It is practised extensively in the East and has strong connections to the ancient philosophical bodies of Buddhism and even Hinduism.
Mindfulness is one of the key practices taught by many spiritual disciplines because it helps quiet the mind and also helps improve a person's understanding of his own thoughts and emotions.
In the context of stress management, mindfulness can be extremely useful in changing a person's general mindset and thought patterns because it encourages conscious thinking at all times. Too often, we live our lives on "autopilot" to save time and energy on actual conscious thinking.
However, there are many instances where our "autopilot" tendencies produce the opposite of efficiency and convenience: they generate chronic stress.
How does "autopilot" thinking cause stress?
Here's a good example: it is exceedingly common for people to become annoyed or irritated when they receive calls from telemarketers and similar sales agents.
The common autopilot response to this situation would be to immediately dismiss the telemarketer and feel annoyed that your time was somehow impinged upon by someone you don't even know.
While the response to the situation may seem appropriate, it doesn't mean that it's helpful to anyone. On the contrary, such behavior often causes more problems because it can be extremely stressful to think that someone "stole" some of your time.
We are going to reverse this negative trend so that you can become calmer and more self-aware when you deal with potentially stressful situations.
The Path to Mindfulness
Below are some essential guidelines for developing mindfulness in your life. The journey to mindfulness is never easy, but you will begin reaping the rewards of your efforts very soon!
1. Move Inward - We are often overwhelmed with all the demanding responsibilities and obligations of modern life. Our minds end up focusing on what's happening on the outside world and we forget to tend to what's taking place inside.
What's happening to your inner life?
Constant attention to what's happening on the outside world can cause our inner lives to starve due to lack of nourishment. Our thoughts and emotions become imbalanced and as a result, we feel exhausted, frustrated and even angry at the world.
To remedy this situation, you must relearn how to take refuge in your inner world. You must become more aware of what's happening on the inside as you continue to manage your affairs in the outside world.
By doing so, you will become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and you will be able to transform yourself into a calm and impartial evaluator of the outside world.
2. Developing Hyper-Focus - Hyper-focus is a powerful tool that can help lessen the mental load of individuals who are constantly bombarded by racing thoughts and distractions.
Writers, painters and all manner of artists have a natural knack for developing hyper-focus.
Hyper-focus occurs when your mind becomes completely absorbed with what you are presently working on. No distractions, no racing thoughts - just pure, blissful focus that will allow you to complete your tasks with ease and efficiency.
In Eastern spiritual practices such as Buddhism, hyper-focus is used to enhance the positive effects of meditation. We can appropriate the same technique to help you rein in those distractions so you become more efficient and productive.
3. Practice Constant Self-Awareness - Like any other new skill, you must practice mindfulness whenever you can in order to master it. What I do is I remind myself to be more aware and mindful of what's happening inside when I'm doing something.
When you practice mindfulness more frequently, you begin to discover your actual thought patterns and the emotions they rouse. Mindfulness allows people to rediscover themselves completely so they can be more in control in times of stress.
4. Focus on the Moment - This is one of the toughest skills to master: focusing all your thoughts and energy on what's presently happening. The Eastern spiritual masters call this "being in the moment." In the West, this state of heightened focus is called self-hypnosis.
People hypnotize themselves all the time without knowing it. For example, when you read a good novel, hours pass and you barely feel it. Writers can write for a whole day without feeling hungry or tired.
Hyper-focus is the stepping stone to self-hypnosis or being "in the moment." This skill is challenging because we live in an era where multi-tasking is considered a valuable skill. However, not everyone thrives with multi-tasking.