This is a follow-up to my previous blog, “Be Here Now,” where I mentioned that I “eat mindfully” and promised to explain it.
“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice on a daily basis. Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. And there’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain.” https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/
As I noted previously, I often ate on automatic pilot, with my mind wandering over vast times, places, events, thoughts, and plans, I would chew and swallow my food, never tasting it nor enjoying the textures, and often not even knowing what I was eating. My plate would be empty and I didn’t know if I liked the food or not. While that approach may be helpful when forced to eat things I don’t like – Brussels sprouts, overcooked spinach or kale, etc. – mindlessness is not helpful when it’s food that I enjoy and want to savor.
Applying mindfulness goes beyond eating, to all areas of your life:
- Immersing yourself in a movie, rather than thinking about the work you have to do tomorrow
- Fully experiencing a live performance, rather than thinking about the basketball game you’re missing
- Enjoying your child’s baseball game, rather than continually checking your phone for (more) important messages that you might be missing
From The Mindful Awareness Research Center, a partner of the Norman Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, within the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA:
“Mindful awareness can be defined as paying attention to present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is. It is an excellent antidote to the stresses of modern times. It invites us to stop, breathe, observe, and connect with one’s inner experience. … In the last ten years, significant research has shown mindfulness to address health issues such as lower blood pressure and boost the immune system; increase attention and focus, including aid those suffering from ADHD; help with difficult mental states such as anxiety and depression, fostering well-being and less emotional reactivity; and thicken the brain in areas in charge of decision making, emotional flexibility, and empathy.” http://marc.ucla.edu/http://marc.ucla.edu/
The above quote illustrates that you get a lot more from mindfulness than a fuller experience of tastes, textures, colors, and sounds in the present – you can also improve your health. My initial health improvement was the elimination of stomachaches and acid reflux, because I am now slowly enjoying the food instead of gobbling something down so I can get on with the “important stuff.”
Your health is the “most important stuff” you can do for your body.
Based on the proven benefits of mindfulness, 44% of Fortune 500 companies have added mindfulness programs for their employees. My hope for you is that you follow their lead by spending more time living in the present (“Be Here Now”), allowing all of your senses to be engaged and entertained, and giving your overstressed mind a rest.
I will leave you with two mindfulness quotes:
“Direct your eye right inward, and you’ll find a thousand regions in your mind yet undiscovered. Travel them, and be expert in home-cosmography” – Henry David Thoreau
“The Intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind a faithful servant, we have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” – Albert Einstein