“We have a finite amount of energy to spend every day before becoming exhausted. Mindfulness helps you use your energy wisely, spending it on situations, people, and causes that bring you the most joy, meaning, and peace.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh~
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness is a gentle mind, body, and spirit practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment. This involves sitting in the awareness of your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and surrounding environment. The goal isn’t to stop thinking or to empty the mind, but to be in acceptance of yourself as things are in their current state. The purpose is to release the ego, criticism, opinions, assumptions, stories, and judgements. In this kind, loving, and peaceful space there isn’t any good-or-bad or right-or-wrong, there just is. Mindfulness practices yield profound rest and relaxation stopping our thoughts and emotions from controlling us, and achieving a state of inner peace. The outcome is living a happier and healthier life.
Depression and thoughts of regret are often our mind living in the past reliving moments that have already occurred. Fear and anxiety is living in the future worried about something that has yet to occur. Mindfulness takes place right here, right now. When you are truly in this moment your attachment to these thoughts and fears simply melt away.
Mindfulness is a state of mind that can be mastered through repetition and regular practice. Every human being already possesses the qualities required to begin and sustain an effective mindfulness practice. It’s not something you have to conjure, it is something you can learn how to access. Mindfulness is a way to train the mind to discover the here and now at every moment.
ORIGIN OF MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness practices have become internationally popular in the past decade. Their rich history reaches 2,500 years into the past. In the United States these teachings are commonly taught secularly. Their roots reach back to the early teachings of the Buddha. In Buddhism, mindfulness (Sati) is considered to be the first step towards enlightenment. Mindfulness practitioners are all striving for the same thing. Some are secular and call it 'mindful awareness' and some are Buddhists and call it 'enlightenment'. The purpose has remained constant; to end suffering and tap into natural wisdom.
The saying, ‘Prayer is when we talk to God and Meditation is when God talks to us.’ This refers to the idea that we all have God or a Universal Life Force Energy within us. If we train our mind to quiet the noise, we will be able to connect to that source of wisdom and hear our inner soul messages clearly.
Psychologist, Jonathan Haidt said it best in his book review on 'The Best Books on Happiness': "The Dhammapada is one of the greatest psychological works ever written, and certainly one of the greatest before 1900. It is masterful in its understanding of the nature of consciousness, and in particular the way we are always striving and never satisfied. You can turn to it – and people have turned to it throughout the ages – at times of trouble, at times of disappointment, at times of loss, and it takes you out of yourself. It shows you that your problems, your feelings, are just timeless manifestations of the human condition. It also gives specific recommendations for how to deal with those problems, which is to let go, to accept, and to work on yourself. So I think this is a kind of tonic that we ambitious Westerners often need to hear."
TYPES OF MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness can be practiced individually or as part of a group. It can come in a lot of different forms; it could be a yoga practice that involves mindfulness, it might involve setting aside time for mindfulness meditation sessions, or it could involve practicing mindfulness during everyday activities (such as washing the dishes, as Thich Nhat Hanh advocates).
Here are some examples of mindfulness practices:
Scanning your body
Sitting in awareness
Connecting with nature
Decluttering your space
It’s not uncommon for people to equate mindfulness with meditation. It’s true that meditation is one extremely powerful way to practice mindfulness. Meditation can be seated, walking, standing, moving or laying down. Some meditation can be done for a few short pauses inserted throughout everyday life. Merging meditation practices with other activities, such as yoga, Qi gong, Tai chi, or sports could work for you. Mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that teaches you to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm both your mind and body. Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward changing us from who we already are. Instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment.
When we are mindful, we show up for our lives; we don't miss them in being distracted or in wishing for things to be different. Instead, if something needs to be changed we are present enough to understand what needs to be done. Being mindful is not a substitute for actually participating in our lives and taking care of our own and others' needs. In fact, the more mindful we are, the more skillful we can be in compassionate action.
Mindfulness meditation is about practicing being mindful of whatever happens. It is NOT about getting ourselves to stop thinking. It is easy to fall into believing that is the goal. Many people have a mistaken idea that relieving the mind of all thought is the goal of meditation. Perhaps it is in some approaches, but it's not in mindfulness meditation. So once again: if you find you are thinking (and you will), include those thoughts in what you become aware of. Don't try to get rid of your thoughts. It won't work and it's the opposite of the spirit of the practice .We are trying to be with ourselves as we already are, not trying to change ourselves into some preconceived notion of who we think we should be.
MINDFULNESS & BRAINWAVES
The brain has different levels of consciousness, ranging from fully alert through drowsy and fully asleep, with variations in between. These brain states can be measured by EEG tracking brainwaves from high frequency to low frequency:
Beta: (14-30Hz) Normal awake state when we are active and alert. Faster frequencies are associated with emotional states from stress through to anxiety states.
Alpha: (9-11 Hz) Associated with calm relaxed but alert states occurring naturally in everyday life.
Theta: (4-8Hz) Associated with deep relaxation, trance, creativity, deep meditation, hypnosis, healing, and REM sleep.
Delta: (1-3 Hz) Sleep, deep physical relaxation and rejuvenation.
During a healing session we encourages the client to relax and use frequencies to induce a relaxed state spanning from alpha through to theta states.
Healing occurs in Theta brain state. Theta is a dream-like state and is a very healing frequency that stimulates the release of endorphins. If you can shift these energies you can alter your physical health, emotional attitude, and state of mind.
BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness practices have been shown to have quick and sometimes dramatic results for school children, parents, people in high-stress jobs, people living alone, and those suffering from addictions, post-traumatic stress and depression. Everyone, even those who may seem relatively content, can achieve higher levels of love, joy, and success.
While mindfulness does not remove life’s challenges, it does make it easier to respond to situations in a healthier and more conscious manner. The benefits of practicing meditation and mindfulness are available to everyone who creates the time to practice those skills.
Thousands of studies have confirmed and documented the mental and physical benefits of mindfulness inspiring the adaption of such programs throughout America in schools, prisons, hospitals, and fortune 500 companies. These tools are used by corporate executives, college students, professional athletes, musicians, celebrities, military personnel, veterans, and the list goes on.
Science is substantiating what mindfulness practitioners have been experiencing for centuries. The overall evidence supports the effectiveness of meditation and mindfulness for various conditions. Many individuals show results in as early as two weeks of mindfulness practice.
Emotional Benefits of Mindfulness May Include
Gaining a new perspective
Increase in self-awareness
Reducing negative emotions
Increasing imagination and creativity
Increasing patience and tolerance
Improve focus and attention
Improved brain function
Being present and available
Positive thoughts and emotions
Capacity to respond rather than react
Compassion for self and others
Decrease job burnout
Cope with trauma and loss
Mindfulness May Improve Symptoms of Illness
Anxiety ● Asthma ● Fibromyalgia ● Alzheimer’s ● Cancer
Chronic pain ● Depression ● Insomnia ● Diabetes ● Heart disease
High blood pressure ● Irritable Bowel Syndrome ● Sleep problems
Tension headaches ● Immune response ● Healthier eating ● Cell aging
As a mindfulness practitioner, facilitator, and coach, The Reiki Warrior is able to lead you one-on-one or in a group setting through a series of exercises and/or meditation. TRW will introduce and guide you in your discovery of mindfulness practices so that you can distinguish which exercises resonate with you and create a unique program that fits into your lifestyle.
MINDFULNESS & YOUR BRAIN
Humans have more than 70,000 thoughts a day. About 80 percent are negative and 95 percent repetitive. Neuroscientist, Dr. Joe Dispenza’s research on effects of meditation on the brain is fascinating. The following summary from an article entitled ‘Meditation and Neuroplasticity: Rewire Your Brain for Positivity and Naturally Change the Way You Think,’ written by VOM (Vacation of the Mind) on June 26, 2019 states:
Every time you learn something new, your brain forgets an old pathway and your brain makes a new synaptic connection. Each time this happens, your brain physically changes– it upgrades its hardware to reflect a new level of the mind… “nerve cells that fire together, wire together.” This phrase means that if learning is making new connections then remembering and repeating is maintaining and sustaining those connections.
When you take what you learn and modify your behavior to fit the new knowledge, you have a new experience. Whenever you have a new experience, self-created or not, your brain gathers information from all of your five senses. As your brain processes this new information, webs of neurons organize themselves into patterns. The second those neurons string into place and connect together, the brain releases a chemical — we call that chemical a feeling or emotion.
Have you ever had a stressful experience, and then at a later point you thought about that experience and felt those same emotions all over again?
This is because the part of your brain that produces the chemicals that creates your feelings and emotions don’t know the difference between the actual experience and remembering it. The situation doesn’t have to be happening around you for you to feel the same way again; you only have to think about it. This is why our negative emotions can be so easily triggered.
This is where meditation comes in.
One of the main benefits of meditation is to bring more positive emotions into your life that helps you deal with the negative ones such as stress, anxiety, anger, and sadness…
When you learn and think about positive emotions such as compassion, understanding, forgiveness, patience, balance, and calmness through meditation, you form new neural webs and the positive feelings associated with them. Then, as you repeatedly think and feel those positive thoughts and feelings, you strengthen those neural pathways to trigger or revisit these positive feelings more often.
It’s all like a muscle — the more you access and use the neural pathways to positive thoughts and feelings, the stronger they become.
When your mind is regularly filled with positive sources, negative situations will not affect you the same way they did before. When a negative situation or moment of stress arises, instead of it immediately triggering your negative emotions, you will be able to notice how you’re feeling rather than participate in them. This is because the positive emotional connections in your brain have been more reinforced than the negative ones.
Once you observe how you are being, thinking, and feeling, you will be able to modify your behavior. When you actively think about the type of person you want to be and how you want to feel, your amazing brain can actually lower the volume or the connection to the feelings you don’t want to have. As the brain begins to silence those circuits connected to the old level of the mind or how you don’t want to feel, that level of your mind no longer immediately fires and triggers negative emotions like before. With positive thoughts and then following actions, you will begin to biologically break down the circuits that are connected to your “old mind”. As you step into your new way of thinking and being, your brain begins to fire with new patterns and new “neural pathways”.