INTRODUCTION TO MINDFULNESS

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AN INTRODUCTION TO MINDFULNESS

What is mindfulness?
What are the origins of mindfulness?
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
What are the skills of mindfulness?
How can I practise mindfulness meditation?
What are some examples of meditation and training
exercises?
What is mindfulness based cognitive therapy?
(MBCT)
What does a 6 - 10 week mindfulness program
include?
How to practise mindfulness throughout the day? -
in the workplace?
What are the differences between awareness,
consciousness, attention and mindfulness?

... These are some questions you may have been
asking yourself about mindfulness.

You will find the answers to these questions and
many more in "INTRODUCTION TO
MINDFULNESS", compiled by Dean Amory.

Download your e-book of "Introduction to Mindfulness" here, or order a paperback copy and
make it your loyal companion through the good and the bad moments that eventually form your
life.

paperback: http://www.lulu.com/shop/dean-amory/introduction-to-
mindfulness/paperback/product-21066108.html

ebook: http://www.lulu.com/shop/dean-amory/introduction-to-mindfulness/ebook/product-
21066129.html

What is mindfulness?

In a nutshell, mindfulness is about being
completely in touch with the present moment
and being open to experiences as they come.

Mindfulness involves taking your attention
away from the past and future and away from
your imagination - and instead becoming
aware of what is going on right now. You can
do this as you go about your daily life. Notice
with your senses: what you are seeing and
hearing, that you are breathing, standing,
walking or sitting or lying down, the feel of the
air against your skin as you move along. Your
mind will keep drifting out of the present so
you need to keep bringing it back. It is
bringing your mind back to the present that
makes up the practice of mindfulness. Never

criticize your mind for drifting away: just bring it back kindly and gently.

Have you ever suddenly become aware of a background noise that had been going on for some
time unnoticed? Or have you ever woken up just moments before your alarm clock went off, as if
an inner force had lifted you from slumber? That was mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a mental faculty, like intuition or musical ability. It reminds you of what you
didn't know you had forgotten, and wakes you when you didn't realize you were sleeping (or
daydreaming). Mindfulness points out what ordinarily escapes conscious attention, what is
hidden in plain sight -- or what we've overlooked or forgotten because it doesn't fit our
interpretations, or pertain to our goals, or because it makes us feel uncomfortable.

When you are mindful, your mind is quiet but alert, empty but present, sharply focused on the
immediacy of the situation, knowing that anything can happen.

Without mindfulness, we function as if on autopilot, only partially aware of who we really are or
what we're doing.



What are the origins of mindfulness?

Mindfulness has been used for thousands of years in the Buddhist tradition to improve people's
experience of living.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

Being mindful lowers anxiety and stress, interrupts harmful brooding and will help you to avoid
endlessly repeating distressing or unhelpful thoughts, images and mental scenes.

Mindfulness meditation has been demonstrated to provide relief from a wide range of afflictions
including pain, depression and loneliness. It also contributes to enhanced focus, creativity and
performance on a wide variety of tasks.


Among its many welcome side effects are deep serenity and a patient, tolerant understanding of
others, but it is worthwhile in itself for reasons that must be experienced to be appreciated. In a
word, it awakens us.

What are some examples of meditation and training exercises?

Exercises like those below have been used for centuries to help people practice mindfulness as
they go about their daily life. The first two need only take a minute or so but will help you if you
repeat them at intervals during the day.

Awareness
From time to time, notice your breathing.
Notice your posture.
Notice the points of contact between your body and the chair, floor, ground.
Notice your clothes touching your body.
Notice sounds in the room; sounds outside the room; the furthest away sound you can hear.
Every time you drift into thinking, just return to noticing these sensations.

Basic Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness should be the simplest of tasks, an elemental challenge like no other.
In the July 2012 issue of Shambhala Sun, James Ishmael Ford boils the practice down to its basic
fundamentals. His instruction:

"Sit down, shut up and pay attention."

Or, to expand it slightly, "Sit down, shut up and observe your breath and body. When your
attention begins to drift, gently put it back on target."

This is the practice. Repeated re-engagement, over and over and over. Without judgment. Over
time, this becomes a foundational, primal skill that we can bring to every other task and challenge
in our lives. It is powerful. So don't make it complicated. Just do it. Again. And again.


Mindfulness Cues
This involves using habitual behaviours to remind you to practice mindfulness. Choose one or
two and then decide that when performing them you will maintain awareness of what you are
doing, rather than daydreaming or getting caught up in fears or anxieties: Using the telephone ~
Going up or down stairs or steps ~ Using a computer mouse or keyboard ~ Tidying ~ Washing up
~ Showering.

Awareness of Breathing
As you go through your day, notice your breathing from time to time. All you need to do is notice
just a few of those 20,000 breaths you take every day. Are you breathing with your chest or your
tummy (abdominal breathing is usually more relaxing)? As you breathe out, can you feel
movement in your tummy? Can you feel the air entering and leaving your nostrils?

Mindful Awakening
When you wake up in the morning, spend a few moments savoring your dreams. You don't have
to remember what happened in the dreams. Just taste their overall flavor. Even when you do
remember fragments of the dream story or imagery, pay especial attention to the subtle moods
that they evoke, which are like aromas or fragrances.


The delicate threads of your dreams will be lost easily in the morning if you enter your waking
life too quickly. Take your time, lie still for a moment, and taste the herbal flavors that your
dreams have left in your mind.

Then, when you do begin to think about your waking life, notice its flavor, as well, as if it were
also a dream.

Take your time, lie still for a moment, and taste the herbal flavors that your dreams have left in
your mind.
Sometime during the day, when you remember to do it, pay attention to the sensations on the
inside of your body. You might start by letting your attention rest on the sensations of breathing
in your chest and throat.

Notice what happens to your mind as you begin to focus on those inside-the-body sensations. Do
you notice a shift in the overall tone of your mind?

Then let your attention move throughout your body, like the gentle hands of a masseur, checking
for spots where you feel tension or sensations of burning, tingling, or glowing. Don't forget your
hands, fingers, and feet.

If you're feeling a strong emotion, such as fear or excitement, where do you feel the sensations of
that emotion in your body? What textures, colors, or flavors do they have? See what happens
when you examine the sensations in detail, taking quick glances at them. Mindfulness is what lets
you see in greater detail.



Mindful Walking
While you're walking around outside, listen for spaces between sounds. Even the steadiest sounds
are perforated by tiny gaps. Listen to the sounds as if they were music. Also, try tasting their
aromas, the subtle impressions that they make on your mind, just as you do with dreams.


Try listening to the sounds as if you were listening from your belly or gut, rather than from your
head. Let your belly become the center of your awareness. Let it feel just as sensitive and
exposed as your face.

Also, instead of looking at things as whole objects that have names and purposes, let your
attention be drawn to their textures and colors, until what you're looking at doesn't have a name
or description at all. Notice how the feeling of your mind changes as you do this.

Mindful Conversations
While you're having a conversation with someone, spend a moment listening to the spaces
between the sounds of his or her words. Try listening from your belly. Feel its changing
sensations as the person is speaking.

Mindful Relaxation
Before you fall asleep at night, lie still and look for feelings of tension that come from all your
effort to get things done during the day. Look for knots of tension in your head, neck, face, and in
your belly or in your limbs.

The next day, as often as you remember to do it, look for those feelings of effort again as you're
going about your day. Do you feel any tension around or behind your eyes? Pay attention to how
the "making an effort" feelings are associated with thoughts or desires.

In the same way that you were noticing moments of silence between sounds, also notice that
between the feelings of effort there are gaps where those feelings diminish or disappear.
Sometimes the gaps are so small that they're hard to notice at first, but let mindfulness point them
out.

Mindful Thinking
Thoughts are like mini-dreams. When you suddenly realize that you've been having a thought
(mindfulness is what reminds you), savor its flavors, savor the residue that the thought has left in
your mind, just as you've been practicing with your dreams every morning. Does it produce any
sensations in your body, perhaps behind your eyes?

Notice gaps between the thoughts, where there's a bit of silence. What do you experience in that
silence?

Now listen to the sound of your thoughts -- not to what the thoughts are about, but to their tone of
voice, as if you were listening to another person talking. What would that person's facial
expressions or body language look like? What would that person want to say?

With quick glances, explore the subtle sensations, the dream-like flavors and aromas of the
personality that seems to be "you", the captain of the ship, the pilot that seems to be in charge of
your body.

Observe how it seems to break up into little bits, like pixels on a screen, as you glance at it up
close and in detail.

Mindful Self Consciousness
From time to time reflect on the "I" that sees inside your mind. What is experiencing and how
does it know that it is experiencing? What kind of light illuminates dreams and thoughts so that
the "I" can see them?

When seen with mindful glances, the most ordinary aspects of experience seem mysterious and
remarkable -- and the more ordinary, the more remarkable.


How strange that the universe exists rather than that nothing exists at all, and that it exists just as
it does and not some other way. And then, how strange that this "I" exists and is aware of the
existence of that universe.

Such bare reflections come as part of the process of mindful awakening. Once the process of
awakening begins, it moves along at its own pace, under its own steam, as awareness awakens to
itself.




What are the skills of mindfulness?

Mindfulness is made up of a number of skills, all of which require practice. These skills are
briefly described below:

Awareness
One skill of mindfulness is learning how to focus your attention on one thing at a time. This
includes being aware of and able to recognize all the things that are going on around you (for
example, sights and sounds), as well as all the things that are going on inside you (for example,
thoughts and feelings).

Nonjudgmental/Non-evaluative Observation
This skill is focused on looking at your experiences in a nonjudgmental way. That is, simply
looking at things in an objective way as opposed to labeling them as either "good" or "bad." An
important part of this skill is self-compassion.

Being in the Present Moment
Part of mindfulness is being in touch with the present moment as opposed to being caught up in
thoughts about the past (also called rumination) or the future (or worry). An aspect of this skill is

being an active participant in experiences instead of just "going through the motions" or "being
stuck on auto-pilot."

Beginner's Mind
This skill of mindfulness focuses on being open to new possibilities. It also refers to observing or
looking at things as they truly are, as opposed to what we think they are or evaluate them to be.
For example, going into a situation with a preconceived notion of how things will turn out can
color your experience. This can prevent you from getting in touch with the true experience.
Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness takes practice. Some people may put aside time to formally practice mindfulness,
such as devoting time to practice mindful awareness of their breath or thoughts. However, the
good thing about mindfulness is that you can also practice it at any point throughout your day.
For example, you can bring mindfulness awareness to a number of activities that we often do
without thinking, such as eating, washing dishes, cooking, taking a shower or bath, walking,
driving in the car, or listening to music.

As you go about your day, try to find as many opportunities as you can to practice mindfulness.
The more you practice, the easier it will become to bring mindful awareness to your life
experiences.