If we miss the moment, we miss the clues. In the present, we allow ourselves to fully live there. We are restored, made wiser, made deeper and happier.
In the fast-paced world that we live in, meditation has become increasingly essential for people to cope with stress and find balance, peace and stability. Moreover, research has also proven that meditation increase gray matter in the brain — particularly in areas associated with muscle control, sensory perception, memory, emotions and speech. A study conducted by the Laboratory for the Neuroscientific Investigation of Meditation and Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital found that people who meditated at least 30 minutes a day for eight weeks increased gray matter density in their hippocampus — the part of the brain associated with learning and memory. (http://www.umassmed.edu/uploadedFiles/cfm2/Psychiatry_Resarch_Mindfulness.pdf)
There are many techniques to meditation and one of the most important aspect which I will be touching on will be mindfulness. How many of us can honestly say that we go through life with conscious thoughts, efforts and actions? We move through life on autopilot mode. We wake up in the morning and sleepily run through our daily routine of flipping through the newspapers at the breakfast table, forgetting to smile at the beautiful gift of our loved ones sitting opposite us. We trudge to work, our heads hung over our mobile devices and didn’t realise there was a beautiful sunrise in our view. We behave like a robot, when deep inside of us we are way more than that. We are souls and beings with the immense ability to feel, think, ponder, reflect and experience. When we live in autopilot, we fail to appreciate the beauty of life, drown out what our bodies might be telling us (and get ill), become fixed in conditioned ways of thinking or living that may be adverse to ourselves or others. On autopilot, we tend to lose ourselves in the process of constantly ‘doing’ instead of ‘living’.
Mindfulness is the antidote to the disease of going through life on autopilot. What then is mindfulness?
Jon Kabat Zinn defines mindfulness as:
“Paying attention; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
To achieve mindfulness, there are three main components:
We need to consciously decide what we want to focus and pay attention to. We live in a world where multi-tasking is the norm as people see it as ‘managing your time effectively’. But there have been research which shows that multi-tasking damages your brain (See here). We have to CHOOSE intentionally where we want to put our attention too. For example, we may know that we are angry but we do not delve further into the purpose of our anger. When we choose to focus our attention on what and why we are angry, we will realise that we have a choice not to be angry.
2. Present moment
We are creatures that have a tendency to dwell on the past or worry about the future. In doing so, we don’t really experience Life itself.
“Most people treat the present moment as if it were an obstacle that they need to overcome. Since the present moment is Life itself, it is an insane way to live.”
Could you recall the exact flavour of the food you ate for your last meal? Or were you too busy in your own thoughts or scrolling through your Facebook feed on your phone to enjoy the food? How about the journey home be in on the car, bus or train? Did you notice the shape of the clouds? Living in the present moment means to be with the moment as each moment is fleeting and will never come back again. It is the here and now that matters.
Personally I feel this is the hardest tenet of mindfulness. It is very important to remember that non-judgement does not mean that we suppress, control or stop our thoughts. We simply give our attention to the event and watch the arise of our emotions, thoughts and perceptions without attaching ourselves to them. By distancing our emotions from ourselves, we don’t identify ourselves with these emotions. For example, when I am sad, I don’t associate it as ‘my sadness’ but instead see it as ‘being sad’. Detaching these emotions from myself allows me to be calm and know that I am experiencing sadness but knowing that it will pass. By practising non-judgement, we become a watcher and are able to identify negative behaviours or habits and break free from them!
Rachel Pan Yijun
200 hour Yoga TTC (Weekend batch)