Mindfulness is a catchphrase nowadays and there are many definitions and ideas of what mindfulness entails. Here’s what I think mindfulness is:
Mindfulness is one of the modalities that helps with stress reduction, and even in some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder. Mindfulness and yoga is used in prison to help prisoners around the world in their transformation and rehabilitation. So of course it would be helpful to us who are ageing.
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Things we may experience as we grow older.
One of the major things I noticed about my ageing male clients is they compare themselves to their younger selves. They could go canoeing and play rugby the whole weekend with no aches and pains, how come they cannot do this anymore, for example. Then they ascribe their ‘non-performance’ to maybe their diet, or their lack of exercise, or stress from relationships or work.
It could be all that, but biologically, we are getting older. Our body cannot handle that kind of stress, definitely not without being conditioned first. Some of us may acknowledge this, and this may lead us to feeling a bit down, or feeling depressed.
But the thing is ageing can be something beautiful and something to be grateful for. We perhaps may be able to appreciate this with some mindfulness in all our activities.
Seated mindfulness / meditation.
Seated mindfulness or meditation is usually what people consider the goal. People have approached me and Eddy asking us to teach them “how to meditate”. In yoga, meditation is a point when we reach samadhi:
Patanjali describes this eighth and final stage of ashtanga, samadhi, as a state of ecstasy. At this stage, the meditator merges with his or her point of focus and transcends the Self altogether. The meditator comes to realize a profound connection to the Divine, an interconnectedness with all living things. With this realization comes the “peace that passeth all understanding”; the experience of bliss and being at one with the Universe.Mara Carrico, “Get to Know the Eight Limbs of Yoga” Yoga Journal
However, even though this may the goal, we perhaps ought to let go of any gripping or desire for this to happen, especially not immediately. In yoga, we have dharana and dhyana to go before reaching samadhi, ie the stage of deep concentration and the stage of being deeply aware without focus.
For me personally, I would just recommend we try sitting for a minute first, with observance to a single point: perhaps the sit bones or perhaps the breath. If a minute is too short, maybe extend the length of time to three minutes or five, whichever duration that suits your schedule. Don’t think about ‘stages’ or focus on ideals. Just sit somewhere, or even lie down (I sometimes lie down). As with anything, begin with easy baby steps and work yourself up.
Mindful movement can be anything. Usually, people ascribe this to yoga movement on the mat, and this isn’t wrong. But it doesn’t have to be. You can move mindfully while:
- Petting your fur kids
- Preparing your meals (observing the slicing of the vegetables etc.)
- Running (observing the feet etc.)
- Any kind of exercise or workout (observing the movement of the muscles, the flexion of the working muscles etc.)
- Even just lying down on the bed (observing the sensation of sheets on skin etc.)
Mindfulness works everywhere. Mindfulness can even take place as you stand at the balcony or window, observing all there is which is green in colour (for example), or watching the birds. Some people find watching fish meditative. The great thing about mindfulness is it can be done with practically any activity.
The benefits for people in their forties and above is manifold:
- Stress reduction
- Reduce cell damage and lengthen our lives
- Helps to ease anxiety and depression
- Bolsters immune system
- Helps us understand, tolerate, and deal with their emotions in healthy ways
- Improves focus and efficiency
- Be more calm and less reactive
- Improves sleep
- Improves quality of relationships
When we are mindful, we experience our life as we live it. We experience the world directly through our five senses. We taste the food we are eating. We recognize the thoughts we are having. In doing so, we learn how our minds work, and we are better able to label the thoughts and feelings we are having, instead of allowing them to overpower us and dictate our behavior.Lisa Firestone Ph.D., “Benefits of Mindfulness” PsychologyToday.com
So if you haven’t already started practising mindfulness, I hope you’re motivated to begin now. The key is to be patient and compassionate to yourself in your journey. As mentioned, begin with baby steps. Keep me updated with your journey in the comments below!
If you already have begun your journey towards mindfulness, tell me your experiences in the comments below!
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