What is mindfulness and how to develop it?

Often, when we say that a person leads a conscious life, we thereby compliment him. Indeed, living consciously is not only useful, but also interesting. But how to achieve awareness and whether everyone can do it — these questions can be answered in the article.

What is it in psychology?

Modern psychology interprets awareness as the principle of life, a skill in which a person constantly monitors his current states, experiences, sensations. He fixes the internal focus of attention on them. In fact, a person lives here and now, not being distracted by experiences of the past or worries and thoughts about the future. Awareness is not absolute, it is considered quite relative, because representatives of the animal world are also able to be aware of certain events, sometimes subconsciously.

A person has consciousness, more subtle forms of awareness are available to him, for example, focusing on inner intuition, on the emotional coloring of certain external events.

The level of attention of people and animals is regulated by the nervous system. However, the latter diligently “suppresses” many impulses, otherwise the part of the brain, perceiving the data, simply would not be able to cope with their processing due to the large amount of information. If the system of this «suppression» is weakened, then a state of «expanded consciousness» occurs, in which much more data enters the brain than usual. This concept is widely used by shamans and followers of some esoteric techniques and practices.

Some healing techniques are based on awareness. For example, it is used by Gestalt therapists to treat certain mental disorders. Speaking about awareness, one should clearly see its differences from consciousness — the second “reminds” us of the rules of behavior, norms, duty, while awareness only helps to expand attention, focus on one’s internal state, and from this gradually move on to external interactions with the world .

The concept is also used in philosophy. One of the first to study it was René Descartes. He called the state of awareness «scientific consciousness» and used the famous saying «I think, therefore I am» to describe it. Descartes defined the path of self-observation as introspection. A little later, the achievements of Descartes were used in experimental psychology.


Why is it needed?


A lot has been written and said about how beautiful and rich the conscious life is, how important awareness is for self-development. But this does not make it any clearer — confusion reigns in the minds of most people on this issue. If, for example, you ask why awareness is needed at all, you can certainly live without it, then the answer is obvious — you can, but life will be more difficult. Let’s try to figure out why.

When a person practices mindfulness, he receives a lot of benefits on three levels — psychological, bodily and in everyday life. A clear fixation of your actions allows you to never forget where, for example, the keys to the apartment, documents or the telephone directory are stored. But everyday advantages are just a pleasant bonus on the path of awareness, while the main processes develop at a deep level.

Through gaining awareness, there is an acceptance of the world without criticism and negativity, as well as oneself in this world. It is also worth training awareness to improve one’s health — a person begins to listen to his body and its signals, to monitor the purity of his thoughts. There is a clear and proven relationship between the purity of thoughts and the physical state, and therefore learning awareness means nothing more than moving to a new level of development.

Gaining awareness, a person learns to weed out positive thoughts and attitudes from negative ones that destroy him and his existence. It effectively counters the stresses of the modern world, depression, anxiety disorders. The head is put in order, which, of course, is the main thing. Regular exercises aimed at increasing the level of awareness allow a person to become more calm and self-confident. He quickly finds contact with the world around him, clearly understands his true needs, knows how to set goals for himself.

Conscious living increases the chances of finding personal happiness.

Development levels


Specialists in the field of psychology and psychotherapy identify several levels of awareness that differ in depth (degree). The higher the level, the higher the degree of awareness inherent in a person. Each level opens up a new potential for choice. Most often, the structure is depicted as a multi-level pyramid. It is understood that each of its levels has its own frequency energy potentials. Low levels can be compared to the basement of a building. If a person is here, he looks at a boring and monotonous basement view, believing that the world is limited to this particular room. To see more, you need to go higher.

And dwelling in the lower levels of awareness can be compared to uninterrupted sleep. A person ensures his biological existence, but does not use either his energy potential or the exceptional talents given by nature. Such people are more susceptible to manipulation, their minds and opinions are easily controlled by those who have climbed several floors higher. Proponents of esoteric teachings claim that the inhabitants of the lower levels of awareness, living in the «basement darkness», are actively taken away by those who live above. Their potential is limited only by the energy level that is sufficient for banal survival.

Passing consciously to new levels, a person expands not only the boundaries of his perception, but also the boundaries of possibilities — they become wider, there is more room for «manoeuvres» and making free decisions.

At what level you are, it is not so difficult to determine. Experts have made the following classification.

  • Victims. The lowest level (the same «basement»). A person painfully reacts to problems, looks for the guilty, seeks to blame them and the imperfection of the world. Often such people say that their life is hopeless. Light rarely penetrates into the basement levels. A person often gets sick, faces failures, and his usual emotional background is negative.
  • Wrestlers. This level can be compared with the first floor of a multi-storey building. A person reacts aggressively to problems, seeks to look for the guilty, but not only blames them, but also fights them, sometimes launching large-scale hostilities, he is inclined to prove his case and download rights. Often lives in a state of conflict not only with others, but also with himself.
  • Seekers. A person of this level reacts with interest to emerging problems. It is important for him to find the cause of what happened, to understand what is happening. They are less likely to get sick, virtuosic in the search for solutions. But the situation is unstable, they are often provoked by people from the category of victims and fighters, and if a person succumbs to such manipulations and provocations, he again falls to low levels of awareness.
  • Players. A person of this level perceives each problem as the next step. Quickly finds solutions, does not waste time and effort searching for reasons or digging into himself. Such people almost do not get sick, they are more often in an upbeat optimistic mood, they communicate well even with representatives of low levels, being able to defend themselves from them. But if the defense is “broken”, then they risk briefly being in the ranks of victims or fighters.
  • Creators. These are people who react to all troubles with enthusiasm. They watch over them, patiently survive as the problem develops. If it is not solved by itself, they take it and solve it easily on their own. They are healthy, most often happy, and if they drop to lower levels, then it is solely for the sake of an adventurous adventure.
  • Sources. People who were able to reach the upper floors. They almost never have problems, complete harmony reigns everywhere. It is believed that there are practically no such people on the planet, but this level is the benchmark to which all the others are aimed.


Components


Before you start working on your own awareness, you need to learn more about its components. The most effective and efficient techniques used by modern specialists are based on them.

Breath

Usually we are not aware of it. From birth to death, we simply breathe, which is a natural process. A person usually begins to focus on breathing only when some problems occur to him, for example, respiratory diseases occur. Psychologists advise not to wait for this moment.

Focusing on the breath is the first path to mindfulness. Now, as you read this article, do you notice your breathing? If not, then it’s time to try fixing your attention on both the breath and the text at the same time. Carry this practice into all activities. Washing dishes and noticing the breath, negotiating with a client or partner — and doing the same, that is, watching the breath. From this point on, we can assume that you have found a staircase that will climb to higher floors. However, you are only at the beginning of the journey.

Feel

Having mastered conscious inhalations and exhalations, complicate your task — learn to fix your feelings in real time, noting feelings at one time or another. Try not to judge your feelings — they are neither good nor bad, they just are.

Focusing on his feelings, a conscious person gains freedom of choice, can foresee some of the consequences of his actions and decisions. He more acutely perceives beauty in all its manifestations.

Emotions


Emotional life will be the third area of ​​work. When performing actions, we not only breathe and feel, but also experience certain emotions — joy, sadness, anxiety. The task is to learn to distinguish between positive and negative emotions. When you start to feel something unpleasant, you should learn to quickly fix this moment and stop in time, switching to more positive thoughts.

This part of the journey is considered the most difficult, since emotionality is difficult to control. But constant exercise will help in this.

Thoughts

We have a constant stream of thoughts. We think about the mass of things and phenomena, while thoughts jump, move from one object to another. Most of the time, we are not even aware of them all. On the way to awareness, a person learns to control his thoughts, manage them, direct them exclusively in a creative and positive direction.

How to raise?

Cultivating mindfulness means encouraging attention to whatever you are doing. Focus consistently on breathing and walking, and only then move on to the next components — sensations. It will not be possible to turn on emotions and achieve control over thoughts if the previous stages have not been completed. The main skill will be the ability to practice the rule of «here and now» in everyday life.

Not only Tibetan monks and followers of Taoism will be able to develop such skills. Everyone can achieve the absence of internal torment, dialogues and doubts. If you wish, take action immediately. Keep a diary and note in it daily what progress is observed. This will help improve your achievements, and will also help increase your own concentration.

  • Only truth. Any lie reduces awareness. This is the first and main rule. Every time you encourage the truth, speak it, act on the truth, your awareness grows.
  • Watch. Practice observation, do not confuse it with observation. You do not analyze or evaluate anything, but only see and fix for yourself a fait accompli. Look at the familiar as if you were doing it for the first time, forget about the observations of the past.
  • Don’t suppress yourself. Mindfulness does not mean that you begin to actively consciously suppress your negative character traits and shortcomings. Trying to “drive” your greed, deceit and fears deeper, you only confuse everything even more. Sooner or later, repressed emotions come out in the form of aggression, mental disorder, sexual perversion and various manias. You need to actively work with the negative inside, and not hide it.


Practices and exercises


There are many techniques, but each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some effective methods to help you raise awareness.

BON

The Non-Evaluative Observation Method (BON) is an effective technique that turns on the internal observer in you. The bottom line is that you remain yourself, but you constantly observe yourself from the outside: your thoughts, actions, sensations, without giving any practical assessments. You don’t judge yourself and you don’t approve. You are neutral. All thoughts and emotions are considered carefully, but do it immediately, not allowing them to go to deeper subconscious levels.

It won’t work right away. The tendency to evaluate everything will interfere for a long time. Training will help, in which you will fix the assessment, but at the same time perceive it as an assessment and nothing more. The method involves several steps.

  • Absence and presence of «here and now». Try to keep a sense of where you are now — in the present, past or future. You drink coffee, so you only drink coffee and nothing more. Do not mentally break away from this pleasant activity. Observe how often you are not «here». At first, this may scare you — too often you will be absent from the present tense. Understanding your absence will be the beginning of work on yourself.
  • Returning yourself to the now. When you catch yourself in another absence, start practicing an exercise that will help you bring yourself back. Speak to yourself a key phrase, such as: «Come back» or «In the moment.» For example, you are preparing breakfast. But catch yourself thinking that in your head you have already begun to prepare reports for the manager, although this will only take 3 hours. But in fact, you are in the kitchen, so you should immediately give yourself the command to return and focus on the action that you are currently performing. Practice the exercise an unlimited number of times a day.
  • Conscious observation. Having learned to observe yourself in a moment in time, move on to non-judgmental observation of your emotions and thoughts. Try to look at them, as well as at yourself, from the side — from the side or from above (but without ratings). For example, you have an interview coming up, so you are nervous because you are interested in getting a job. Look at yourself through the eyes of a viewer of a film in which you play the main role. See how the hero is going through, how he seeks to please. Notice the tension in your body.

Do not evaluate anything, just look, study the object — the object itself is important to you, and not what it feels and thinks.


Mindfulness Practice


The method can be practiced daily, some call it the «Challenge 30 days». Of course, the process will not be limited to a month, the exercise will have to be performed later, but not to enter awareness, but to maintain life in it.

  • Breathe. Whatever you do, watch your breath. Try to increase the control time. Whether you’re talking to someone, or staying alone, practice mindful smooth inhalations and exhalations.
  • Feel. Start by focusing throughout the day on sensations that occur in a specific muscle group, such as the fingertips or the cervical region. Watch them, how they change in different circumstances and situations. Gradually expand the area of ​​attention by simultaneously controlling two or more muscle groups. Gradually, you will learn to “hear” your body, to understand what causes certain sensations that arise.
  • Control emotions. Every time an emotion arises, watch it. This will help to impartially see your true feelings and needs. Gradually, you will learn to calmly neutralize everything negative and maintain creative emotions (joy, tenderness, gratitude). Ask yourself more often during the day about what emotions currently prevail in you, why this is happening.
  • Think. Try to track your inner dialogue with yourself, monologues, transitions from one thought to another more often without ratings. As with emotions, ask yourself what you are currently thinking and why.

Training of individual aspects


Only after mastering the above basics (and this process takes several months), move on to more specific training, aimed at certain aspects. It will be easier and easier for you to cope with these tasks. This block includes the development of a conscious approach to the following aspects:

  • values ​​- define them and follow only them, without changing yourself in any situations;
  • reality — try to evaluate what is happening around you, perceive what is happening soberly and without judgment;
  • speeches — watch what you say yourself, as well as what others say, be an attentive listener;
  • movements — do not rush in movements, be smooth and measured, do not strive for high speed;
  • actions — consider them from different points, but do not give assessments, otherwise you will have to start all the way from the very beginning;
  • activities — perform your work impeccably and responsibly, no matter what you do (even a trifle must be performed at a high level, expertly);
  • life — control your goals and plans, personal time, eliminate unnecessary actions and people who take time without effect from your life.

Thus, every day of your life, every minute of it will acquire a high value.

Psychologists’ advice

Achieving a certain goal will be easier if you listen to the advice of experts.

  • Change your attitude towards the world and yourself in favor of a neutral one. Only it corresponds to the truth.
  • Your behavior will change as you move through the levels of awareness, but always gradually.
  • Stay motivated and respect your choice. Don’t be afraid to start over.

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