By Marike Knight, yoga teacher and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction consultant
We live in a busy world. The pace of life is often hectic and it is becoming less and less possible to really switch ourselves, and our minds off. This has a dramatic effect on our ability to be present, happy and really connected with our lives. A very well known study conducted out of Harvard University has found that we spend 46.7 percent of our time mind wandering, surprisingly the study also revealed that we are much less likely to feel content or happy when in that mind wandering state.
Further to this, because of our reliance on technology and screen time, our attention spans are actually getting shorter meaning it’s becoming more and more difficult not to get distracted by our thinking, with our thoughts continually dwelling over the immediate past or getting worried about something in the near future.
By the time we get to the weekend we are so wound up that ‘relaxing’ or ‘not doing much’ feels impossibly hard and can even create anxiety with thoughts like…. “I should be doing something, or something is missing”… and so we fill our weekends to the brim as well. The cycle continues.
Modern Mindfulness is a practice that cultivates our ability to pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non judgementally. One of the major influencers for mindfulness in the West is John Kabat-Zinn. His Mindfulness program – which he developed in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School – has been used worldwide since then to help people find greater contentment in the face of this busy, always on, but never really here paradigm. It is the significant and growing body of research that has been developed as a result of the benefits participants attain from this 8-week program that has made mindfulness such a hot topic over the past 15 years. Because it actually works!
With practice, mindfulness works to cultivate our ability to be more present to the lives that we are actually living, not the lives we conduct the other 46.7% of the time that happens in our head. By learning this we actually become happier. We begin to enjoy the life that’s right in front of us rather than always searching for something more or wanting it to be different.
In learning this skill, we start to get better at hearing the constant chatter of our minds commanding us to keep busy, saying we need more of “this” in order to be happy, or more of “that” to be better or more likable.
This is why mindfulness is so illuminating for people and why it is growing in popularity more than ever. Through formal and informal practice, we learn that we are not our thoughts, that we actually have the option to say yes to the chatter or to mute it – or at least turn the volume way down. And in doing so, we begin to tune in more closely to our body and our breath, our wonderful senses, all the other things that are also occurring outside of our headspace in any given moment. We learn that this can be just as powerful, if not more powerful, and important than the constant business and importance of being in our heads. Instead of a mind that is full, we just become mindful.
About Marike Knight
An accomplished yoga teacher and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction consultant, Marike is well versed in many eastern and western mindfulness and yoga disciplines having practiced both herself, for over 15 years. She employs techniques developed by sources in each discipline, aware that a one size fits all approach to finding greater calm, connection and clarity is limiting and, more often than not, ineffective.