Happy Mind Happy Body
Mindfulness has certainly become a buzz word in today’s society. We seem to be more busy than we’ve ever been before, moving from one thing to the next without taking the time to reflect and simply be present in the now. And this is where the philosophy behind mindfulness comes in.
However, mindfulness is more than just the latest health craze or hippie voodoo, it’s actually been scientifically proven to help us feel more focused and satisfied in our lives.
We speak to Marike Knight, Mindfulness Teacher and MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) leader from Happy Melon, about what mindfulness is all about and why we should incorporate it into our daily ritual.
The benefits of mindfulness are so far reaching it’s hard to know where to begin. The practices of mindfulness meditation are now well and truly proven through thousands of medical studies and cited in hundreds of medical journals to reduce stress, increase positive emotions, boost immunity, lower trait anxiety (our general levels of worrying), build upon parts of the brain responsible for greater compassion, empathy and decision making and lesson our tendency to be on auto pilot.
It helps us to become more present with our lives and to those we love around us. We can also become less reactive to our emotions and our stressors and a little more discerning with our habitual ways of seeing, thinking and being in the world.
A study released by Harvard involving tens of thousands of participants, who received SMS’s at least 3 times daily asking what they were doing, whether their mind was on the current task or not, and what their current level of happiness was. The research revealed that 50% of the time we are mind wandering and even more interesting, that we are far less likely to be happy or content when our mind is wandering, no matter whether the task enjoyable or not.
When attending a yoga, fitness and Pilates class how often do you find yourself out of the room, doing the shopping or going over a conversation in your mind, or berating yourself, or daydreaming, or just simply not there, on auto pilot? The beautiful thing about mindfulness is it’s a lifestyle practice, meaning it can occur anywhere and everywhere you are, so in each class we encourage our students to return again and again to the present moment, to exactly what they are doing, right in this moment, whether it is lifting weights, using a Pilates bed, in a warrior pose or sitting in formal meditation.
In doing this they are building these muscles in the brain that help them to stay more present in their lives in general and with practice to also become much more calm, clear and connected.
At Happy Melon there’s a connection that is created within the group mindfulness meditation classes where we come together at the end of many of our classes and explore how the meditation went. Often meditations can feel so internal yet here, we bring light to the universality of our wandering minds, the frustrations we share in learning to pay attention in this way, we have a laugh about the crazy ways our minds work and how reactive we can be and how frustrated we can get when trying to sit and actively participate in “non doing”.
Mindfulness is not about clearing your mind, trying to achieve some amazing state of relaxation or to reach some out of body experience. It’s also not about getting rid of negative thoughts or emotions. It is about learning how to sit with ourselves, to learn how to take pauses, and let ourselves be with what’s here in any given moment.
Pausing is a portal to our potential in terms of full intelligence, greater calm, clarity and connection. My favourite quote by Viktor Frankl, summarises this perfectly “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is your power and your freedom, and also our love and our wisdom.” We need to learn to just stop.
If you’re interested in finding out more, Happy Melon run a 6 week Intro to Mindfulness course which explores the basics and an 8 week Mindfulness Immersion program. Visit www.happymelon.com.au for more info.