Beginner's guide to mindfulness- Expert tips to create a mindful moment everyday
Irish expert Fionnuala Gill offers her top tips to conquering mindfulness
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about cultivating present moment awareness in every aspect of our lives. Being here now. It can be seen as awareness but this is not just any kind of awareness. The awareness that we are trying to foster in mindfulness practice is both gentle and appreciative. For many of us this doesn't come naturally. Mindfulness is about cultivating awareness with the qualities of kindness and gentleness towards ourselves, particularly when we are facing difficulties. It is usually when we are stressed or are facing challenges in our lives that we are most in need of these qualities. It is most important that when we hear the word ‘mindfulness’ we also hear the word ‘heartfulness’ at the same time. Mindfulness isn’t just a good idea – it is a way of being that needs to be cultivated through regular daily practice to be fully understood.
How can we practice it?
Mindfulness is often described as a solitary practice best done in the company of others!
The wonderful thing about mindfulness is that it can be practiced anytime, any place, anywhere – we don't need any special equipment, but it can be most helpful to have the guidance of an experienced mindfulness teacher when starting out.
Mindfulness can be practiced either formally or informally. Formal mindfulness practice refers to setting aside a certain amount of time each day to cultivate the kind of qualities mentioned above. In the early stages this is usually done by focusing attention on the body and breath. Informal practice is about bringing awareness into our everyday activities and relationships. There are a number of excellent resources now available to support those interested in learning more - these include books, websites and apps (see www.fionnualagill.com for further information). The best way to learn mindfulness is by taking part in one of the many mindfulness courses run by trained mindfulness teachers throughout Ireland.
Top tips for beginners to mindfulness
1. Mindfulness is something we have to learn – just like any new skill becoming mindful takes practice and patience!
2. Mindful moments can happen anytime, anywhere – if we aren’t too busy to notice! Pausing to appreciate a bird singing, feeling the warmth of sunshine on your face, enjoying a cup of tea, listening to a favourite piece of music. It’s all about the quality of our attention in the moment.
3. Pause and give your full attention to your breathing every now and then throughout the day, following the sensations of the in-breath and the out-breath and gently bringing your mind back to the breath when it wanders away.
4. Notice what you are doing as you are doing it and tune into your senses. For example, when you are eating notice the colour, taste and texture of your food. When you are walking feel the ground beneath your feet.
5. Don’t feel that you need to fill up all your time with doing. Take some time on a regular basis to simply be.
6. Notice when you go into automatic pilot – that feeling of being in two places at one time – and see if you can bring your full attention back to what you are doing right now.
7. Little and often is most powerful - it is the ‘everydayness’ of mindfulness practice that is important.
8. Mindfulness is not always relaxing! It can be just as beneficial to notice that we are stressed.
9. Thoughts are not facts, so don’t give them all your energy!
10. Mindfulness is simple but it is not always easy! Seek the support of a mindfulness teacher or a mindfulness group – it can be really helpful to practice with others.
Irish Mindfulness Coach Fionnuala Gill has joined up with Barry's Tea to launch their #GoodforMe campaign which encourages Irish people to test and develop their mindfulness skills over seven days.
The Mindfulness expert has lent her advice to a two-part podcast in association with Barry's Tea which is available on Barrystea.ie