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Mindfulness: the Science of Being Present

Mindfulness is quite a commonly used word in today’s times. Starting from mental –health circles and Yoga enthusiasts to almost anyone who is grinding through the challenges of day-to-day life, mindfulness has acquired many new meanings. Originally believed to originate 2,500 years ago in India, it forms one of the principal doctrines of Buddhism. In this article, we shall understand the meaning of mindfulness and its significance in improving mental health. We shall also briefly review some of the most common and exciting mindfulness practices.


Let us first take a close look at what mindfulness means. Mindfulness is a way of being present. In the words of the German spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, it is the practice of being grounded in the present moment. As we move through everyday life, we are often engaged physically in our chores, such as washing our dishes or brushing our teeth, but our mind wanders away relentlessly into the past and the future. Suddenly, we find ourselves contemplating something unpleasant our boss said at work the other day or a fight we had with our partner earlier this morning. 


This obsessive thinking over the past and the future creates anxiety and suffering that ultimately morph into different mental illnesses. We judge ourselves over something that happened ten years ago and repeat the same thing with others, even the ones we love so dearly. Ultimately, this leads us to get disconnected from the present moment, the only moment that matters. The present moment is all that we have.


Mindfulness is a conscious practice of being fully present at the moment without judgment. It usually entails paying close attention to sensory stimuli, such as noticing the breath, observing your surroundings, etc. This has been shown to reduce stress levels significantly. 


Practicing mindfulness regularly can transform your inner experiences. It has the potential to produce an enormous amount of tranquillity and wisdom. We shall now discuss some of the most common mindfulness practices.


One way of practicing mindfulness is to slow down. Taking out time to observe your feelings, both emotional and physical, can silence your inner dialogue, the constant bantering of the mind. This can be achieved by focusing on the six senses of human existence: sight, sound, breath (or smell), taste, bodily sensations, and thoughts. 


Another way of including mindfulness in your daily life is by practicing mindful walking. Feeling the earth under your feet as you walk and noticing your physical environment, such as the trees, children playing, people just passing by, etc., can generate a strong feeling of connectedness to the here and now.


Mindful eating is a mindfulness practice popularised by Jon Kabat- Zin, the pioneer of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. In this practice, you take a raisin, a grape, or a segment of orange and chew it slowly. You notice all its flavors and pay close attention to its texture and taste. The benefit of this practice is that it can be done every day without much effort. 


Many more such mindfulness techniques can be a part of your daily routine. We must realize that even though this practice originated within Buddhism, it has no religious leanings or compulsions. In that sense, mindfulness is a spiritual practice based on the science of the mind.


Inculcating habits that help us break free of our habitual, negative patterns can transform not only our health (both mental and physical) but also our relationships. They can enhance our professional performance. Medical research has pointed out time and again that mindfulness is capable of healing ailments, some of which may have been chronic. It also can generate new cells in the brain and promote healthier neurotransmitters. 


However, most importantly, it has the power to transform our experiences.  As we begin to observe our experiences, we cultivate mindfulness. In doing so, we can mold even the most tragic incidents into experiences that provide us with the most profound sense of wisdom and compassion.

Edited by: Whitney Edna Ibe

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Tags: #meditation #mindfulness #mental health


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