Life in The City – Mindfulness for Modern Life
Your alarm goes off – Monday morning; it’s time for work. From the midst of a deep slumber, your mind is suddenly filled with things you have to do today, things that weren’t finished last week, new deadlines to meet. The relaxing weekend is a blur, and as you stand in the shower your mind goes over the presentation you have to give, then the monthly reports due, then the….stop. Does it sometimes feel as though you don’t have enough time? Do you ever feel that no matter how many things you do, there are always more and more piling up? Is your inbox full, do you have multiple tabs open on your internet browser, do you check your smartphone every 5 minutes? If you’re anything like the vast majority of the professional world, then you’ll recognise yourself in a lot of the previous statements. How do we find work / life balance and stay competitive in the workplace without killing ourselves with stress? Mindfulness meditation may be the answer you’re looking for…
What is mindfulness?
Although mindfulness meditation stems from the teachings of Buddha, and can have a strong spiritual component, it is not necessary to embrace the spiritual side in order to reap the benefits of the practice. At its core, mindfulness is about calming the mind and reducing the amount of noise – quieting the little voice of panic, fear, anxiety or even just restlessness. The interesting thing is, once we lower the noise, we actually become more aware of things around us that we normally filter out. By focusing on the breath and, as a result, focusing on now, mindfulness teaches us to find peace and stop focusing on the past and the future. By spending so much time worrying about what is next, we often forget to be grateful and experience the present moment.
The benefits of meditation
The benefits of mindfulness are plentiful – offering everything from peace-of-mind and stress reduction, all the way to slowing down the ageing process. It can boost the body’s immune response, increase attention span, helps with the treatment of depression and, best of all, it can make you happier!
Practical techniques you can use
Below I’ll share some practical techniques that you can start using immediately and, of course. if you’re interested you should do some more investigating – there are many types of meditation including some that also involve yoga, which is a great way to combine your new found inner-peace with a taut body!
The most important step is the first one. Begin by noticing that you are breathing. Take note of the feeling of your inhalation – how does the breath feel? Is it warm or cold? Does your chest rise, or does your belly fill up? Once you’ve reached the top of the breath, take note of the exhalation – how has the feeling of the breath changed? Notice the pattern of the in-breath and the out-breath, and don’t worry about straining – your body does this all perfectly, every day, so all you have to do is take a moment to notice it.
Focusing on the breath may seem to be easy, but soon you’ll notice that your mind just won’t stop being busy! Thoughts of things you have to do, people to talk, past conversations and even trivial thoughts will start floating through your mind. That’s ok – it happens to everyone. The trick is to notice your attention slipping, accept it, then move your focus back to the breath. Once you understand the importance of focusing on the breath, you can begin to take time throughout the day to practice.
- The shower is a great place to start as for many people it is where they start to review the day ahead and begin anticipating problems and events ahead.
- The morning commute is also great, especially if you take public transport.
Each meal during the day can be used to practice mindfulness. Rather than scoffing it all down without a moment’s thought, take the opportunity to be grateful for what you have, and to savour each bite, whether it’s a handful of almonds or a takeaway delivery.
- Throughout the day at work, if you find yourself stressing out about how much work is due or friction you may be feeling with a workmate, take 5 minutes to focus on the breath. You’ll find that it will work wonders.
Is it really that simple? Yes and no. By practising this technique you will improve your focus and be able to feel more relaxed almost instantly, but this is a life-long journey. The constant distractions of our modern world are constantly competing for our attention, so even permitting yourself the time to practice mindfulness can be a challenge.