Do you often have the autopilot behind the wheel? No wonder actually – because who doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the infinite number of to-dos, our increasingly confusing, frightening world, Facebook and WhatsApp, the pressure to self-optimize and perform lurking everywhere? We save so much time – and yet we don’t have any. Not even for feeling how we are actually doing.
Often we need a warning shot first: When we get sick from all the stress or exhaustion weighs us down, we wake up and look for strategies to become calmer, calmer and more satisfied again. If you look at the bestseller lists and the most popular blogs, almost all of us are in search of happiness.
But where can it be found – Happiness?
There are many indications that cultivating mindfulness is helpful. Studies have shown that we’re happier when we’re in the here and now and fully focused on one thing. So mono instead of multi-tasking. But as adults we often do not manage to do this as easily as we did as a child. Instead, our minds tend to wander into the past or become preoccupied with planning for the future.
We are not to blame for that, by the way. The blueprint of our brain is simply designed in such a way that our mind would rather bite into problems than be present and content. The American neuropsychologist Rick Hanson explains it this way: Our brain has developed what is called “negative distortion”. “The Velcro principle applies to negative experiences: they stick, while the Teflon principle applies to positive experiences.” (Rick Hanson: Thinking Like a Buddha, Irisana 2013)
Through regular mindfulness practice, we can learn to bring our mind back into the moment, like a clumsy young dog who runs in all directions at every opportunity. The key to any mindfulness practice is to anchor our mind, for example the breath or sensations in the body. Because breath and body are always in the now, they know no future or past. And when we notice again how we are actually doing right now, then we also feel what we really need at the moment.
Mindfulness is medicine for body and soul
It takes some practice before we are more present in our lives. But the efforts can be rewarded after a short time. There are now several thousand studies on mindfulness and they suggest that regular practice leads to a whole range of positive effects. For example, it improves our perception of emotions and body sensations. In addition, it promotes our ability to empathize or to empathize and in this way improves the quality of our relationships.
Study participants with physical illnesses such as pain or cancer report that their quality of life has improved significantly through mindfulness exercises. A lowering of the blood pressure values and the cortisol level (which is related to stress) as well as an improved function of the immune system could be proven. Mindfulness has proven to be particularly effective in connection with psychological problems, which is why appropriate strategies and tools are now increasingly included in the psychotherapeutic treatment of depression, anxiety, burnout, eating disorders, etc.
Karl Semelka, mindfulness teacher, business coach and psychotherapist, has also had this experience in his practice: “Mindfulness usually causes us to live healthier and experience a better quality of life. We deal with ourselves and our environment more consciously, we perceive sensations and emotions better. This also enables us to better recognize, for example, when certain internal components such as the “autopilot” or our “inner child” are active. “
Three levels of mindfulness
Through regular practice, we cultivate a kind of inner observer who does not have to evaluate everything into “good or bad”, “pleasant or unpleasant”, but rather looks at things openly and curiously as they are. In this way we can also perceive when we fall back into familiar reaction patterns and can decide to try out new behaviors. For Karl Semelka this is the first, cognitive level of mindfulness: “I learn to take better care of myself through my mind.”
Another important aspect for teachers and therapists is the physical level of mindfulness: “This is about not thinking so much, but about perceiving,” he explains in the interview. “I learn to keep my attention with the body. The advantage is that mental processes come to rest because I no longer give them any energy.”
For Karl Semelka, the third level of mindfulness is a spiritual one: “I experience concretely that my consciousness is very wide, silent and empty. That there is something in me that is indivisible. As a result, inner peace becomes stronger. ”Many practitioners report that through regular mindfulness practice, they experience a strong sense of connectedness with everything. Instead of just identifying with our little selves, we understand that there is something bigger than ourselves and with which we are one.
Yoga leads to mindfulness
Finally, the question perhaps remains what mindfulness has to do with yoga. Do I have to be a yogi to practice mindfulness? For the experienced yoga practitioner and teacher Karl Semelka it is the other way round: “For me, only a yogi is someone who also touches this level. Mindfulness is the most elementary part of yoga. When Patanjali writes in the Yoga Sutra about calming down the mind (yogaś Citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ), then that’s exactly what he means. “
So it is worthwhile in many ways to have a regular mindfulness practice. It can help you to cope with the challenges of everyday life better and healthier and to feel more relaxed and happier overall.