What is mindfulness?
The Mindfulness can be considered a philosophy of life that includes the practice of meditation . Along with several relaxation techniques, its apogee is recent. Although many people say that they perform meditation, it is sometimes an equivocal concept, so before speaking about Mindfulness we must clarify what meditation is.
The meditation is an intellectual activity that seeks to achieve a state of centralized attention on a thought or feeling (happiness, tranquility, harmony), an object (a stone), The actual concentration, or some element of perception (the heartbeat, breathing, body heat …). This state is recreated in the present moment and aims to free the mind from harmful thoughts.
Since Mindfulness has so much to do with the way we handle our attentional focus, it is also called mindfulness .
Mindfulness: starting from traditional meditation
Certainly, in addition to Mindfulness there is also a religious meditation and another aimed at improving health, both physically and, in more abstract terms, psychological. Its elementary principles are very similar, since the origin of meditation, with all the branches that exist today, developed in Eastern religions such as Buddhism.
However, we can understand Mindulness as a pragmatic shift to the traditional meditation conception. That is to say, that the proposals for research and practice of Mindfulness have the objective of improving the quality of life of people in very specific terms, and are not linked to a specific religion or philosophy of life. Therefore, the practice of Mindfulness is disconnected from religious beliefs and concrete life philosophies; it is, simply, a practice that can become a tool to improve the quality of life of people demonstrably.
The scientific approach of Mindfulness
Practicing Mindfulness means believing that this will serve to improve the quality of life in certain aspects, but it does not imply belief in ideas related to dualism, spirits, gods or life after death. That is why the term Mindfulness is often used to talk about a kind of meditation based on the principles of science. A systematized and “non-denominational” version of meditation , capable of being shaped by scientific discoveries and oriented towards concrete and “earthly” goals.
This is important not only because it disconnects Mindfulness from religion. It is also because it transforms it into a tool whose application modality is relatively well consensual and, therefore, it is possible to investigate with it from different scientific teams and in any part of the world knowing that all the people have followed the same criteria at the time to realize Mindfulness. That is, it allows to compare cases and cross data from different investigations , in addition to ensuring that all research teams have done the same.
This is something difficult to achieve when it comes to researching about meditation in general, because being an “art” every person can do it in a different way. In this way, while in the meditation to dry there are different ways of interpreting the tradition, in the Mindfulness is about creating a scientifically endorsed tool. In fact, if it has been shown to help prevent relapses in depression is because it is conceived as a resource that must be used to intervene on specific objectives … Although there are also people who use it in their day to day simply by passing for that experience.
A pragmatic, goal-oriented approach
Therefore, this philosophy can be adapted to different contexts and environments, because its approach is pragmatic and does not depend on religious dogmas . And, more importantly, its popularity has led to the creation of a library of scientific literature that includes many studies that explore the potential of Mindfulness in different facets: self-control in children, the development of resilience and coping resources in sick people, improvement in objective levels of health, etc.
It is this scientific monitoring that has led many people to ask themselves: what is Mindfulness? Below you can learn your keys and main ideas.
“Your body lives in the present, and your mind?” A rhetorical question that brings us closer to the philosophy of Mindfulness.
Basic ideas about Mindfulness
From the different meditation techniques, different approaches are proposed: some focus exclusively on concentration , while others focus on full awareness and self-acceptance .
The first could receive the generic label of mantra meditation , while the second responds to Mindfulness techniques.
1. What is Mindfulness?
The objective is to achieve a deep state of consciousness during the session, and several concrete techniques are used to achieve it. We pursue our conscience to relax and not to make judgments of our feelings, feelings or thoughts. Know what happens in our internal forum at every moment through the management of attentional processes.
Mindfulness manages to separate the person from his thoughts in order to recognize them and to question the mental patterns, giving a great weight to the here and now through total attention to the present moment.
2. When to practice it?
Ideally, Mindfulness should be practiced for half an hour a day , although it is recommended to start with shorter sessions of no more than ten minutes, to acclimate the mind to the new sensations and gradually build mental states of meditation. If we go ahead with time at the beginning, it is easy for us to end up frustrated by dedicating a lot of time to something we still do not know how to do well, and end up getting tired and abandoning this routine.
Therefore, learning to do Mindfulness may require some practice time until we are able to meditate on almost any circumstance.
3. Where to perform Mindfulness?
We must try to find a place free of noise , with a temperature between 18 and 25 º and in which we feel comfortable. Do not forget to deactivate telephones, alarms, electronic devices and all kinds of noises and waves that could bother us or interfere with meditation. In case we put music in the background, it is important that it is relaxing and with repetitive cycles to prevent our perception monopolize.
Some people prefer to perform meditation in open environments, in their garden or in a public park. It is not a bad decision, but it is important to choose a site that is not very crowded and free of noise and distracting elements. The use of comfortable clothes will always be a positive element in the face of meditation, and it is recommended to take off your shoes and all the accessories that may oppress the body.
4. In what position is it practiced?
The position for Mindfulness will be, simply, to sit comfortably on the floor ; not necessarily in the lotus position, but it is basic that the posture leaves the back at a right angle to facilitate breathing. You can use a cushion, a mat or a towel to be more comfortable. In the event that the cushion is quite thick, it will be advisable to tilt the pelvic area forward, sitting at the end.
The vertebrae should remain in a straight position , holding the weight of the thorax, neck and head. The legs and arms should remain relaxed but without destabilizing the line of the spine. For example, it is a good idea to drop your arms by resting them on your hips, or simply leave them hanging. If the position reached generates tension in some area of the body, it will be necessary to readjust the body position.
5. Basic exercises
We must concentrate our attention on the breath . Listen to it, feel it as it travels the body … but without thinking about it. Strictly, we must focus on recognizing it and letting it flow through the body. At the moment when all our attention is immersed in the awareness of breathing, we can continue to emit a “mantra”: a word or short phrase that, repeated constantly, induces relaxation. It is usual to use the “ohm” sound, or other formulas such as “I’m fine”, “always here”, etc. Depending on where we are, we can broadcast it loudly or mentally. It will be necessary to create a relaxing image, visualizing a quiet place that will produce well-being. Both a real and imaginary site can be.
We can imagine a staircase whose steps gradually bring us closer to that place, slowly counting the steps that we are walking. We can also visualize a candle and go playing to modify the intensity of its light, or any other image that can serve as support. These exercises will gradually lead us to the next one , and a lot of practice will be necessary to be able to concentrate on the specific stimuli.
6. Advanced exercises
Having trained the mind to concentrate on one aspect of perception or mental image , we must exercise it to allow it to empty and we can have a blank mind. A lot of discipline is necessary but this is the final point of meditation. You can use the thinking exercises described in the previous point.
It is essential to maintain a neutral attitude towards thoughts or images, not to judge them as good or bad , but simply to perceive them, to observe them impersonally. It is possible that, during the first attempts, we will not be able to keep our minds blank for more than a few seconds, but this is usual and it will be time that will allow us to achieve a state of deep meditation.
7. Why should we practice Mindfulness?
A research published in the Journal of Internal Medicine revealed that practicing half an hour of Mindfulness daily relieves the symptoms of disorders such as depression or anxiety. In addition, they discovered that focused meditation (coming from the Buddhist practice of concentration in the present and absence of value judgments) could have positive effects on the perception of pain . The results were validated even controlling the placebo effect. It was reported that the increase in welfare lasted up to half a year.
Meditation also reports improvements in memory, ability to concentrate, self-awareness and emotional intelligence . It is also associated with the optimization of the resources of the immune system, as well as with the improvement in the perception of loneliness in the elderly.
By the way! A few weeks ago we brought to light the following article that can help you to understand much better the psychological benefits of Mindfulness:
Currently some specific therapies incorporate some principles and techniques of Mindfulness. For example, the MBCT. This therapy has given excellent results, being as effective as antidepressants, and also reducing the risk of recidivism.
Many techniques are used to alleviate the effects or improve the quality of life in people with obsessive compulsive disorder ( OCD ), anxiety disorders , chronic pain , personality disorders, posttraumatic stress , etc.
A different philosophy of life
Beyond the concrete techniques used in Mindfulness, there is a philosophy of life based on what is meant by living in the here and now. And it is that although some people understand attention simply as something that leaves out information about what is happening in the present, from the philosophy of Mindfulness the attentional focus is seen as something whose management allows us to free ourselves from situations that block us and they make us lose control.
After all, the simple fact of not falling into rumination and obsessive ideas is a way of thinking and feeling in a freer and more consistent way. There are memories and unpleasant sensations that have the property of returning to our consciousness again and again, but knowing to be in the present is a way to distance oneself from this type of experiences.