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By: CJ McGillivrayPublished On: September 14, 2021
Do you ever find that you get caught up in your thoughts, feelings and perceptions? Do you ever feel pulled in one direction as though you are losing your ability to focus on the here and now? So many of us experience this push and pull on a regular basis. Since you are reading these words, you probably are already curious about mindfulness and how it could radically improve your life. Maybe you are just on the cusp of some realizations or reassessments of your lifestyle, hopes and aspirations. Read on for a short and succinct overview of mindfulness including the definition and benefits of the practice, along with some practical words of advice to get you started.
Before you can practice mindfulness and really bring it into your life, you will need to have a working understanding of the concept. So how do we define mindfulness? Dr. Christopher Germer offers a compelling working definition in his academic article on the relevance of mindfulness. Coming from a psychotherapy perspective, he describes mindfulness as “a deceptively simple way of relating to experience” and making sense of the world around us. Mindfulness is essentially the practice of becoming more aware of our momentary thoughts or feelings and then accepting them without judgement. When you become more mindful, you are increasing your ability to live in the present moment and feel at ease with the world around you. You can also practice mindfulness for stress reduction or anxiety relief, without having to escape or chase away the feeling you are experiencing. The more mindful you are, the better equipped you will be to explore mental health through open and accessible conversations with your loved ones or colleagues. Your work or home life may still be chaotic now and then, but the chaos will have less power over you. Mindfulness training can help you to feel more comfortable embracing your authentic self and living in the truth of the moment. Sound compelling? Bringing mindfulness into your life can also improve your relationships alongside communication skills training and conscious effort to speak with intention.
Though it may not be immediately obvious, mindfulness is a powerful countercultural act. Modern western society is constantly telling us to do more and to be endlessly productive, but that is not the only way to live. By focusing on mindfulness instead of obsessing about the daily grind, you are going against the grain and acting in opposition to the mainstream in order to lead a more meaningful and fulfilled life. Philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti has a beautiful quote to describe this countercultural phenomenon. His personal belief is that “the ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” Emotional intelligence is not traditionally valued in the same way as business intuition or textbook knowledge, but he makes a fascinating point. Mindfulness, like minimalism training, also helps you to make space mentally for the things that really matter in life. What could be smarter or more logical than that?
One of the foundational principles shared in any mindfulness course is letting go of any perfectionism or expectations about how your practice should look and feel. Your progress and your daily routine will be unique to you. Your individual practice may include a meditation routine or other mindful habits and calming rituals. Perhaps you love your morning espresso, but you are always in too much of a rush to appreciate the moment. Adding mindfulness to your routine could mean waking up an extra five minutes early and giving yourself a moment to sit outside and sip your espresso, taking in the sights and sounds around you and simply existing. You can also try using essential oils or lighting scented candles to make your space more peaceful and tranquil in the evenings. Mindfulness is a beautiful act of compassion and care for yourself, so there should never be a requirement or pressure to spend money on $80 candles or bath bombs. Simply bring your authentic self into the moment and the rest will follow. You can then start bringing mindfulness into your daily life and all your interactions. Whatever place you are starting from, continuing education with a focus on mindfulness can lead to increased joy, ease and contentment.