Monday, November 05, 2012

Grab some chocolate, close your eyes and we'll show you how to be mindful

Grab some chocolate, close your eyes and we'll show you how to be mindful

QUESTION: How can you make one, small piece of chocolate taste like the best and most satisfying thing in the whole, wide world? Answer: eat it mindfully.
When your normal reaction to being given one piece of chocolate is to immediately start looking around for the next piece, feeling satisfied comes as a bit of a shock.

But that’s exactly what happened yesterday at the Mind and Its Potential Conference in Sydney. As the woman sitting behind me said: “I kept thinking to myself, ‘imagine all that wasted chocolate that I ate and never actually tasted’!”

She was right. As sensory experiences go, this was second to none. With our eyes closed and our full attention focused on the chocolatey task at hand, everything about the smell, texture and taste of that tiny piece was amplified.

That’s the power of mindfulness, Shamash Alidina told us soon afterwards. Alidina is one of Britain’s leading “mindfulness” coaches, and he is visiting Australia this week for the Mind and Its Potential conference.   

Mindfulness is the practice of keeping your attention in the present moment. That sounds obvious, until you realise that most people spend 50 per cent of their time “not” living in the moment.

According to Alidina, mindfulness is inhibited by the daily onslaught of worry, regrets and planning that can play like a continual loop in our minds. The good news is that starting to become mindful can be as simple as making the intention. 

“You need to say to yourself that for one period every day you will commit to a period of mindfulness,” Alidina said. 

“One way is to find a friend who’d also like to practice mindfulness and commit to eating one meal together every week in complete silence. 

“Just paying attention to the texture, the smell and the taste of each bite sets your mind in a good place.

“Another way would be to take a mindful walk every day. Instead of letting your thoughts wander, focus on your feet and how it feels to be taking steps,” he said. 
The second key to cultivating mindfulness is being kind to yourself. Mindfulness only works if you stop beating yourself up about what you may or may not be feeling.

“That happens when you redirect negative feelings and thoughts by accepting them.
The human mind is naturally wired to tend to the negative.

“It goes back to the time when we were cavemen and had to be alert and always on the watch for next predator or challenge, just to stay alive,” said Alidina.

Managing these thoughts can lead to a more successful life. Alidina suggests concentrating on creating a sense of curiosity about your negative thoughts.

“Ask yourself where in your body you “feel” sad or angry and notice if the feeling increases or decreases, just as a result of listening to your body.

“The surprising thing about negative feelings is that holding onto them makes them worse. Once you accept them and admit to them, you will immediately notice how much “lighter” you feel,” he said.

Acceptance however is not a euphemism for resignation or giving up.
“Say to yourself, I might not like how I feel but that’s how I am feeling right now. This acceptance helps you make room for that emotion and that in turn makes you less bothered by it,” he said.

Other useful facts about mindfulness:
  • It can help alleviate depression
  • Being mindful can be as simple as focusing on brushing your teeth
  • Once you’ve mastered mindfulness, you’ll find life will quickly become less habitual and more interesting
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  • November 01, 2012 12:33PM

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