Mindfulness is one of those words; everyone from the media to your next door neighbour use it in all sorts of different ways, and we’re told that it’s all very good for us… but what does it even mean? Mindfulness is a natural quality of the mind we all have, and it’s the ability to be aware of what is happening inside ourselves while it is happening. Rather than coasting through the day spending it on autopilot, mindfulness is about being more aware of your emotions, senses and experiences. Mindfulness is different to meditation: while meditation conjures up images of yoga poses, quiet spaces and completely still and silent people, mindfulness is a bit less ‘intense’ and more dynamic and fluid.
One big factor that has really led to the recent rise of mindfulness has been the clinical evidence surrounding it. Mindfulness and meditation have been used in healthcare settings to deal with a range of different conditions and there has been the need to have a decent amount of scientific research into its effects and benefits. This research has given mindfulness a legitimacy that it never had before and what started off as a bit of an obscure practice for hippies has now evolved into something done by a huge number of people, from switched-on celebrities, elite athletes and even big businesses.
Unfortunately it seems the stress and anxiety levels of the population are at an all-time high and whilst there are lots of causes, and a range of different approaches to deal with them, many people have found mindfulness particularly helpful. Ultimately what mindfulness allows us to do is create space from our more challenging thoughts and emotions, learning to observe them objectively rather than constantly being caught up in them. As we become more literate in our own stresses and anxieties – the more likely we’ll be able to diffuse them before they grow any bigger. Think of a wildfire, it’s a lot easier to contain and deal with when it’s small than when it grows to be a burning rage.
The beauty of mindfulness and meditation is that you can practise it wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. This is what I call on-the-go meditation or on-the-go mindfulness. With the on-the-go approach, instead of having to find time for mindfulness, it comes to you; whether you are travelling, walking, at work, going to sleep or even when browsing Instagram. Every moment and activity is an opportunity to develop mindfulness, all you need to know is how. The easiest place to start is with what is called body awareness, so during the rest of this column why not give it a try?
As you read these words, can you also become aware of your feet on the ground. Those sensations in your feet are happening right now, if you are aware of them, then by definition, you are growing your mindfulness. It’s as simple as that, and over time you can use that simple act of being aware of what is happening in your body and your mind in all sorts of different ways – from better sleep, to better relationships and better understanding of yourself.
While I have offered a very basic suggestion here, throughout these upcoming columns I will share more practical ways to get the most out of on-the-go mindfulness in all sorts of different parts of your life. The problem then no longer becomes trying to find time, but simply knowing what to do and remembering to do it. And that is so much easier to do that trying to find 30 minutes of quiet in between work, the school run and the inbox.
Rohan Gunatillake is a mindfulness entrepreneur and creator of Buddhify, the best-selling meditation app. Buddhify is known for its on-the-go approach and was first inspired by Rohan’s own experience learning how to integrate mindfulness into his busy London life. Now based in Glasgow, Rohan heads up Mindfulness Everywhere with his wife Lucy, making a range of products, all of which present mindfulness in creative yet authentic ways. His first book is Modern Mindfulness, published by Bluebird, and he is father to his two-year-old son.