A Mind “FULL” Moment

Sometimes my mind is buzzing. And when it’s like this I feel like my whole body is buzzing. I lurch from emails to Whatsapps to calls. My to-do list feels like it grows with every passing minute. And then, when I have a free moment, I find myself on Facebook, filling that quiet moment with yet more stimulation. More buzzing. More information.

It’s like my brain has been trained to crave stimulation. To crave busyness. To crave connection. And through my actions I’m teaching our children the same. This is how it is to be in this world. That Mummy just has to reply to this, to that, to “quickly” do something and then she will be there. Then you will have her attention. But as I settle down to listen to reading, to do homework, to hear a story of the day, there’s that ping and that quick reply and Mummy is “gone” again. Not present. Not mindful. Not connected.

As Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Monk and Zen Master says “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” So why do I find it so hard to give this attention to my beloved children? To my husband? To myself? We are living in an epidemic of chronic mind “fullness”. We are living in a world that unless we consciously decide to live more mindfully and with more presence, it’s so much “easier” to be swept away in the busyness and franticness of life. Until we’re stopped in our tracks by life, by an illness, by a divorce, by a close friend’s tragic and untimely death. But do we need to have these life changing events to bring us to our senses and to give ourselves permission to pause and to live more mindfully?

Science and over three decades of research are now showing us how we can tap into peace and contentment at any time. How we can overcome anxiety, stress, exhaustion, and even deep seated depression. It’s not by adding something more to our life – another event, another course, another relationship, another promotion, another email or Whatsapp. It’s by tapping into what is already inside us in this moment. This was well understood by the ancient world and religions, and some cultures have kept it alive today. But the Western World has largely forgotten it and we have looked outside ourselves for happiness, peace, fulfilment and love. But now we are coming back to this ancient wisdom with the science and research to prove it.

And what is mindfulness? As Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is credited with “bringing mindfulness to the West” says, “The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” Mindfulness meditation is very simple. It’s tapping in to our bodies and our breath in the moment. It’s stopping to take a few deep breaths and being fully conscious of where we are, what we are doing and how we are feeling. Without judgement. I realise that I’m being carried away by my phone, I take a few breaths, I put it down, and I turn my attention to where I want to be fully present. Without judgement.

So many of us find this mindfulness in sport and exercise. I think that’s why mountain biking and trail running are so popular – because we are forced to be present and in the moment. We are not worrying about the future or the past and we can’t be on our devices, otherwise we’d fall off our bike! In South Africa we also experience it when we go to the “bush”, when we’re on safari. Again, it’s a space to feel fully present and alive, removed from the pressures of daily life, and it’s in these moments that we can tap into our innate contentment, peace and joy.

But how do we find this innate contentment, peace and joy when we’re not in the bush or not on our bikes? By cultivating mindfulness in our lives and by making it a daily practice. Starting our day with some space and calm by following a mindful meditation like Calm, Headspace or the Mindfulness App. Or interrupting the busyness of the day to take 5 minutes of calm. There are lots of free mindful meditations online – just Google them or start with Mindful.org which explains what mindfulness is, what the benefits are, the myths around mindfulness, gives simple mindful meditations, free app suggestions and more, in ways I cannot start to do in this short blog.

And please take 2 minutes to watch this little animation by Happify ‘Why Mindfulness is a Superpower’ (I’m very into my Superpowers!)

Finally, we have wonderful mindfulness teachers in Johannesburg, where I am based, and globally. Again, just Google or I’d be happy to put you in touch with teachers I know and can recommend. Mindfulness training is usually run as an 8 week course and is well worth the “investment”.

There are also so many wonderful books and I’ve listed some below – some are general, some are for pain relief, health and healing, some are for creativity, some are very amusing and some are for the sceptics! Karen Lane of Working Title stocks quite a few of them if you want to get your hands on one soon!

As Sharon Salzberg, a prominent mindfulness teacher says, “Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”

So, I’m off to make a cup of tea and to drink it slowly and mindfully, to be grateful for it and for the moment, so that I can calm that buzzing in my head and body. I hope you’ll join me!

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” Amit Ray

Mindfulness books:
Full Catastrophe Living – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness – a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world – Mark Williams and Danny Penman (comes with CD)
Mindfulness for Creativity: Adapt, Create and Thrive in a frantic world – Dr Danny Penman (also with CD)
Mindfulness for Health: A practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing – Vidymala Burch, Dr Danny Penman (CD included)
A mindfulness guide for the FRAZZLED – Ruby Wax
10% happier – how I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works – a true story – Dan Harris

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