What is Mindfulness?
The course will teach you about mindfulness, and how and why to practice it. But first, a story!
A turtle was eating grass by the bank of a stream when he saw a fox staring at him from the opposite shore.
The fox thought himself lucky to have found a yummy lunch. He leapt across the stream.
The turtle, seeing the fox coming, considered turning to run. But he knew he wasn’t fast enough.
“What can I do?” the turtle thought. He realized that the best thing he could do was retreat into his shell.
The turtle pulled his limbs and head tightly into his shell as the fox approached and walked circles around him.
“As soon as he sticks his head out, I’ll eat!” thought the fox. But he waited… and he waited…
The turtle stayed calm. He waited patiently, observing the Fox without fear or anxiety.
Confident in his shell, the turtle even started to observe his situation with curiosity, as if he were watching as a bystander.
This curiosity allowed him not to panic, even as the fox sniffed and scratched his shell.
Eventually, the Fox got tired and wandered away. The turtle enjoyed his lunch in peace.
Buddhist monk Bhante Saranapala tells this story to explain mindfulness.
You are the turtle. You have many foxes in your life.
You can’t always run from your foxes. But you can use the shell of mindfulness to protect yourself.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the “now”, observing your present experience without judgement.
Mindfulness - being the turtle - doesn’t mean that you wall yourself off from the world. To the contrary, you observe.
Being mindful means observing and inhabiting the present moment with all of your senses…
Being mindful also means not judging or getting captivated by thoughts and feelings that come at you like foxes.
In the next cards, we will provide some mindfulness prompts. If you’d like, find a comfortable seat and practice them.
To be mindful, simply breathe. Whatever you are feeling right now, acknowledge it, let it pass.
Focus on the rhythm of your breath - in, out, inhale, exhale. Get curious about your breath.
Has your mind wandered, to a memory or a to-do list item? Gently bring your attention back to your breath.
Tune into what is happening for you right now. Do you feel tense? Anxious? Hungry?
Breathe and watch this feeling as if it were a fox in the woods. You don’t need to engage with it - just notice it.
Slowly, with mindfulness, you won’t need to distract or punish yourself for having negative thoughts and feelings.
Instead, you can calm your mind and make friends with all of your experiences.
Mindfulness can help you to get curious about things you “dislike” while waking you up to moments of joy and peace.
But why should you practice mindfulness? It can help lower your stress levels and even improve your health.
The Dalai Lama writes that “a calm mind is essential for good health.”
Mindfulness quiets areas of the brain associated with mind wandering, anxiety and negative thought loops.
Practicing mindfulness trains your mind, like weight lifting trains your muscles, to better recover from stress.
Mindfulness practice may even lower your blood pressure and levels of inflammation in your body!
Mindfulness is not the same thing as relaxing, watching Netflix, journaling or sleeping.
At its core, mindfulness is insight into your automatic thought patterns and the ability to focus your attention.
So take some time today to be a turtle! Focus on your breath and how your body feels now, not yesterday or tomorrow.
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