In an increasingly chaotic world where we are surrounded by social media, technology, where multi-tasking is considered a way of life and being still is considered to be a waste of time, how do you connect with yourself. Where do you go to hear your inner voice? Do you know how to be mindful? Or, do you live constantly in the past and the future, never taking time to be present?
Mindfulness is a word that we hear a lot in the New Age community, but do we actually know what it means? The dictionary describes mindfulness as:
a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
It seems simple enough. Focus on the present moment. We’ve heard a lot about that too, just be completely present. I must have said those words thousands of times during my classes. Be present. No thoughts of the past, no thoughts of the future. Completely present, able to feel, think and accept the body without judgement.
Achieving this state of stillness in a world that becomes more and more chaotic and crowded with technology every day is becoming increasingly difficult. How do we find this stillness and quiet in everyday life when our phones are glued to our hands, with constant media intrusion via social media, television and the radio. We are constantly bombarded with intrusions and it seems impossible to find stillness and silence within ourselves.
Interestingly I LOVE load shedding. This uniquely South African phenomenon has gifted me silence. It is only when the power is off that we are able to realize how strong the background noise is all day, everyday: the hum of the fridge, the modem on the computer, the dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer all whirring away in the background. When we are blessed with load shedding suddenly we hear the birds, crickets a distant dog barking and it is so easy to be present without judgement.
The first step on the path to mindfulness is to be still. Physically still and to suspend movement in the body. If you try right now to completely stop moving, even just for a moment, become aware of how your thoughts slow down. When the body stops moving the thoughts automatically slow down. The awareness of the brain and mind is no longer on the body because the body is still. The purpose of asana in yoga is to strengthen the body to be able to sit in stillness. We need to be strong and flexible in order become completely still. When the body is not strong and flexible it needs to move and fidget constantly.
The next step is to follow your breath. Mentally begin to chant: inhale, two, three, exhale, two, three. This is the simplest way to bring your awareness to the present. When you consciously repeat the words inhale, two, three, exhale, two, three your mind is gently forced to release all other thoughts and with practice you will be able to reach that place of stillness without the words simply with the action of consciously inhaling and exhaling.
Silence is a rare gift – seek it, embrace it and enjoy it.
The magic happens in the space between, between breaths, between postures, between thoughts. The stillness and silence in the space between is what really matters.
Meditative Walk – an excercise in mindfulness
A walking meditation is a simple way to turn a mundane everyday activity into an exercise of mindfulness, bringing deep healing and feelings of peace and joy.
What You Need:
A human body.
A pleasant place to walk – either indoors or outside
A walking meditation can be practiced any time that we are walking and it can be practiced outdoors or even indoors during inclement weather. Practicing outdoors is preferred as it connects the senses to nature. Ideally remove your shoes and walk barefoot or wear shoes that allow your feet to spread naturally. When you stretch out your feet and toes completely, and let the entire bottom of your foot be in contact with the ground, nerves, arteries and meridians connected to the entire body are stimulated – which is very beneficial for our health.
Before you begin stand still, elongate the spine and integrate the senses. Become aware of the sights and sounds (eyes closed), feel the air on your skin and allow yourself to smile softly. Allow your awareness to move to your hips and legs and feet and begin to feel connected to mother earth.
As you begin to step forwards notice the placement of your feet, feel the foot connecting with the ground and notice how that feels. Allow your gaze to drift naturally downwards towards the ground in front of you. If you find your mind wandering silently chant a mantra that you are familiar with or simply repeat inhale, exhale.
Imagine each step is a complete journey in its own right. There is no destination. Feel each step as an expression of gratitude for your breath, for your body, for your spirit. Each step becomes an expression of love and deep gratitude for the earth, for your fellow being, for yourself.
Feel what you’re feeling. Stay with your feelings, both physical and emotional and allow them to simply be.
This simple practice can easily be incorporated into your daily routine. Notice how it changes the way you view your life when practiced regularly.