The Importance Of Mindful Awareness Practices
Imagine driving a car for a journey and not remembering anything about it after reaching the destination. Has it ever happened to you that you started eating a pack of Doritos and all of a sudden all that was left was an empty packet? We all have been through this and these are all the examples of ‘mindlessness’. This is just like being in an autopilot mode where one is at ost to notice the real beauty of life, does not hear what our very own body is telling us and we all seem to be halt in conditions that are mechanically fixed ways of thinking and living that may be hazardous to ourselves or others. On autopilot it is more like ‘getting stuff done’ instead of really living. That may lead to the symptoms like stress, anxiety, reactivity and depression. Research shows, in fact, that the more our minds wander, the less happy we are. Mindfulness or mindful awareness is totally an opposite of where autopilot is switched of and ‘steering wheel is taken under ones’ own control’. Mindfulness includes paying attention to our thoughts and feelings with an impartial attitude — by not believing them or being taken personally. It is about being ‘not sleepy or awake’ and ‘present in our lives’. Jon Kabat-Zinn explains it on the basis of the an understanding that “the present is the only time that any of us have to be alive , to know anything, to perceive, to learn, to act, to change, to heal”.
Mindful awareness is a practice of cultivating the behavior of paying keen attention to our daily lives experiences from moment to moment that rules out any judgmental thoughts and actions. It is the little things (Woodbury, 2013). Compassion to life in such a way, learning to focus our attention to the moments allows for excess access to our very own intuition, insight, mental creativity, intellectuals and healings.
This practice considers thoughts and feelings as events only without letting the mind to react as an innate behavior of auto reactivity that is habitual. The concise and non-elaborative state of self-observation introduces a deepening ‘space’ between one’s perceptions and one’s responses. With mindful awareness we may transfer our relationship to our very own selves and our life experiences in a way that allows for more and more spaciousness, non-reactivity, acceptance and compassion that leads to a better and greatly improved quality of life.
Dissatisfaction and anger are the main layers we add to our own self by constant judging and evaluating that is happening around or within us and after that we compare it to ‘what it should be’. Cultivating mindful awareness may help us to turn to the challenges instead of reacting to them. As soon as there is a transfer from the hassles of every day thoughts and minds we discover solutions that are clearer and visible as we open our perspective more and more.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”- Victor Frankl, M.D.
Spirituality has been a major part of researches but with linking it to a religion, as a trait or concept, lacks scientific status and has generally minimal attention towards itself. Wherever ones’ life purpose is inner understandings and very own personal growth, spirituality has been distinguished from religion. Mindfulness is the key and basic element of the spiritual experience in a number of different religions and beliefs. Mindfulness practice relates to early days of Buddhism that dates back at least 2,500 years that has led to many spiritual experiences. As mindful awareness lets one connect with ones’ inner self and meet stillness, this has an important role to play in spiritual practice i.e. feelings of wonderment, awe and fascination. This may be the bewilderment one experiences when facing humongous vastness and spaciousness. Awe being defined as a feeling of fascination and amazement induced by an encounter with something larger than ourselves that is beyond our ordinary frameworks of understanding. And the researches have shown that spirituality, nature and art are the most common ways that we experience awe. The relationship between mindfulness and awe also seems to be mediated by accommodation. When we practice mindfulness i.e. being non-judgmental, we open our minds to experience new things.
Mindfulness immediately pops up the concept of meditation (sitting down and focusing on inner self). Generally most spiritual traditions have been linked to the acts of mindful rumination, contemplation and stillness, recognition to experiences and being directly aware to them, such as centering prayers by Catholics, meditation acts by Buddhists, Shabbat of the Jews or may even include mysticism by Sufis. Many secular philosophies and beliefs may also include them as well. Few of the Roman Stoic philosophers such as Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius preached the life approach, same as mindfulness; Aurelius wrote, “Our perturbations and upset mental states come only from the state and thoughts that form opinions and lie inside. Thus mindfulness doesn’t belong to any religion. It is not Christian, Buddhist or Taoist. It is just like a breadth of an air one inhale and exhales without any belonging to anybody, except to the person experiencing it. It is just a part of human experience as our religious and secular, secular and philosophical traditions bring one back to these fundamental practices of compassion, awareness and consideration.
“Everywhere human beings have lived, we have needed to cultivate attention; whether it was for hunting, fashioning tools or clothes or intellectual pursuits. We have always needed compassion to live in harmony and enjoy our lives.” – Rechtschaffen
Mindful awareness being taught everywhere nowadays is based upon Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) that is formulated by John Kabat Zinn, a physician, in the end of 1970s. This was based on the knowledge of meditation and yoga and concluded that by simply having mindful awareness and meditation one can be relieved from their pain.
Mindful awareness has become a vital component of mental therapies nowadays. They teach the skills to cope up with general human experiences. Mindfulness is being taught by big companies such as Google, General Mills, and Apple etc. to their workers and have taken meditation as a part of their daily work day. Many people around the world, may they be Christians, Buddhists or even atheists, have taken the practice of mindful awareness as a path to happier lives. The spirituality lies in everything, depends if you want to make it a spiritual practice or not. As a matter of fact, you may take the daily activities of walking, singing, dancing, reading book or poetry, and even washing dishes as a spiritual practice. As a result a person with least religious inclination or non-spiritual in nature may as well go through a moment with full awareness of their spirit and mind.
Sometimes a person just wants to have some quiet time. So he sits by the side of a river or maybe an ocean. The first thing there is one big rush of sound. By sitting there still and listening quietly, he begins to hear an amalgam of subtle sounds that may include: the shore hitting waves, the ghastly moving currents of river. Following this serenity, peaceful and stillness in mind he experiences precisely what is happening. It is the same moment as he starts to listen to himself. At the very first he hers his ‘self’ or ‘I’, but slowly and gradually leads to the revelation of his own self as a changing mass of elements such as feelings, emotions, thoughts, mind images etc. that are all highlights by only hearing with paying most attention.
He remains very alert, not letting the thoughts go away and not becoming forgetful. After the mindful awareness and full concentration together, he achieves a true balance of mind. Thus many aspects of the world are revealed by just getting deeply into awareness and also what and who he is. With a very clear and direct sight, he notices a vision that everything, even he himself, is flowing, in flux, in transformation that is all in a flow. None of the element of his body is or of his mind is not there that might be stable. The type of wisdom mentioned, comes not from any particular state, but through a keen concentration to one’s own mind.
Meditation is being aware of the fact that thoughts are arising but not indulging or thinking about them or getting involved: not letting yourself off on a train, no scrutinizing that how a thought came, and only being aware of the fact that a thought came and that a thing ‘happened’. Sometimes it is aided by a “thinking, thinking” mental note, whenever a thought comes up; start observing it with no judgement, without letting out a reaction, with no identification to it, with no thoughts in mind of your own self such as me, I or myself. Let the thought be the thinker. Believe that there is none behind it. The thought is thinking itself. It is just like an uninvited guest. You will realize and notice that the thoughts die out very soon or die immediately as there is a very strong sense of indifference and being aloof. The moment one is mindful to a thought, the thought immediately vanishes. Labeling the thinking process is also to some, by taking a notice of thoughts, such as “planning” or “imagining” or “remembering.” This helps in sharpening the directness of the thoughts. But usually ‘thinking, thinking’ note is enough. It is better to get hold of the mindful thought immediately as it arises, rather than waiting and then getting hold of it later on. After being noticed by precision and balance they are almost unable to overpower or disturb the mind.
“When you are practicing Zazen meditation do not try to stop your thinking. Let it stop by itself. If something comes into your mind, let it come in and let it go out. It will not stay long. When you try to stop your thinking, it means you are bothered by it. Do not be bothered by anything. It appears that the something comes from outside your mind, but actually it is only the waves of your mind and if you are not bothered by the waves, gradually they will become calmer and calmer… Many sensations come, many thoughts or images arise but they are just waves from your own mind. Nothing comes from outside your mind… If you leave your mind as it is, it will become calm. This mind is called big mind.” – Suzuki Roshi in Zen Mind.
Thus this all refers to leaving things as they are happening. Letting all the thoughts or sensations that are getting a rise pass with least disturbance, or taking notice, not with any reaction, not clinging, without knowing them. Try to be the person with a great mind that observes precisely, doesn’t scrutinize all the waves that come and go. This attitude will immediately bring about a mental state comprising of calmness and balancing. Without letting the mind to be out of focus. As a result mind is keenly aware of moment to moment happenings, even the in-out breathings. In every second be directed and focused on the object with super calm mind. This is the best way to spiritually cultivate your mind with the mindful awareness. That is to create a balance and not letting the reaction habitual behavior overpower you.
Weaver et al. (2006) suggested that there have been many arguments on linking spiritualty and religion but to the common understanding it is known that both concepts may be different but interlinked or interconnected. With many as Koenig suggested that that religion has two can be separately addressed. Spiritualty, being subjective in nature as a reason, does not lead to not studying it individually. Even the uncertainty of the concept is actually adding to its strength and uniqueness. Thus both of the above reasons may lead to treatment of spirituality as an independent area. Spirituality as being subjective, tells more about contemporary meanings and definitions of spirituality by going beyond them. It is same in line with spiritualty being placed as a form of practices in clinical world and therapies. Thus nowadays more people are looking for clearer meaning and fulfilling their lives by believing that spirituality leads to growth and is the only necessary helping hand for a happier life with less worries and no life problems. Every person has a spiritual life, and spiritual care is being considered more important as compared to physical care, in clinical world.
With many other definitions meditation is described as the most vital component of mindfulness that tends to eliminate all the negative thoughts leading to a state of relaxation to one’s mind. On simpler grounds meditation is focusing on a fixed point. Different religions have different school of thoughts on it. Among the common types of meditation involves purposeful attention on a particular thing, thought, picture, phrase, or word as a part of a wider study. It is the merge and dissolution of two differentiable things self and other. That means no comparison. One of another way of meditation is a leader guides the practitioner verbally. This may be done personally or by recording a tape. But mostly practice it on its own. Mindful awareness meditation is meant to eliminate all sufferings of life however it is not easy to achieve, that is all through spiritual point of view. Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness meditation program (1990), even though a spiritual act but is not related to any religion.
The combination of the three; religion, spirituality and mindfulness in a same argument has always faced hindrances by number of challenges and controversies. There is a twofold challenge ahead. First one is mindfulness as a trait or could be a concept, is naturally a part of Asian practices and persuasions, and is rarely taken same because of different concepts. It is an intimate encounter how a person becomes mindful as spiritualty is experienced via subjective and individual manner. The studies have shown that those who are more like observers and remain secluded from the events or may be considered as loners are the ones who are mostly spiritually inclined. They seem to consider themselves spiritual as well and are mostly like to have gone through such an experience. Whenever people have a sound mind ad they are satisfied or happy they ultimately lead to being least judgmental or accepting everything that comes in ones’ perception. In addition spiritual wellbeing is associated with self-awareness. These all have an important impact on the mindful awareness therapies. It should be kept in mind that not all of the mindfulness practices are positive or lead to solution of the problems. The unintentional effects such as restlessness, anxiety, depression, no relaxation and hallucinosis have a possibility as well.
Independent researches have been made on spirituality and mindful awareness. The links have been found between them. Mindfulness experience is spirituality, while mindfulness is spiritualty’s practice. The cultivation of mindful awareness on spiritual basis is not inexistent as an object. Growth that is spiritual is a path of believing, may it be religious or not, and being self-aware of that belief is a spiritual practice that comes under mindfulness. The mindfulness teaches a spiritual seeker to accept everything along with the imperfections mainly the physical ones as the comparison begins at the very point. This is the biggest tool at ones on dispense.
It reduces and gradually eliminates the social disorders one adopts by being the least self-aware, anxiety and stress for instance. Other destructive emotions like fear, unhappiness or anger are the basis of major disorders. The mindfulness increases the sensation of self-well-being leading to insomnia, relaxation and acceptance of everything. The pain management has the most take in that, relaxed mind also gives a clearer and focused image in mind thus increasing work efficiency. Mindful awareness may be considered as the only yet the most vital determining factor in knowing whether you will be happy in your simple life. May be you discover the most magnificent, unbelievable and unexpected surprise. That all the things you’ve been searching for ‘out there’ — feelings of fulfillment, peace and wholeness — have been waiting for you the whole time.
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