Mindfulness is a big concept in wellness at the moment. It’s all about paying attention to the present moment and accepting your experiences without judgment. However, many people are put off the practice because they see it as endless hours of navel-gazing, and maybe even sitting crossed legged on a meditation cushion. Of course, this is only one form of mindful practice and, with the right approach, you can introduce this skill into many other areas of your life.
Why is mindfulness useful for heroes?
Mindfulness meditation could be described as an essential skill for those looking to live with a heroic mindset, because it is one path to avoiding toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is the idea that men need to be a certain way, almost a caricature of what society perceives as masculine, including being aggressive, unemotional, and independent. Of course, if you try living your life like this for any amount of time you will discover that not only is it unnatural, but mentally and physically harmful to ourselves and others.
This is where mindfulness comes in, because it is a way to recognize all emotions including fear and sadness, while not allowing ourselves to be defined, controlled, or overwhelmed by them. The fundamental idea behind being mindful is to watch your inner experience as you would a lake or pond. Yes, sometimes the wind will whip things up so it becomes choppy or chaotic, but the chaos is not the pond, just like your emotions are not your being. By fostering this separation you can both allow yourself to feel them and let them go so they no longer make such a significant impact in your life.
In Buddhism the phrase “off the cushion” means to take your mindfulness practice out of the formal setting and into the rest of your life. You can apply the practice of mindfulness to the most mundane and routine of tasks.
A fantastic choice for this is washing up (or loading the dishwasher), as it’s something that needs to be done every day, and usually a task that we find both repetitive and boring. To be as mindful as possible when doing such a task, turn off all other distractions and allow yourself to rinse, scrub, and stack the dishes in silence.
Observe what is going through you mind, whether its thoughts about the dishes themselves, on what your day has been like, or even how you hate this particular task. Of course, the idea is to not get caught up in any of these thoughts. When they arise, acknowledge them and then return your focus to the task at hand. You will undoubtedly have to repeat this over and over again. It’s the returning to your point of focus that is the practice of mindfulness, not the unbroken and laser-like concentration on the task itself.
There are, of course, specific activities designed specifically to promote mindfulness as well as move the body, which can be particularly useful in the beginning of your journey toward being more present. One of these is the practice of yoga.
Of course, yoga has many other benefits as well as mindfulness, including the regulation of the endocrine system. Some believe it is also useful for releasing any long-held hurts and emotional pain. This makes it an excellent tool to detached from concerns that keep you from being present.
Traditional exercise as mindfulness
You may also be surprised to discover that many traditional exercise activities are also fantastic opportunities to develop and practice your mindfulness skills. In fact, it is this flow state, where simply focusing on your golf swing or the sensation of your feet pounding the pavement can be appealing.
However, such activities are likely to be more high impact. Therefore, you need to consider your level of fitness before you begin. Luckily, it is possible to modify certain activities. For instance, if you know you’ll struggle to walk an entire golf course, use a golf cart. Then you’ll be able to adapt the activity to your level of fitness and still gain the mindfulness benefits.
Another off the cushion practice you can get involved in is mindful eating. Yes, you can improve your emotional and psychological well-being by having a good meal!
To eat mindfully is all about slowing things down. Savor each bite, noting the flavors and textures. It’s also about observing the thoughts that come into your head. Mindful eating is also about listening to your body’s hunger signals and stopping when you are full, not when your plate in empty. This can be quite a revelation for many of us, and have a positive impact on our physical health and weight.
But by far the most prominent effect will be the development of observation skills relating to your body and mind. These skills, when practiced regularly over time, can lead to not only allowing your emotions to be as they are, but also help you to gain freedom from them as well. Again, this is a huge part of embracing a heroic mindset every day.