On my happiness journey, I am revisiting mindfulness this week. This is the 6th limb of Patanjali’s Ashtanga yoga: Dharana – concentration or complete attention. We can practice this in 3 stages, first we need to choose a focus point, usually the rhythm of the breath or the sensations of the body – give the mind something to hold on to. The second step is to allow the mind to be single-pointed. If your focus point is the breath, allow the mind to rest on the breath. When we realize our mind has wandered away from our focus point, we return back to it, this is the third step. Never getting distracted is not what the practice of dharana is about, instead, returning to your focus point each time you realize that you have been distracted, over and over again. The practice of dharana has very definite application in a hatha yoga practice, but it doesn’t need to end there, it can be applied to any aspect of life. When we keep returning to a focus point in life, everything we do becomes a spiritual practice. Darren Main in his book Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic, invites us to imagine doing the laundry or driving the car as being as therapeutic as doing the dancer pose.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

According to the American Psychological Association some of the benefits are: reduced rumination and stress, boosts to working memory and focus, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility and relationship satisfaction.

Northern Arizona University researchers write on the practice of mindfulness: “How much of a difference can it make to focus your mind and calm down? It actually makes a large difference in your well-being.”

How can we cultivate mindfulness?

According to the American Psychological Association, yoga and meditation can cultivate mindfulness — which trains the attention and awareness, bringing the mind under greater control and thereby fostering mental well-being and developing calmness, clarity and concentration.

Mindfulness practices enhance the connection between our body, our mind and everything else that is around us. Mindful living is the key to understanding our struggles with weight and to empowering us to control our weight.” Thich Nhat Hanh

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor Frankl, Viennese psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor