There’s an amazing epidemic sweeping America and it’s a healthy, vital and enriching one. In every walk of life people are hearing about the value and importance of mindfulness and meditation. Yoga is now available on every street corner and mindfulness is fast catching up.
Ohio congressman Tim Ryan, author of A Mindful Nation, calls mindfulness a “meditative practice that focuses on the present moment instead of worrying about the past or future.” He has helped land a $1 million grant in 2009 for Youngstown and Warren schools to teach mindfulness to elementary students. We interviewed Congressman Ryan on our radio show, and his commitment to mindfulness and meditation is awe-inspiring.
Mindfulness – which is being present and aware – enables stress to be released, difficulties become workable, and true happiness become possible. Meditation is the training ground for mindfulness, as it teaches us how to focus our attention. But how does mindfulness shift our priorities and enable us to make friends with ourselves?
Here are some of the ways mindfulness and meditation can make your life more meaningful and enjoyable!
1. Stress Out, Relaxation In
It only takes a few minutes to chill out. As soon as we start paying attention, being aware and mindful of what is going on, then our whole physiology responds by calming the stress response and increasing the relaxation response, says our partner at RevolutionaryMindfulness.com, Brian Jones.
Meditation and medication are derived from the Latin word medicus: to care or to cure. Which means both meditation and mindfulness are, therefore, the most effective remedy for a busy and overworked mind.
Anytime you feel stress rising, heart closing, mind going into overwhelm, just bring your focus to your breathing and quietly repeat with each in- and out-breath: Breathing in, I calm the body and mind; breathing out, I smile. Becoming aware of the breath makes it easy to then be awareness to your body, thoughts, feelings, and your world.
2. Appreciating the Details
Mindfulness brings us into an awareness of all the small things – those that get missed when we are stressed, and which give life real meaning. Take a moment right now to appreciate the chair you are sitting on. Consider how the chair was made: the wood, cotton, wool, or other fibers, the trees and plants that were used, the earth that grew the trees, the sun and rain, the animals that maybe gave their lives, the people who prepared the materials, the place where the chair was made, the designer and carpenter and seamstress, the shop that sold it—all this just so you could be sitting here, now. Then extend that appreciation to everything and everyone, so you take nothing for granted.
3. From Self-centeredness to Other-centeredness
Mindfulness increases awareness of ourselves, which means we become aware of any self-centeredness, selfishness, and neurosis. We don’t often accept negative feelings too easily, we’re more likely to repress or disown them. But when denied they cause shame, depression, anger, and anxiety. Mindfulness invites us to openly meet these places, to see how selfishness, aversion and ignorance create endless dramas and fears.
Mindfulness also connects us to the stillness that is always there between our thoughts, behind the story, beneath the noise. And it enables us to be less focused on ourselves, more aware of others, and more aware of the interconnection between us.
4. Kindness Rocks
In a stressed state, we lose touch with inner peace, compassion and kindness; in a relaxed state, our mind is clear and we can connect with a deeper sense of purpose and altruism. Mindfulness awakens us to caring and kindness: how can we cause harm when we are aware that in the process we are also causing ourselves harm? Simply through the intent to cause less pain you can bring greater dignity to your world so that harm is replaced with kindness.
Every time you see or feel suffering, every time you make a mistake or say something stupid and are just about to put yourself down, every time you think of someone you are having a hard time with, every time you encounter the confusion and difficulty of being human, every time you see someone else struggling, upset or irritated, you can bring kindness and compassion. Breathing gently, silently repeat: May I be well, may I be happy, may I be filled with loving kindness; May they be well, may they be happy, may they be filled with loving kindness.