Becoming more Mindful

Written by Tele Demetrious


Our Mindfulness Series

Becoming more Mindful‘ is the fourth article in our mindful series.

We recommend you read our Mindfulness series systematically to progressively deepen your Mindfulness practise and understanding, beginning with our first article – ‘What is Mindfulness‘.

Becoming more mindful

Sensory Mindfulness

Mindfulness often entails acute sensory awareness of what is happening in the present moment. When we are mindful, we fully engage our senses in a very direct way. That is, we simply observe our senses without mental commentary such as labelling, judging or interpreting based on prior experience. Although this may sound a little cryptic, it’s actually incredibly simple (but not initially habitual).

Beginners Mind

Sometimes, this is referred to as a beginners mind. Imagine you have only just come into existence right now. You have no prior knowledge or experience of anything and you’re only just using your senses for the first time (for example seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting). Explore your senses with curiosity, paying attention to detail.

Here are a few examples that you can try (for as little as 30 seconds each):

Creating Lasting Changes

Research has shown that the brain is plastic and capable of physical changes in response to practise and experience. Like a muscle, the more we use our brains in a particular way, the more we strengthen neural pathways improving our ability to perform the activities we practise.

The more we practise being mindful, the more we strengthen these neural pathways and the more automatic this becomes. In addition, the less time we spend in ‘Default Mode’ (i.e. ‘lost in thought’), the more the associated neural pathways are eroded (due to the use it or lose it nature of our brain). Mindfulness practise physically rewires our brains.

Intellectual Understanding vs. Practise

Of course, if we wish to maintain the wonderful benefits of mindfulness, we need to continue to practise (and ideally integrate this into our everyday life). Intellectual understanding of mindfulness is not enough. We may be intelligent and understand all the benefits of mindfulness including in-depth knowledge of how to practise, however, if we do not practise, we will not receive any of the mindfulness benefits. Without exercise and practise, our mindful muscles will shrink in size. This will allow ‘Default Mode’ to once again become our most prominent setting.

Formal Practise – What to Expect

Mindfulness can be practised both formally (i.e. during designated mindfulness periods, for example sitting on a cushion or chair) or informally (i.e. during our moment to moment experience of everyday life).

Before commencing formal practise, there are some important points to be aware of:

Important Points


What if I can’t stop thinking?

Life – The Most Important Mindfulness Exercise

The ultimate goal of mindfulness practise is to incorporate it into your moment to moment experience of everyday life. This is where the most healing and transformation is possible. Begin by inviting mindfulness into mundane activities like:

Keep an openness to the present moment, an inner ‘YES’, rather than the habitual ‘NO’. This allows you to feel joyfully alive, alert and at peace in every moment. Here you can reap the widespread health benefits of the practise.

Mindful living, allows you to get in touch with the only thing there ever is – the present moment. It heals the separation of mind and body creating a oneness, where both your mind and your body can dwell peacefully in the present moment (rather than the usual split caused by your mind wandering away into thoughts about the future or past). Here, in the now, you can enjoy the many wonders that are always available when we pay full attention to each moment of our life.

Extending the benefits

Some mindfulness practitioners are wonderful at cultivating a mindful state during formal practise. However, as soon as the practice period ends (and they leave their pillow), they immediately fall back into ‘Default Mode’ and become once again, lost in thought.

In these situations, the benefits of mindfulness may only be realised during the formal practise periods (i.e. perhaps lasting 5 – 30 minutes). Integrating mindfulness into everyday life markedly extends the health and well-being benefits. This is arguably the most vital aspect of mindfulness practise.

After any period of formal practise, try to bring mindfulness into your next activity and remember to keep coming back to the present moment at various times in the day. Mindfulness mnemonics in the form of phone alarms, post-it-note reminders or taking a few conscious breaths every hour can serve as useful reminders to help strengthen your mindful muscles.

Measuring Mindfulness

A good question to ask yourself at regular intervals is ‘Do I feel at peace in this moment?’ If the answer is no, you’ve re-entered ‘default mode – lost in thought’ and your attention has once again been taken over by your mind. This is, of course, completely normal.

Don’t turn this into a personal problem. Don’t judge or criticise your thoughts (after all this would be more ‘Default Mode’ thinking). Just use it as a useful reminder to become more mindful in this moment. Bring your attention back to the present and say an inner unconditional ‘YES’ to what is (letting go of any internal resistance to what has already unfolded).

Use your level of inner peace as a mindfulness monitor to determine the effectiveness of your practise in each moment.

What Problem Exists Now?

Another useful question to ask yourself is ‘What problem exists right now (if I’m not thinking)?’

Become highly alert and focus your attention on this exact moment, that is, right now. Make sure your focus is not on the past ( i.e a few moments, hours, days or years ago) or the near or distant future. Explore this moment yourself and find out how many of your problems are actually created by your thinking (and not reality i.e. this moment). 

Learn More About Mindfulness

PhysioAdvisor’s mindfulness articles are a progressive series designed to gradually strengthen your Mindful muscles. We recommend progressively reading through our series to deepen your practise.

View the next article in our series:

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