It’s amazing how much you can get done sitting perfectly still with eyes closed and legs crossed.
You’ve been taught your entire life that you can and you must rely on your five senses to interpret and understand the reality around you. We consider this process conscious awareness, but how aware and how conscious is it?
Neuroscientists estimate that your unconscious brain can process about 11 million pieces of information per second. However, your conscious brain can only process about 40 (or 3.6/1,000,000ths). Yeah. There’s a lot coming into your consciousness and experience that you’re not aware of.
That’s under pristine conditions. Consider how fragmented you are by stresses, deadlines, and multi-tasking. You have to question the quality of the conscious data you’re receiving and basing your life decisions upon.
Two things become immediately apparent. There’s a huge amount of information available to you that you’re not benefiting from consciously. Your conscious information, when used in a hurried, frazzled environment, is unreliable. I hope you’d agree that’s not a practical state of affairs.
Mindfulness is a generalized term for age-old awareness and meditation practices specifically designed to slow you down, allow you to take more in consciously, and raise your awareness.
2012 research submitted to and published by the American Psychological Association demonstrated amazing empirical benefits such as improved focus, better memory, less depression, stress reduction, and more cognitive flexibility.
Research subjects found over time they experienced more empathy, compassion, less stress, and a better quality of life.
Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and UMASS-Amherst, has made a career of studying the benefits of mindfulness. His focus has been on general health and on people with chronic or even terminal conditions. However, the implications of his work are applicable to all our lives.
I first became aware of his work in my 20s health and psychological crisis period through his wonderful books – Full Catastrophe Living (Amazon link) and Wherever You Go There You Are Audio Version (Amazon link). They were game-changers for me personally.
If you want to go deeper on Kabat-Zinn’s research, I’ll share some links below.
Power hack: Mindfulness is a tool accessible by any human being – you included – in any moment. You don’t need a degree or special knowledge or the wisdom of a saint. You just need a quiet space to relax, breathe, let go, and become aware. The benefits to both your health and your level of awareness are amazing.
If you’re new, Gaiam.com provides these four simple steps to get you started with mindfulness meditation. We will take this deeper in a future post.
- Sit or lie comfortably. You may even want to invest in a meditation chair or cushion.
- Close your eyes.
- Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
- Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation.
Begin with maybe five minutes at a time and work your way up to 20 minutes or longer.
Mindfulness meditation is the best tool I know of to become more aware of your environment and more awake to your potential, and more in-touch with the healing energies within.