The art of being mindful

Mindfulness is a relatively new concept yet more professionals are advocating this practice as a means of creating a meaningful, productive and successful life.

Celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Richard Gere, and Oprah Winfrey have all endorsed mindfulness as a way to improve mental and physical well-being.

“Any activity we undertake is dependent for its success or failure upon the degree or level of mindfulness we have” ,according to UCT lecturer, Jenny Canau.

So what does it mean to be mindful? At its most basic level mindfulness is simply the ability to do things with “attention and clarity”.

International Mindfulness teacher Rob Nairn says, “mindfulness is knowing what’s happening while its happening, without preference or judgement”.

“It is a state of mind that we experience when we are content” ,says Canau. Every person has the capacity to be mindful as it is an inherent human trait.

The word mindfulness might conjure up images of secluded monasteries or deeply spiritual yoga sessions but according to Canau people can tap into their mindfulness in very practical ways. For example “Many people enjoy running, a walk in the park or being out in nature as this is when they are naturally mindful.”

Mindfulness takes place when our minds are connected to whatever activity we are undertaking, so there is an effortless mind and body connection. This connection can be seen in activities like sports or reading. When we enjoy certain activities the mind is naturally interested in what we are doing which increases our levels of attention and focus.

However when negative thoughts distract us we become disconnected from our activities and our performance suffers. Preference and judgement are the biggest detractors of mindfulness.

So how can we increase our mindfulness?

Mindfulness meditation training aims to grow and sustain our level of mindfulness, so that we can enrich our lives and performance.

“It is also a way to learn to rest our minds, to take care and nurture our minds. This is important as we depend on our minds for our well-being and happiness.”

UCT [email protected] will host a mindfulness meditation course for people who want to increase their awareness.

“In essence mindfulness meditation is mind training- learning to pay attention and settle the mind, with whatever is arising in our experience...”

Research shows that mindfulness has many benefits. It has been found to reduces stress, prevent depression relapse, improve health and create a general sense of happiness and well-being.

It also helps people deal with internal attitudes of judgement and preferences, and in so doing, teachers individuals to be more compassionate with ourselves and others.

A person who is practising mindfulness regularly is also more able to deal with life’s ups and downs. Sustained mindfulness practice enables one to practice equanimity of mind and to become more responsive to life and less reactive due to habitual tendencies.

The next course will take place 3 August - 21 September 2016. Click link to join the Mindfulness Meditation course

* Jenny Canau has a BA (Wits) LLB (Wits) LLM (Rau), and presents the Mindfulness Meditation course at UCT [email protected]

By Cindy Payle - Portal Publishing