I don’t know whether it has crossed into your sphere of consciousness of late but it has come to my attention that the concept of Mindfulness is popping up all over the place. Nearly every magazine I read has an article on a new form of Mindfulness.
So this got me thinking about how Mindful I was being in my life and why we all of a sudden have a need to be so much more Mindful.
Let’s start with the Mindfulness I enjoy the most!
I was sitting in a café in Fortitude Valley a couple of months ago and noticed that the blackboard on the wall told me that by eating in this café I was a Mindful eater.
I suppose that wasn’t such a surprise to me because it was an organic café and it was clearly aimed at those of us who prefer organic food and have food intolerances such as gluten, dairy or sugar.
I just hadn’t come across the term Mindful eating before or thought about what it really means to be a Mindful eater.
On reflection it was clear to me that I was a Mindful eater.
I chose to eat organic meat, dairy and fruit and vegetables whenever I can although if I can find spray free fruit and vegetables I think they are just as good. The other guide I use for buying organic, is the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetables as determined by the US Environmental Working group which I have expanded on in my tips below.
Whenever I eat, I think about the quality of what I am eating and the nutritional value it will provide my body.
Over the past five years as I have been healing my body I have learnt a great deal about nutrition. I realised the other day that when I was younger I used to concentrate on what I wasn’t putting into my body for example no ice cream or no doughnuts but nowadays I focus on what I am putting into my body and what value it is adding.
A subtle change but a very important change.
Why do I do this?
Because it just makes good sense. I want to eat real food that is full of goodness and is beneficial to my body.
There are currently over 80,000 chemicals that man has created being used throughout the world today and the number is increasing each year. They surround us in everything we buy, we add them to our homes through our cleaning products and then we spray them on or add them to our fruit and vegetables to keep pests away or increase the yield and longevity of our food.
There are also the hormones and antibiotics that are being added to the food we feed our cattle, pigs, sheep and chickens, all designed to make them grow faster and produce more. These hormones and antibiotics are then passed on to us through the meat we eat and the dairy we consume.
Besides eating organic I also want to eat the real foods my grandparents ate, not the processed and manufactured foods that have become so much a part of our modern lives. I certainly do not want to eat genetically modified foods or foods that are full of sugar or salt and other additives to give them flavour.
It seems to me that we expect a great deal from our bodies these days by asking them to consume these toxins and manufactured foods and yet we still expect them to stay healthy and see us through to a ripe old age.
The other reason I do it is because my health demands that I do and moving to an organic and healthy diet has been a key component in restoring my health.
- Work on the 80/20 rule where 80% of the time you eat Mindfully and 20% you eat not so Mindfully. My philosophy is life has to have balance and there has to be time for treats.
- Find a good local organic produce shop. They are starting to appear all over the place because more and more people are choosing to eat organic. In Brisbane I shop at yourorganicmarkets.com.au. Their prices and quality are good and their produce is sourced locally.
- Get to know the Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen and use them as a guide to how you shop. These are the fruits and vegetables that are the least and most contaminated by pesticide use according the US Environmental Working Group. You can find them at davidsuzuki.org.
- Shop at your local farmers market. Most of the foods should be grown locally and will be in season. You will also probably find some great organic or spray free fruit and vegetables and some grass fed or organic meats. They also provide a great opportunity for you connect with the people who have grown and produced your food.
- Grow as many of your own fruit, vegetables and herbs as you can. It is incredibly rewarding and it allows you to harvest as you need them. If you are generous like me you may also end up feeding the local possum and bat community which brings its own rewards.
The next case of Mindfulness to enter my radar was Mindfulness meditation.
I was a bit puzzled by this and how Mindfulness meditation is different to just good old meditation.
Well it seems they are sort of the same but a little bit different.
Traditionally meditation focuses on stilling the mind to go within and connect with the inner consciousness. Something I have always struggled with and probably the reason why I have never really successfully committed to meditation as a daily practice. It is also often connected with a spiritual experience.
The notion of Mindfulness meditation has actually been around for a while, starting with Buddhism and then being introduced to the west in 1979 by an American doctor, Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn and his mindfulness stress reduction programs.
Dr Kabot-Zinn emphasised that although mindfulness can be cultivated through formal meditation it is also about living your life as if it really mattered – moment by moment by moment.
What we refer to today as Mindfulness meditation takes elements of both traditional meditation and some of Dr Kabot-Zinns techniques. It is simply taking some time out to quietly go within and focus on something away from the outside world.
It doesn’t require you to find a place to sit crossed legged for thirty minutes. You can pretty much do it anywhere although the quieter the better. I put my head phones on in the quiet carriage on the train and do some going into work. Or when I wake up in the morning I lie in bed and do fifteen minutes before I start the day.
The good thing is today it is really easy to do and it has been adapted to fit into our modern world. There are literally thousands of apps or podcasts you can download that will provide you with a Mindfulness meditation session. Everything from happiness, to anxiety, to relaxation, to chakra balancing to mantras. Something for everyone.
Studies have shown that just five or ten minutes of meditation a day is hugely valuable to our health. It relaxes our body including our heart and encourages us to slow down our mind and breath more deeply. If you are not already doing it I encourage you to give it a try. It will get easier the more you do it and you will notice the difference in how you feel.
- Go into the App store and download Headspace. It is the latest Mindful meditation app that is loved by the beautiful people in Hollywood. It has had over one million people sign up to use it worldwide over the past three years which tells me it is worth having a look at.
- Search YouTube until you find a few different guided meditations that you like and fit your style. Even once a week will be better than not at all.
Not long after discovering that I was a Mindful eater I also discovered that I was a Mindful consumer.
What makes me a Mindful consumer?
Well according to our local paper The Courier Mail it is because:
- I buy my fresh food locally through markets or small business
- I buy slow food over fast food
- I buy real food over processed food
- I buy Australian over food that is imported
- I buy in bulk when I can as it is cheaper and saves on packaging and helps the environment
I would also like to add to this list:
- I am buying less to ensure that I do not waste anything
- Fruit or vegetables that are starting to get a little old get used up in soups or stews or are frozen
- Meat or consumables that are getting to their use by date are cooked up into something for dinner or lunch and frozen before they spoil
Now while the last two points on the list take a little more time and it may be difficult for those of us who are time poor, I find it incredibly rewarding not to waste food. It also saves money and ensures we always have good food available to eat.
- Check out Sarah Wilson’s website sarahwilson.com. I am a big fan of Sarah Wilson of “I Quit Sugar” fame and her passions are far broader than her “I Quit Sugar” crusade. She has some great ideas on Mindful eating, Mindful consumerism and just living a more Mindful life.
Developing Mindful children
The icing on the Mindfulness cake for me however came when I discovered that Mindfulness is being taught to primary school children in Australia.
The program focuses on teaching children how to be more mindful about how they react to situations. It is very similar to the concepts Dr Kabat-Zinn was teaching back in the eighties:
- Focus on the present
- Try not to think about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in the future
- Purposefully concentrate on what is happening around you, not being judgemental about anything you notice or seeing things as good and bad.
What wonderful skills to give our children!
The results being that the children are calmer in school, more focused, they are learning better and interacting with each other in a more considered and less judgemental way.
Hopefully this is flowing over into their home lives and they will take these skills with them into adulthood.
Imagine what the world would be like if we all practiced these skills in our day to day lives.
So what about you?
- Are you being as Mindful as you could or should be?
- Is it time to change some old habits and create some new ones?
- Are you looking after your body so that it is there for you in the future?
- Do you need to slow your life a little and take some time to go within?
It certainly seems to me that in this crazy fast paced world that we have created for ourselves we would all benefit from increasing the amount of Mindfulness in our lives.
The curious thing is I don’t think Mindfulness is a new concept. I think we have just forgotton it and we are now going back to it because we see the value and the need.
I know that my grandparents lived very Mindful lives. In many ways they didn’t have a choice as life was far simpler. They lived through the Great Depression and two World Wars. They may not have practiced meditation but they took the time to think and reflect on life and to connect with each other and they had no choice but to be mindful of what they ate and how they lived.
My final tip
- Simplify your lives a little. Take away some of the busy-ness. Take away some of the choices. Create some space to just be and just enjoy the present.