Sunday, 25 May 2014

5 mindfulness tips from a chocoholic

Ok so I have to say straight up, I’m sorry I tricked you. I’m not really a chocoholic. I love chocolate and I identify with being a chocoholic, well my ego does but me, the real me is not a chocoholic. The real me knows that chocoholic is just a word, a label that I use to make my self feel better when I over stuff myself with chocolate.

So what has this got to do with mindfulness I hear you yell and bang a fist down on the table which makes my chocolate bars jump around in fright?

Everything. I reply calmly. 

You see greed along with fear, hatred, jealousy, depression and almost every other icky human trait can be linked directly to a lack of mindfulness. 

If this is the first time you’ve heard of mindfulness perhaps you haven’t been being mindful but don’t worry you’re reading this now which means you’re one step closer to achieving it. Unless you were one of the lucky few that was brought up in a mindful way, it’s going to be one of those things that you kind of stumble upon when you’re ready to understand or start applying it to life.

You could say mindfulness has been here since the dawn of conciseness but thats another story entirely, so lets just say it’s been here for a while, centuries and centuries but it’s only in recent years that it seems to have become a popular debate which is receiving much public attention. 

Mindfulness is here to stay, it’s not some new craze thats sweeping the globe like candy crush, soon to be replaced by the next fad game (Oh, wait, didn’t that happen already?) you will be hearing more and more about it in coming years so you might as well be mindful and keep on reading. It even made the cover of time magazine in case you missed that one too...

What exactly is mindfulness?

Being completely present, none judgemental and in the ‘here and now’ each moment. 

Or if that sounds too much like trippy hippy shit for you to handle try this.

Imagine your brain is a computer, your thoughts are some kind of annoying malware virus, your negative emotions are like those ads on you tube. They keep popping up randomly. You have suffer them for 5 seconds before you can take control but sometimes by then its too late, you’ve been sucked in and are watching yet another nike football ad which ultimately leaves you feeling empty and cheated for wasting your energy on something trivial so  yet again.

Now imagine I give you a flower, or if thats too girly, a coconut. Yeah I like the coconut lets stick with that. A big fresh green (fresh coconuts are green trust me on this) one right from the tree and I ask you, with your computer brain full of its malware thoughts and pop up emotions to look at the coconut for 5 minutes and tell me what you see.

This is what would probably happen.

"1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ok so this thing is heavy, 8, 9, 10, she wants me to hold on to it for 5 minutes. You have got to be kidding, who does she think she is. 17, 18, 19, 20  wooaaa if you shake it you can here the water inside. Humm water, I’m thirsty, I could do with a drink 30, 31, 32 ha imagine if the football on the youtube nike advert had been a coconut, ha, ha 37, 38, ha, ha, ha, 43, 44, 45 are we nearly done yet, this thing is heavy?"

It’s hard to stay focused right?

What would happen if you could run some kind of anti virus software that would cut out all the malware and pop up ad crap and leave you with a perfectly functioning computer/brain like the ultimate mac perhaps *  and lets give that anti-virus software a name, lets call it mindfulness.

Now when you look at the coconut, see what happens.

When your thoughts have been quietened, judgement has gone and is replaced by acceptance. Negative emotions have been replaced by joy and ease. How do you think it would be to look at the coconut now.

Might you actually see it for what it is, feel it’s beautiful smooth outer shell? Marvel at the weight and know it comes from a delicious water held inside? Might you see now the faint scratches on the surface,  done over time by palm fonds rubbing against it in the wind and the stem which once held it to the tree, gaving it life to grow into what it is. 
Might you realise how this, smooth green coconut which you hold in your hands could grow into a towering magnificent palm tree and one day produce coconuts of it's own, just like this one.

Might you see vast amounts of details which you had previously over looked? 

Thats what mindfulness is all about. Pulling yourself out of your thoughts, emotions and into the present moment, the here and now.

Here are 5 simple steps to help you apply mindfulness to your everyday life

1. Breathe - Take a few minutes each day to connect with your own breath. Concentrating on your own breathing for just a few minutes does wonders to pull us out of our “thinking minds” and into the present moment.

2. Eye contact - Whether you are speaking or listening look the person in the eyes and give them your full attention, it will bring presence to the conversation. You will really feel a connection with each person as you do. Do not judge them for what they say. None judgment is a key factor towards mindfulness. 

3. Acceptance - Accept completely your current life situation. Trust everything that is happening now is as it's meant to be, don’t offer resistance to ‘what is’. We cannot control many things in our lives but we can control is our response and reaction to those situations. Surrender fully to the situation and the emotions it brings, witness and feel those emotions fully, do not resist. This awareness of what is happening inside, combined with steady breathing will help you process and pass through even the most difficult situations or even perhaps trivial daily ones such as traffic jams can become a time of quiet meditation and acceptance.

4. Zone in - Start to take notice of your thought process, that constant barrage of noise inside your mind, that voice that tells you you’re running late, I shouldn’t have said that or why hasn’t he replied to my email or your looking fatter today or not worthy of happiness. Start to notice where it is you “zone out” it could be brushing your teeth, emailing, texting, washing the dishes, taking a shower. Once you figure out your ‘weak spots’ bring more awareness into what you are doing. Really feel the water on your body while you shower or the sponge in your hands as you wash the dishes and try to keep the ’thinking mind’ at bay. Presence is the key to quietening your mind and quashing those harmful thoughts. 

Don’t take your ’thinking mind’ too seriously, it’s not who you are.

5. Be yourself - Be who you are and be happy with who you are, there is only one you on this planet, none will ever be able to be you and there will never be another you once you are gone. 

So be yourself and be the person that makes you happy not a person that makes you feel anything but joy. If you sometimes do things that make you feel bad break the toxic cycle, only do things that bring you happiness or that can be classed as working towards something that brings you happiness. Remember that none judgement means not judging yourself too!

Practicing these 5 tips is a great start towards leading a mindful life but don’t stop there keep searching and keep growing.

Peace x

* my mac has some kind of malware so some of my smug mac-userness has been diminished :D

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