How Mindfulness Works

Mindfulness is primarily about awareness and noticing. It’s about paying attention, maybe just for a moment, catching ourselves, noticing something simple , like our breath, the colour of a plant or a sound & slowing down.

We spend a lot of our lives in what is termed ‘automatic pilot’. This is the time, when perhaps we drive somewhere and arrive, without having noticed the journey at all, we were so caught up in thought. This analogy can be extended to our lives in general. We can find ourselves caught in thought about the future, with planning or drifting back to the past, with remembering. Sometimes these actions can be both helpful & pleasurable but sometimes not.

Mindfulness invites us to pay attention to the now. As I write these words, I am aware of my body on the chair, the way my feet are crossed under me, the slight pressure on my right forearm. As a result I adjust my posture, I feel more alert, focussed and comfortable!

It’s perhaps too easy to just say, ‘well pay attention’ and everything will be fine..what happens when we pay attention to negative, unpleasant or sad things in our life’s?

Well, negative thoughts can often be expressed in the body, so when you feel yourself being drawn away into ruminative thinking, take a moment to check in with your body, what’s going on for you right now? By noticing these, we can start to relate with curiosity and kindness to our physical sensations, as if an injured child or small creature. In doing so we disentangle ourselves from our internal dialogue, it gives us another place to stand & view our thoughts and it often reduces the emotional charge that accompanies a thought or memory.

As with any training, it takes time for the new concepts to take hold. What we are learning to do here is not to stop thinking or to force our thoughts away but how we can relate differently to those thoughts.

So next time you start to feel like your thoughts are running the show try these simple steps;

1. Firstly, praise yourself for noticing… don’t underestimate what a big step this is.
2. If you can, physically pause, even for a moment. Notice your posture & any sensations in your body.
3. Take 3 or 4 slow breaths, each time saying ‘I notice the breath coming in, I notice the breath coming out’.
4. Re-check with your body. If you’re standing, feel the body supported through your feet to the ground or if sitting, your bottom on the seat.
5. Finally praise yourself again for taking time to notice what you have just achieved.

This type of sequence, practised regularly, will start to bring a sense of simple calm, peace & quiet order into our lives. It takes time but it’s worth it.

Till next time, go well.