Mindfulness: the buzz word of the moment. But what is it exactly? What does it mean to be mindful and why should it be important to us?
When we think of mindfulness, it is easy to conjure up images of sitting cross legged in our caftans, swaying gently in the intoxicating heady aroma of incense while AUMing on our path to Zen. I imagine this is what mindfulness means to some.
For many of us, however, taking time off or even a 30 minute break where we can really decompress is unheard of. Our free time is limited and our responsibilities are demanding, so we consider taking a moment to ourselves as self-indulgent. We have neither the time nor the inclination to pursue what we believe to be mindfulness.
We have adapted the way we function to the demands of modern-day lifestyles. In fact, we have adapted to such a degree that our brains are so over stimulated by worries, anxieties and problems, that in order to be more energy efficient, our brains “chunk” information. What does “chunk” mean, you ask? Well, if we have carried out a behavior or action a few times, we no longer have to think about it anymore. It becomes a habit or second nature. Driving our cars, brushing our teeth, eating our food, etc. So many of the activities of our daily lives have become automatic, and in turn, free up our brains to focus on more pressing issues like worries and stress.
Our bodies have adapted as well. Take eating, for example; we no longer eat in way that is fulfilling: chewing slowly, savoring the flavor, and enjoying the textures of different foods. Of course, we know what we like. There was once a time when we stopped to taste food, and the food we liked was “chunked” and put on the menu in our brain. Now we don’t have to decide if we like it or not, if it still tastes good or not, if it’s crunchy, chewy, sweet or savory. We eat it because we have always eaten it. Our bodies have become so dulled by this adaption that it no longer sends us messages to say it is satisfied. It sends us messages to say “Hey, I’m so full now that I’m uncomfortable.” In fact, our social interaction has adapted as well.
We now acknowledge how we enjoyed the food we ate by openly stating how full we are or how we have eaten so much we can hardly move. The experience of eating has become a blur between two bookends, the expectation at the beginning of the meal and the uncomfortable fullness at the end. There’s a crazy rush to get from expectation to full as quickly as possible. Maybe this was a behavior created by restaurants who want you sat, fed, paid, and out in a blink?
With so much of our lives spent on auto pilot, it is no wonder that our lives are so stressed and that we get caught up in the day to day. It is almost like we are not present at all. Our bodies are present, of course, and our brains are as we can hear the chatter—full of noise and worries. But where are we? The actual part of us that experiences life in a sensory way—the part of us that sees, hears, tastes, smells and feels life often seems distant. It is these senses that keep us healthy, both mentally and physically.
When we use all of our senses, we experience life in a richer and more textured way, and life gives us more clarity. Our whole being interacts with life instead of just our mind, and when mind and body are working in unity, it spreads the load of stimulation that our brains are under and makes life less stressful and filled with worry.
Being mindful means focusing on our senses and what our bodies need. We are all capable of doing this. We do not need an Ashram or a meditation mat. We can learn to see again, really look at things, really look at people we care for, and see everything like we used to so long ago. Healthy looks colorful and bright. Unhealthy looks dull, bland, and grey.
We can learn to hear again, really hear things, hear the language of our bodies, the joy in our children/grandchildren’s voices, and the sounds of nature and life. We can learn to taste again. Eating is a joy when taste is the priority. Healthy tastes light up our tongues. Herbs, spices, and natural foods have so much more to give than unhealthy, high carb, low flavor alternatives. We can learn to feel again, from the warmth of the sun on our face to the cool breeze in the air, or the signals from our bodies telling us that the feeling of satisfaction is healthier than the feeling of being full.
Our senses tell us what is healthy and what is not. We don’t need to be experts; we just need to reconnect with the whole person that is us. This will allow us to be more mindful. We just need to stop and smell the roses.
We are excited to get started on your journey to better health. We will help you discover what obstacles and habits are standing in your way to get you on a positive path and help reach your goals. No two treatment plans are the same. A consultation at our office will allow us to get to know you and your history to better understand what will work for you. Contact us today!
Photo by Natalia Figueredo on Unsplash