The Art of Mindfulness

– By Sharon Ashton and Raksha Dave-Gates (Counselling Psychologists)

February habitually draws attention to love relationships.  However, to carry the same focus and mindfulness about our relationships into the rest of the year can sometimes be challenging as people resume their busy and fast paced lifestyles.  Our focus in this article is about the practice of mindfulness.  Whether this mindfulness relates to mindful parenting, mindfulness in partner relationships, or personal and spiritual mindfulness, the goal is one and the same.  Mindfulness is the practice of focused attention on present moments without expectations or judgments.  That is, mindfulness is acceptance and openness to each passing moment such that you build compassion for yourself and empathy for others ¾ fundamental skills for healthy relationships!

So, how do you develop mindfulness?  You can startinformally and become aware of moments of stillness.  Stopping from your hecticpace does not have to be long.  Only a minute or two is sufficient to nourishyour mind, body, and spirit.  It might be a moment that you notice snow on thetrees while you wait in a traffic jam, it might be a moment you catch your childsmiling in playfulness, or it might be a moment you experience the gentle touchof a partner.  These moments have no other purpose but to just “be”, toexperience, and absorb.  The more you practice mindful meditation, you willnotice that your body feels rejuvenated, refreshed, and liberated.  You willfeel more emotionally connected to the people and world around you.  Yourthoughts will feel clearer and you will connect to your spirit and the spirit ofthose around you.

You may even wish to integrate formal meditation into yourlifestyle.  As you will already be aware of those moments of stillness, forformal meditation, you can create and expand the moments ofawareness.  The following may guide you into your mindful meditation practice:

  • Find a few quiet moments by yourself
  • Lay down or sit in a comfortable position
  • Be aware of your breath as it moves through your stomach, rising and falling.  Or, be aware of your nose and the air that flows in and out.  Do not force the breath but simply allow your breathing to flow naturally.  You are simply an observer, aware, and in the experience.
  • You will notice that your mind wanders to distractions of sounds, thoughts, feelings etc.  Your mind is preoccupied and your attention wanders away from your breath.  You may even wonder whether you are doing it “right” as it feels anything but relaxing.  Remind yourself that it is fine, there is no “right” way you are supposed to feel, and that mindfulness is not equivalent to relaxation, although it can often be relaxing.  Mindfulness is just being aware of how things actually are for you moment to moment.  When your mind wanders from your breath, note where it is.  For example, if your mind wanders to the tenseness in your shoulders, note the tension in your shoulders, no judgment and no expectations, simply that the tension is there.  Once you have noted the moment in your mind, purposefully let go of it and come return to attention to your breath.  You may do this many times, each time is success because you are noticing where your mind is drawn without having to judge, change, or suppress it.