Mindfulness seems like a new-age term, yet its roots are founded in ancient practices, such as yoga and meditation. In practical terms mindfulness is the practice of bringing the mind’s attention into the present moment.
Training our mind to attune to the present moment, rather than focus on the future or the past, is an art.
As mammals, our brain’s are geared towards survival and thus limited thinking, which lead to cycles of negativity rather than creative use of our lives. But we are more than our genes and the reptilian brain, if we choose to cultivate new patterns.
Our biological genes make up one-third of our predisposition to leading a long [healthy] life. The other two-third’s are made up by our lifestyle choices and chance.
With this knowledge, we can see that our everyday thinking patterns, and the choices we make, significantly influence the state of our well-being and health. Granted life happens AND the mind is very powerful.
To begin a mindfulness practice, sit still for 5 minutes or use breathing techniques to relax, which serves as a means to bare-witness to the present moment. Much of the world is geared in distraction-busyness, and thus natural state of relaxation is foreign.
What is foreign is typically resisted.
Opening to mindfulness requires one to slow down enough to be still. Stillness helps us RECOVER and HEAL, literally creating new neural pathways in the brain.
We all have days, weeks or months that are busier than others, so maintaining a mindfulness practice may seem overwhelming at times. Thus it’s helpful to remember, implicit memories lie below awareness, but powerfully shape our minds.
The bias of the brain tilts towards negativity, and we can remedy this by consciously looking for and taking in positive experiences (like breathing them in). When we have positive experiences, let them sink into, soothe and replace old pains. When negative material arises, bring to mind the positive experiences.
Some simple tools to help us maintain mindfulness:
- Turn positive facts into positive experiences
- Savor experiences
- Allow experiences to sink in
How do we do this? We can practice breathing in, through the nose, for a count of 4, hold that same breath for a count of 7, and breath out, through the mouth, for a count of 8. This may help us calm down, slow down, and ground ourselves into a receptive creative, an open-minded mode.
Listen here, to John-Kabat Zinn, father of the Mindfulness, about the effects of mindfulness on the brain.
Heidi Most–Associate MUIH Professor, Power Point and Text