WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness is a very complex subject. It ranges from a Spiritual discipline (Buddhism) to an area of scientific study by psychologists and neuroscientists. However, the meaning is fairly consistent across all of these broad disciplines. Mindfulness is simply being aware of our thoughts and internal experiences and staying in the present moment. At the FTCF, we view Mindfulness as a crucial practice of personal empowerment.
WHY IS BEING AWARE OF OUR THOUGHTS SO IMPORTANT?
Most of our behaviors and responses to external events became programmed in us in our very tender years. We learned these behaviors and responses from our caretakers and others around us, with most of them programmed before we were 5 years old. When we were a toddler in the sandbox, one of our sandbox mates grabbed a toy shovel out of our hands and we may have cried or threw our pail at him. Thirty years later, when we feel invaded, we either run for the tissue box, or reach for the nearest thing to throw. Our responses are still basically the same. We often react without conscious thought or intervention, allowing our old programs to drive our bus. The goal of mindfulness is to be aware of who is driving the bus.
Being mindful of the driver of our bus is a major step up the empowerment ladder. Before we react to an external event based on old programs, we can make a choice to stop and evaluate our response to see if our reaction really reflects more of our evolved selves. Crying or throwing something at someone may not be the highest road we can take. It is simple to choose a different response and action, and most of us will if we can stop the automatic behaviors and make a different choice. However, remembering that we do have a choice to do something different is challenging. Being mindful of what we are doing is a process that takes practice, but has tremendous pay outs. Our meditations and daily exercises are designed to assist us in this process of putting our conscious, grown up self in the driver seat.
STAYING IN THE PRESENT MOMENT
We are “in the moment” when we are not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. This, unfortunately, is not very often. When we are present in the moment, our attention is focused on the present task, not rehashing what we did yesterday or thinking about the laundry list of things that need to be done later in the day. Professional athletes understand this. They would not be pros if they could not “stay in the game”. Being present in the moment is a matter of personal empowerment- allowing our conscious self to drive our thoughts, and not our thoughts driving us hither and yon.
PHYSICAL BENEFITS OF STAYING MINDFUL
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is the foremost Western mindfulness expert. A Ph.D. graduate in molecular biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, he founded the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Clinic in 1979.
In 1982, Zinn’s research article on using mindfulness in the treatment of pain became the first such study ever published in a bona fide academic journal. The paper reported that a majority of patients, “reported ‘great’ or ‘moderate’ pain reduction, and even if their pain didn’t disappear, they experienced less depression, tension, anxiety, fatigue, and confusion.” Current reports, such as research from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center tell us that, just in the last ten years, “significant research has shown mindfulness to address health issues such as lower blood pressure, an enhanced immune response; increase attention and focus, including aid those suffering from ADHD; help with difficult mental states such as anxiety and depression, fostering well-being and less emotional reactivity; and thicken the brain in areas in charge of decision making, emotional flexibility, and empathy.”
Also research has shown mindfulness aids with loneliness and boosting the immune system. Other research has studied the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace, in struggling school systems and football fields, in K-12 educational settings, with teacher stress, with Alzheimer’s patients, in the slowing of aging, and many other populations.
SPIRITUAL CONCERNS REGARDING MINDFULNESS
As sparks of Source, we have the ability to create, and the vehicle for this creation is our thoughts. Our thoughts are energy, and they are not just inconsequential bursts of energy that exist for a moment, and are never encountered again. Our thoughts are made of energy higher in quantum than we currently can experience with our 5 senses. The energies our thoughts project are out of our range of perception, as most of creation is. Only a miniscule portion of the vast dance of creation is captured by our 5 senses. However, even though it is beyond our senses, does not mean it does not exist, and does not mean we are not influenced by it.
All of creation that exists on this planet began with a thought. When our thoughts shower or shine forth from our physical body, they are released from our physical and energetic body into the “Unified Field of Creation”. The Unified Field is all of the energy we are experiencing inside ourselves and everything outside of our bodies – the entire cosmos. Like energy attracts like energy. This means that when our thoughts shine forth from us, they group with other thought patterns that share the same energetic encryption. So, not only are our thoughts creating our personal life experience but the thoughts of the masses ( aka collective unconscious or mass consciousness) become this entire reality field that we call life on earth.
We may have learned in science class that all “inanimate objects” are also composed of molecules and this implies they too are made of energy. All of creation is made of energy; it is made of the energy of Source. What 3D science cannot yet prove is “where” that energy originates from and where does it go when it leaves our 5 sense perception because their instruments cannot yet measure it. Science is speculating about such concepts in their study of quantum physics but until 3D science can accept the truth of a Conscious Creator Force (Source) they will not fully understand the answers to these questions simply because creation is not just made of the energy of Source, creation IS Source experiencing It Self. Which means creation is also “Spiritual”.
When we as life forms can remember we ARE sparks of Source and that we ARE co-creating our life experience with Source, then we become more responsible for the thoughts we generate. Ideally, the co-creation that we do is conscious co-creation, meaning we are making active, responsible choices in our thinking. If we do not like the experiences we are creating, changing our thoughts and being consistent in that change will manifest a different reality.
If we are constantly creating and attracting things into our lives, it is important to think thoughts that will manifest joy and abundance into our lives. This is not done by letting our thoughts drive the bus. It is important to “think before we think,” or become mindful.
Once the choice is made to be mindful of our thoughts and their resultant manifestations, we are faced with the issue of staying mindful. Our thoughts are lightning fast, and can jump from one subject to another in a fraction of a second. While being 100% mindful all through our waking moments is a noble quest, it is not a reality most of us will achieve, at least not here on planet Earth. But we can make strides to gain more conscious control over our thoughts. And like most things, the more we practice, the more proficient we become.
When first learning to practice mindfulness, it is helpful to start by becoming the watcher of your thoughts. We just want to observe our thoughts and allow them to flow in and through us. We do not want to judge them. The most important time to practice mindfulness is when we feel uncomfortable emotions (e motion = energy in motion). When those uncomfortable energies begin to flow, we can step back and see what is going on in our minds. Why is that emotion occurring? Is this an old pattern? When we take that step back, it is a choice to become the driver of the bus which presents us with an opportunity to direct our thoughts, rather than our thoughts directing us.
SOME PRACTICAL TIPS FOR STAYING MINDFUL
- Physical Reminders. These can be anything: from sticky notes around your home, work, or car reminding you to stay mindful; to something worn on the body; even something as simple as a string around your finger or a rubber band on your wrist.
- There’s an app for that. Yes, there are apps for our mobile devices that will assist us in staying mindful and monitoring our thoughts and moods. There are several, as a matter of fact! Or simply program the alarm on your smart phone to beep several times a day to remind you to do a “thought check.”
- Monitor your progress. Keep a journal or diary but rather than focus on your daily activities, focus on your thoughts and emotions throughout the day.
- Take Mindfulness breaks throughout the day. These can range from a few seconds where you take a few deep breaths and relax and slow down the speeding thought train, to 20 minute meditations done every day.