What is Mindfulness? It is a practice, which involves different ways of thinking and dealing with life and involves meditation. A definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of “Wherever you go, there you are”: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally”.
Have you ever felt like life is hard? So full of constant pain and suffering? Full of drama and disquiet? You’re never happy with what you have and, when you reach a goal, or something you have looked forward to, you don’t actually appreciate it?
Your thought processes seem to own you – completely running your life and causing you endless suffering ; brooding over things you said or did wrong, thinking through scenarios of future events and not being able to stop thinking about painful life events? You beat yourself up constantly about your failures and talk down to yourself? Well this is how I felt in my life before I began to practice Mindfulness.
If you’re thinking there’s a stigma behind meditation and feel a little awkward about trying it, then you’re not alone. We often feel pressure from society at large to live life in a certain way and many consider meditation to be “A bit too alternative” or “Something that Buddhists do”. Many also worry about not doing it right, so what if I told you there is no right or wrong way?
What if I told you that you could find a way to be truly happy, joyful even, with exactly what you have right now? You can learn to be happy in your own company, appreciate life as it unfolds, without placing any expectations on it, or being distraught if things don’t work out a certain way.
You can learn to either change things you currently find unacceptable, or to accept them for what they are, without causing yourself suffering. You can learn to be kind to yourself.
Life is hard work. As soon as you accept this fact it gets easier, but there will still be times in life where you experience emotional pain. This is a part of life and impossible to avoid; it’s how you deal with that pain that makes the difference.
You can either accept the pain, bring it into your consciousness and feel it through your whole being, with the help of Mindfulness practice, or you can brood over it, running it through your mind time after time and causing yourself suffering.
Mindfulness can also be very efficient at not only combating depression, but in stopping it recurring in the future; if you have suffered with depression in your life, either now or in the past, you can learn to overcome depression with Mindfulness either alongside antidepressants, or in place of them.
So why can’t you be an Authentic Guy without Mindfulness? Because the practice of mindfulness makes you fully conscious; aware of your surroundings and of how you truly feel at any moment, without the mental noise that often clouds our judgement.
It makes you seek a better way to live, to find life’s meaning, your purpose within it and to seek fulfilment. It empowers you with a zest for life, forces you to own your own choices and not to blame things on others, or turn yourself into a victim. It makes you stop loading everything with expectations, which in turn makes life much less stressful.
Perhaps the greatest part of Mindfulness though, is learning not to judge others, to be patient and kind and to practice equanimity. You don’t have to fill your life with drama and you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to.
You learn to dispense with the ego, which also means being right all the time is unimportant – you learn to embrace the fact that someone can have a completely different opinion to you, without feeling a need to change their opinion. This sets you up to live a life which is just easier.
So what’s the catch? Well, Mindfulness does take a lot of work; reading, meditating and investing the time to make the principles second nature. There will come a time when you feel as if you get it and life feels truly blissful for a while, then you will be challenged and experience something hard or painful.
Cultivating Mindfulness and keeping up with the practice though, empowers you with the tools to help yourself and to fully experience positive mental health. It’s not a quick fix, but, believe me, it’s a better way to live.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can find mindfulness guides for free on the internet and free meditation apps for your phone. If, like me, you need to read a lot of different information on a subject before it switches on a light bulb, or really sinks in, here are a few books we can recommend:
Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world, by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
This book is in the format of an 8 week course and comes with a free CD of guided meditations. Putting the meditations on your phone or MP3 player, means you can take a time out virtually anywhere to meditate and find some peace. The book and CD combined contains all the tools you need to make long-term changes to your brain and make Mindfulness a part of your life. Definitely recommended as a place to begin.
Stillness Speaks: Whispers of Now, by Eckhart Tolle
This book is a handy one to carry with you wherever you go, especially in the early days of Mindfulness practice, as it helps to bring stillness to your life. Many people only turn to Mindfulness when they are in a place of desperation; hopelessly depressed, or going through a traumatic life experience and this book helps you to realise that your thoughts and the mental noise you are experiencing are not your true essence. Your life situation is not you. You can escape the mental noise and simply be.
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
Another book by Eckhart Tolle and a very good book too. Stillness Speaks is actually a translation of this book into shorter passages in plainer language. The Power of Now is a very deep book, which often takes more than one read to sink in. Some of the information contained within though is priceless. Our opinion: Not the first book you should read, but definitely worth a look when you have some Mindfulness experience, or want to further open your mind.
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness meditation for everyday life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
This is a very informative book, which explores many different types of meditation in depth. The insights that Jon Kabat-Zinn gives are very valuable, but again; probably not the first book you should pick up on the subject.