Mindfulness is at the heart of living a holistic lifestyle. It touches everything we do – the way we move, eat, think, work and interact with each other.
Many of us are obsessed with being healthy and fit, including the optimal exercise routine, the newest superfoods to eat and the healthiest way of preparing our meals (raw, juicing, fermenting, etc.) But in order to live a healthy and balanced life, it is not enough to change what we do, but also how we do it.
We are living in a time of unprecedented pace of change, pressure and uncertainty. “Are you busy?” has become the new “how are you?” and feeling stressed is a constant companion to most of us.
The digital age is challenging us individually and collectively. We are constantly distracted and never fully present to any of the activities that we are doing: we text while we cross the street, worry about our bonus while we exercise, tweet while we are having a conversation and eat on the go or at our desks while having a conference call and checking emails at the same time.
The problem is, whenever we are distracted, faced with change or under pressure, there is a tendency to get tripped up by our nervous system and react unconsciously with “fight-flight-freeze” as if we were still living in the Stone Age. And if we eat while on the go or stressed at our desks, our bodies are pumped with cortisol and we put on weight despite the healthiest food choices.
Yet our educational system does not teach us how to deal with this environment of distractions, change, ambiguity and pressure. As a result, we are largely left to our own devices when it comes to managing our inner landscape of thoughts, emotions and distractability.
Mindfulness allows us to do precisely that, to manage our inner landscape, train our ability to stay focused and present and respond skilfully to what the situation requires. Mindfulness is an ancient contemplative science that has two elements: the formal element, which is called meditation and the informal element where we apply what we learned “on the cushion” to “off the cushion” in our lives at large.
In the formal meditation, we train our attention muscle by focusing on our breath or bodily sensations. Training our attention increases our self-awareness, which is the first step to self-mastery. We also learn skills such as the ability to focus, cultivating a “beginner´s mind”, patience, equanimity, self-compassion, impulse control and curiosity.
Mindfulness is not just another activity, which we add on to our already too busy schedules, but a skill that we apply to everything we do. It is not just nice to have but a core capacity for operating healthily and happily in today´s world.
Tips on how to start your mindfulness practice:
• Make a formal commitment with yourself to sit every day for meditation practice.
• Like training for a marathon, start with a length of time that you can do every day, which is challenging you enough, but does not feel like a chore. Then gradually increase the length of practice.
• Focus on whatever you are doing while you are doing it: when you eat, just eat -really chew and taste your food and while you exercise, just exercise – listen to your body´s signals and be mindful of the muscle groups you are exercising.