Healthy Habits 101
30 Day Writing Challenge
There seems to be widespread misconceptions and misinformation about mindfulness. The term itself is a Western concept inspired by the ancient Eastern practices of Buddhism, but taking on a slightly new meaning. According to Virginia Hoffernan’s witty, if not cynical, piece in the New York Times Magazine, it came to be as a rough translation of the Buddhist term, sati. Hoffernan points out that sati more closely means “memory of the present.”
Later in history, the term was adopted by a Western scientist who happened to practice Zen Buddhist meditation. He saw the term as an opportunity to mask meditation and convert it to something secular that would appeal to the general public at large.
Hoffernan concludes her article pointing to the fact big business and advertising agents have taken mindfulness and turned it into a commodity. She could be on to something here, however, it’s not a very strong argument in a society where everything is a commodity. Can you name one thing that isn’t a commodity? Take the The Minimalists for example. They were two guys who gave up their fat paychecks on Wall Street to live simple, minimalist lifestyles— yet now they get paid big bucks to teach other people how to live minimally via their highly successful blog, podcast, documentary, etc.
Despite Hoffernan’s tone and skepticism, I find that mindfulness, and meditation, can have enormous benefits on your psyche and overall well being. Whether it’s been commodified or not, the internet (and our old friend, the library) make it easy to learn about and practice mindfulness for free.
That’s nice, but why should I practice mindfulness?
There are tons of books, articles and research papers that touch on the benefits of mindfulness. To name a few, you can check out, Forbes article, 6 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation; the American Psychological Association’s article, What are the benefits of mindfulness?; Henepola Guanaratana’s book, Mindfulness in Plain English.
For me, the most valuable benefits of mindfulness are the reductions in stress and anxiety.
How can I practice mindfulness?
There are several different ways to practice mindfulness. Below are just a few that I’ve tired and really like.
1. Following your breath: Find a comfortable position. Breath in to the count of four, hold for four counts, breath out for four counts. Repeat.
2. Guided Meditation: Find a free video on Youtube or an app that will guide you through a mediation session. I really like the Oak app for guided meditations and to help me fall asleep.
3. Mantra (Ohm): Find a comfortable position and a mantra that you like, such as ohm, and repeat for a minute or two. There are videos on Youtube that can walk you through this.
4. Yoga: I find yoga to be a great way of being mindful because for 60-90 minutes you are focused on your practice and not on the world around you. Disclaimer; This one could cost you the big bucks if you go to a studio, but you can find free yoga videos on youtube and free yoga apps.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve never tried it, try it. And remember, it takes between 60 -120 days to form a habit (so be patient!). If you’ve tried it and decided it wasn’t for you, that’s okay too! The point here is that life is not just about gains, it is just as important to form habits that will relax your body, calm your mind and recharge your soul.