What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the act of focusing our awareness onto whatever is occurring in the present moment; simply noticing and experiencing the sensations that are currently going on, as they are, without adding judgements to them.
This usually involves letting go of the mental processing that we normally add as a reaction to situations which can end up adding a lot of unnecessary suffering to what we experience.
The result of all this is that we can find the peace and joy that comes with the simple feeling of just Being.
Breathing and Mediation
Mediation, breathing and focusing on the present moment is the first step in calming the mind. Classes on Yin-Yang style breathing are usually held on Saturday mornings. Aikido is about balancing both the mind and the body. The breath is very important first step into understanding this balance. Breathing is essential to life and is both a conscious and unconscious act. Learning to control and balance the in breath and out breath is a fundamental principle of Aikido.
Interest in mindfulness has grown enormously over the last few years as psychology and neurosciences have begun to acknowledge the benefits to health and well-being that result from the cultivated state of mindfulness, particularly in relation to dealing with stress and anxiety.
However the experience of mindfulness is nothing new. It is something that has been experienced world wide throughout human history as a natural result of artistic and meditative practices.
Paths to Mindfulness
Japan has a particularly rich history of artistic and ritualized practices for which the cultivation of the state of mindfulness itself has been one of the central motivations for the practice. These arts include: Chado (tea ceremony), Shodo (calligraphy), Ikebana (flower arranging), Kyudo (archery) and Kendo (swordsmanship). These arts provide a dynamic way of developing mindfulness that doesn’t involve just seated meditation practices.
Mindfulness in Aikido
Aikido is another of these arts. In Aikido mindfulness is developed through:
- Mind/Body unification – using posture and an awareness of the body as a way to anchor the mind in the present movement.
- Balanced & centered movement – Aikido techniques are based on a way of moving that is always balanced, centered and relaxed.
- Harmonization – responding to conflicts (both inner and outer; physical and mental/emotional) by flowing with the forces rather than with resistance and fighting.
- Beginner’s mind – cultivating a mindset based on openness, acceptance, and a readiness to embrace whatever may occur.
- Ki Breathing – a form of breath meditation for relaxation, clearing the mind, circulating energy and expanding our awareness and sense of self.
See the links below if you’re interested in finding out more about mindfulness:
Wikipedia – Mindfulness
The modern Western perspective
Wikipedia – Mindfulness
The traditional Eastern perspective
Mindfulness Research Guide
A collection on the current science
UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
An article from the University of California
Oxford Mindfulness Centre
An article from the University of Oxford
Mindfulness from MindHeadConnect
Introduction article on what is mindfulness
Mindfulness from Black Dog Institute
Article on mindfulness in everyday life
ABC on mindfulness meditation
Instructions on mindfulness practice from ABC News
An ancient take on the experience of mindfulness:
Close your eyes and you will see clearly.
Cease to listen and you will hear truth.
Be silent and your heart will sing.
Seek no contacts and you will find union.
Be still and you will move forward on the tide of the spirit.
Be gentle and you will need no strength.
Be patient and you will achieve all things.
Be humble and you will remain entire.