions, feelings, choices, decisions, etc. It can also be done anytime and anywhere and doesn’t require you to sit in a fixed posture.
In fact, if you become capable enough, you can practice mindfulness every single moment of the day. That’s because you become used to just giving one hundred percent involvement in whatever you are doing.
Why Is Mindfulness Important?
We are all blessed with infinite potential, but to translate that into tangible accomplishments requires effort and making the right choices along the way.
Mindfulness serves as your Zen master, if you will, to guide you throughout your journey. It helps you bring out your immense inner potential and make use of it to achieve whatever goals you have set for yourself.
Mindfulness also helps you get your emotions in order so you can use them as tools to get things done. As a result, you have control over your emotions and not the other way around.
This puts you in a much better position to face life’s many difficulties and challenges. Being mindful also makes you appreciate the phenomenon of life itself. You become more in sync with your surroundings and other life forms in the world.
Another important point to note is that when you are mindful of the littlest things, being utterly involved in every action becomes your second nature.
This leads you to make much better decisions. And as we all know, your life is the sum of all your past decisions. Therefore, it will benefit you you to try to make as many right decisions as possible. Being mindful helps you achieve exactly that.
What Are The Benefits of Mindfulness?
The one that is common among all human beings is that we want to live a better life and want to enhance the different aspects of our lives. We want to ensure that there is more pleasure in our lives and we can all be happier.
It’s these things that all our efforts boil down to. Fortunately, mindfulness can really make a lasting impact in helping us do that. The following are some of the most important benefits of being mindful which lead us to a better life.
Owing to the fast-paced modern lifestyle, sleep has become more of a luxury. People are increasingly becoming more and more sleep-deprived as they spend a lot of time working hard or spend all day sitting in front of a computer.
Practicing mindfulness can help improve your sleep quality and quantity. According to a study conducted in the Netherlands in 2015, even small amounts of mindfulness meditation can help calm your hyperactive mind and lead to better sleep.
At the end of the day, it is all about achieving peace within you.
Reduced Anxiety and Depression
It is quite worrying that depression is an increasing trend in the world. It’s not surprising at all, given the sheer amount of things that an average person has to deal with on a daily basis.
Add to that the uncertainties of modern life, and it quickly becomes clear why people are so anxious these days and why many of them find their way into depression.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has been shown to help prevent and treat depression. It helps people focus on the present moment by providing several tasks and exercises.
They also help them to ease up on their uncertainties and insecurities that might be eating away at them. Even the American Psychological Association talks about its importance.
The number one source of stress among people today is the future. As we all know, the future is uncertain, and there’s no telling what will happen. When it comes to life and work, the uncertainties involved can be a huge source of stress.
That’s because your entire life could come to a standstill if say, you lose your job or are involved in an accident. The situation is worse for those who have a family depending on them.
When you practice mindfulness, though, your focus gets shifted from the future to the present moment. It helps you do your best in the present, which builds up over time to a great future.
Improved cognition can be an immensely useful asset in virtually everything you do. Although it was earlier believed that too much time and effort had to be invested in practicing mindfulness to achieve this benefit, it seems like that is not the case.
In a 2010 study, they found that even short spurts of mindfulness training can improve a person’s visuospatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning. Imagine what long stretches of training could help you achieve!
How Do You Practice Mindfulness?
Living in the present is something that we can all do. It just entails making a concrete decision about being mindful and striving to bring your focus to the present moment and present activity whenever you feel like you have steered off.
As with any other quality, it might take some time to develop, but if you really want to bring a change in your life, that shouldn’t stop you.
You can follow some simple ways to ease into being more mindful. When you are having your meal, stop looking at your phone or watching a tv show and focus completely on what you’re eating.
You can also sit quietly at night and observe your breathing. This helps you centre your focus on a particular activity. You can also observe your thoughts and emotions in a way like someone else would.
Practice detachment from yourself and the whole process will become a lot easier.
There are many other little ways that you can follow. Walking mindfully, connecting with your senses, listening wholeheartedly to other people, meditating daily, travelling, taking pauses and reflection times, etc are all very good ways to enhance your mindfulness that can easily be incorporated into your daily life.
There are even guided meditation and exercise videos that can also help you.
Does Mindfulness Really Work?
Based on the first-hand experience of millions of people in the world and the scientific studies that have been conducted in this area, it’s pretty apparent that mindfulness works. It has become an important tool for the people in today’s world, which is filled with noise, chaos and distractions.
Make a point of practicing mindfulness every day and little by little it will transform your life for the better.