Everyone seems to be talking about 'mindfulness' these days - even the House of Commons has a room for MP's wishing to practice this most ancient of techniques. But why now? Researchers at the University of California (UCLA) have recently published their findings on the improvements to health, well-being and even social standing by those using forms of mindfulness.
But what exactly is it? Do you have to sit and meditate for an hour every day? This is certainly one way to experience the benefits, but it's possible to be in a mindful state, or as others call it, 'being in the moment' during your daily activities.
So what does ‘being in the moment’ feel like? For me, it means being totally aware of yourself, your surroundings, and how you are interacting with your surroundings without these sensations becoming meaningless or a distraction. It means having time to think before you respond so you feel in control and at ease. Sports people refer to this state as The Zone, but you don't have to be an elite athlete to achieve it.
Try this simple, practical exercise.
Touch the end of your nose.
Now put your hand back to where it came from.
Perform the same action, but this time be aware of the movement of your arm as your finger comes into contact with the end of your nose.
You may have noticed a subtle difference in the experience of two similar actions. The first way is performed without much conscious intention – it would be practically automatic if done in response to an itch you needed to scratch. In the second instance you're aware of the actual activity that has to take place in order to carry out your intention. You are consciously guiding and observing the action and therefore ‘switched on’ for the duration of the act, in contrast to the first instance where you only switch on once your finger has arrived at your nose.
So for a brief time you are mindful of your action and 'in the moment', existing in the ‘real’ world as you fully focus on what was happening and what was making it happen. It is also important to note that it doesn’t require effort to do it the second way - just application.
This is a simple exercise to show the difference between an automatic reaction and a mindful, conscious activity. With practice, it's possible to spend more of your day in this switched-on state and as a result, take control over reactions that may previously have led to stress, anxiety and the corresponding muscular tension.
For more information on Mindfulness and to see details of a course we are running at the Centre here.