What’s all the talk about the benefits of mindfulness and settling the mind ?
In a world full of distractions the action of taking time to settle the mind can feel like a revolutionary act. It goes against the grain of our obsession to be 'busy' or 'occupied'. It also takes discipline.
There are a number of misunderstandings around mindfulness – one being we need to completely clear our minds of thoughts or we need to be sitting cross legged completely silent in a cave – not accessible for many on a physical or geographic level ! The truth is we can practice mindfulness anywhere. It it may help to re frame mindfulness to being ‘fully present in the moment’.
Methods may include Intentionally taking time out by using an ‘anchor’ such as the breath, repeating a word quietly to ourselves as we breath in and out, or soften our gaze and focus on something pleasant to look at. As you practice you may be able to detect a feeling of spaciousness in your mind – see if you can watch it expand.
It will take practice and discipline - remember that the act of pausing and switching off for some quiet time will always be beneficial. It is not time wasted.
But those thoughts…
We can also practice mindfulness during activities such as writing an email, washing the dishes or savouring your morning coffee, taking a walk or eating a meal – the key is to pay full attention to whatever we are doing without following the endless trail of thoughts or attending to the ping on your phone.
Instead of following the thoughts into a story or scenario or checking your phone and becoming totally distracted – adopt an attitude of ‘gentle perseverance’ towards your task or activities.
I’ve often noticed on the days I take five or ten minutes to settle my mind I feel more optimistic, happier and calm. A settle mind can bring clarity, when we least expect it – it won’t necessarily happen during your practice.
In my experience, the key to learning how to settle the mind is to have no expectations.
In attempting to settle the mind acknowledge that our thoughts are inevitable (this in itself can be a relief to know we are not the only ones with a constant stream of thoughts) it is actually ‘normal’.
The benefits may be subtle, or they may come with a ‘bang’ !
When our minds feel settled, this brings about a sense of freedom and peace – a sense of perspective. When we practice regularly, we can get to know ourselves a little better and perhaps even begin to view our challenges through a different lens.
When the clutter is gone, the truth can be revealed. What might happen if we get to know ourselves a little better? It might be scary, it might be a relief – it could be the first step towards changing our lives.
The settled mind can be like a refuge, which is always available to us – whenever we wish it to be.
In answer to the question about ‘what’s the point of a settled mind’?. I think this quote sums it up perfectly.
‘You can dramatically extend life – not by multiplying the number of your years, but by expanding the fullness of your moments’.
Mindfulness, Meditation, Breathe,