Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mindfulness retreat - daily!

The benefits to being mindful - and I'll define this soon- are becoming a big area of research and each study seems to confirm what yogis have known for hundreds of years: mindfulness makes for a healthy mind, body, and spirit. 

Mindfulness is a form of meditation - the most basic form.  It simply means keeping the mind on the present experience.  Mindful breathing means that your mind remains focused on the inhale and the exhale.  Mindful eating means taking in the sights, smells, textures and tastes of your food with each and every bite.  Mindful walking means noting each and every step and being aware of the body in motion.  Mindfulness can be applied to every activity you perform throughout the day.  Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, has written of the joy and the art of making mindfulness a way of life in every day activities - answering and talking on the phone, doing dishes, washing clothes, etc.

So what are the benefits?  Mindfulness eases stress which benefits the heart, immunity, and digestion, just to name a few.  It also reduces inflammation which is now being studied as a cause to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, aging and chronic pain.  Dr. Andrew Weil has focused much of his recent research efforts on creating an anti-inflammatory diet - inflammation is that important to our health and well-being.  Not only that, but mindfulness changes your brain - it makes it bigger!  You create more connections, a better memory and increased learning.  Our reverence of the multi-tasker in Western society actually is backward.  Multi-tasking makes our brains less efficient and our bodies feel more stress.

What exactly should you do to begin to practice mindfulness?  Start with 5 minutes a day and work your way up......
~ Choose a space and time- a daily routine is best, but success is possible in any form.
~ Make sure you are alone and the house is quiet.
~ Let yourself relax throughout the body - maybe roll your shoulders and neck. 
~ Every time you begin to hear thoughts try to interrupt your experience, bring your mind back to what you are doing (the breath, the pad of your foot hitting ground, the warmth of the dish water, etc.).

Allow yourself this gift of health and wellness, allow yourself this daily mindfulness retreat.  Once you become more able, you will find mindfulness taking over the multi-tasking brain. 

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