Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is lauded worldwide for his writings and teaching of peace and mindfulness practice. He is an international spiritual leader who inspires individuals worldwide. In recent reading, I came across the following teaching of his: “the present moment is the only time over which we have dominion.” This beautiful concept is simple, yet so meaningful.
Mindfulness practice refers to the human ability to be fully present in time and space; it offers the opportunity to be truly aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not all-encompassed by what is around us. When we engage in mindfulness, we often focus our energy on our basic senses of what we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. Through mindfulness, any person can live happily and peacefully in the present.
When you engage in mindfulness, you allow yourself to be conscious of and actively involved in your experiences. How often do you find yourself reading a book but not really paying attention? Or eating food for the purpose of satiety without interest or acknowledgement of taste? Many people, myself included, often find themselves rushing through their days and struggling to achieve everything on their to-do list. When this is your norm, you rarely pause to bring awareness to that which is around you (by using your senses) or to your own state (by paying attention to your cognitions and emotions).
There is a bounty of research showing that when you practice mindfulness, not only are you training your brain to operate with new autonomous habits, but also you are actually changing the structure of your brain. Amazing, right?
I invite you engage in mindfulness. To get started, I recommend you observe the moment you are currently in. Perhaps you’re sitting home in a quiet, dimly lit room with soft candles burning. How lovely! But, this is not necessary. You can certainly be mindful out in the busy world, whether you’re taking a stroll, waiting in line at the grocery store, or enjoying a latte at your local coffeehouse.
Your only goal is to notice the moment as it is, without judging it. A great way to begin is by becoming cognizant of your five senses and their perceptions. Maybe you smell fresh cut grass, or perhaps you realize an absence of smell. Does your mouth taste like the cup of coffee you drank twenty minutes prior? Perhaps you hear birds chirping softly in the distance, or see leaves rustling about.
If you find your mind drifting or thinking too much, that’s okay. It’s normal. Our minds think automatically, much like our hearts pump without our instruction. In mindfulness, we return again and again to the current moment as it is while acknowledging judgments as they may come up but not letting them detract from your moment. You can simply let them pass.
Mindfulness is powerful. It’s more simple to practice than many people realize, but the benefits are incredible. It helps protect us from current stressors while leading us towards an improved state of being. It has been found to improve memory and focus as well as health and sleep. Many studies have also linked mindfulness practice to healthier and happier relationships and less emotional reactivity. It has been found to increase our self-insight, intuition, and morality. There are no known disadvantages of mindfulness. What have you to lose by engaging? Allow yourself the joy of feeling balanced and happy. You will always thank yourself for investing time into you.