What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present moment. When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them. Mindfulness involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. You awaken to the experience of living life.
Most of the thoughts we entertain are either from the past or from the future. Because the past no longer exists, and the future is not yet here, the only moment we can actually experience is the present. This present moment is the one we seem to avoid the most by perpetually reliving the past and fantasizing about the future.
Left to its own devices, our thoughts wander in an unrestricted way. When the thoughts are those of anger, craving, depression, revenge, self-pity, etc., we reinforce those emotions in our hearts and cause ourselves to suffer. When there is no conscious attempt to bring our awareness back to the present moment, we ‘check out’ of living in the Now.
Why is mindfulness important?
- Mindfulness practices reduces stress, anxiety, pain, change and illness
- Mindfulness practices help you develop a non-judgmental awareness leading to a deep sense of inner peace and calm and increased self-esteem.
- Mindfulness can enable you to see things differently by undoing mental and physical knots, tensions and anxiety.
- Mindfulness helps nurture the mind-body connection
- Mindfulness boosts immune functioning, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk of heart disease.
- Mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure.
- Mindfulness reduces the kinds of impulsivity and reactivity that underlie depression, binge eating, and attention problems.
- Mindful people fight less with their romantic partners have more satisfying relationships.
Why do we ‘check out’ and avoid being truly present?
- Trauma: History of emotional, mental or physical trauma can make it too painful to be present.
- Coping: Seeking to minimize or tolerate stress or conflict.
- Sensory Overload: One or more of the body’s senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment.
- Normal Stress of life
- Compromised Health resulting in weakness, discomfort or pain
- Mental or Emotional Dis-Ease
- Dissatisfaction with the present situation, and fantasy about the future.
- Guilt or resentment from the past.
How does mindfulness relate to Massage?
Have you ever found yourself getting a massage, and suddenly notice that you were so caught up thinking about an email from your boss that you never at all relaxed into the massage? First, congratulate yourself on noticing that, for that in itself is a moment of mindfulness. Secondly, shift your awareness to the present moment.
To shift your focus to the present, put extra focus into the moment by coming into your senses:
- Feel the pleasure of the massage.
- Become aware of fragrance of the oils.
- Listen to the relaxing sounds of the background music.
- Link the movement of the massage to that of your breath.
- Notice any distracting thoughts come into your mind and simply remind yourself that you are ‘thinking’ and let those thoughts go.
Mindfulness Tips from the Pros
We asked our team to share their go-to ways that they use mindfulness practices to find stillness and balance of the mind. Here is what they have to share with you:
- I find when I am away from nature for too long my mind gets noisy and I become more self-critical. Getting outside with my camera helps me to slow down and notice that life exists on so many more levels than just my thoughts. Observing a mom and baby deer grazing, or a bee pollinating a wildflower helps me feel peaceful. Amy, Mind Body Director and Yoga Teacher
- Focus on your breath. The breathing cycle is ever-flowing and always there to help us focus ourselves when we start to feel stressed. You can always go to the breath. Feel, watch, observe it, nothing else and soon you’ll feel more relaxed. Whitney, LMT
When we live in the past or future, we miss out on the freedom and peace in the Now. Start getting the most out of your life experiences.