At Health and Food Matters we are aware that true health is not just healthy eating and regular exercise. Managing our stress levels is just as important and a critical component of overall well-being! Stress is proven to contribute to many diseases and health issues. One of our four pillars of wellness is stress management and learning techniques to ease the burden stress places on our physical and mental health. Today we share a discussion on mindfulness, and the simple ways we can use it to feel better about each and everyday.
So what’s the secret to feeling calm and focused? It’s not an easy question to answer. So, why do Buddhist monks appear peaceful and present all the time? How do they do it? Do they know some hidden secret that you don’t?Actually yes they do! For thousands of years, Buddhist monks have practiced the art of ‘mindfulness’ to reduce stress and live in the present moment.
If you don’t know, mindfulness simply involves focusing your attention on the present moment with a non-judgmental and compassionate attitude.
So, how can we learn to practice mindfulness?
Well, who better to ask than professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, the person who brought the teachings of mindfulness from the east to the west?
In his book, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, he explained the seven essential attitudinal qualities for mindful living.
We’ve gone over them below and we explain why they can be so powerful to implement into your daily life.
1) Don’t judge
When you think about it, judgements colour everything we experience. A lot of our judgements are conditioned and they imprison us in our own narrow reality tunnel. Yet, if we adopt the attitude of non-judging, we step outside our own conditioned thought patterns and see life for what it really is.
This is a type of awareness that engages all perspectives and holds opinions lightly. It allows us to fully let go and engage in the present moment.
Acceptance isn’t passive but rather an active recognition that things are the way they are. Resistance to the way things are causes major mental and emotional suffering. When a negative emotion comes your way, you don’t need to resist it. Just acknowledge that it’s there and treat it without judgement. It’s only from acceptance that transformation can begin.
In modern life, so many of us are in a hurry. People are so often rushing to get to the next thing that they forget to enjoy the present moment.
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh said “if you cannot enjoy doing the dishes you will not enjoy what you’re looking forward to doing later on.”
Looking to the future becomes a predominant habit in people’s lives which cripples their ability to enjoy the present moment. This also means keeping calm when something doesn’t go your way.
4) Non striving
The deepest and most profound teaching in meditation is to just Be. There’s no need to control, manipulate or change things. Just go with the flow of the present moment. As Lao Tzu says “I do nothing and everything gets done.” It’s a way of acting without trying to act. Action happens by itself, spontaneously – rather than being contrived.
Instead of complaining and wondering what life would be like if we had a certain thing, this involves appreciating what we have right now. Enjoy the present moment with a sense of humility and delight. Focus on the positives in life.
6) Letting go
Cultivating the attitude of letting go, or non-attachment, is fundamental to the practice of mindfulness. The tendency to want to hold on to what is pleasant in our experience and to reject what is unpleasant, is usually an automatic response sometime known as being on autopilot. To be asked to neither hold onto, nor to reject experience, is a challenging principle that can offer countless benefits in our lives.
7) Beginner’s Mind
Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we ‘know’ prevent us from seeing things as they really are. Approaching each meditation as if it were your first time, building from “the ground up” from the body, contacting the breath, asking of yourself “what is really happening now” are hallmarks of beginner’s mind.
Excerpts from: Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. By: Professor John Kabat Zinn