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Mindfulness something for you?

Mindfulness is about being more present in your current experience. It is about being attentive to what is right now. In the definition of mindfulness three aspects of this attention are mentioned that are important when we practice mindfulness: the attention is focused, in the here-and-now and not judgmental.

When you practice mindfulness, you learn to focus your attention on where you want it to be, in the now and without judging. Often our thoughts are occupied by thoughts and emotions, our concerns for the present and the future, and things we regret, or just thoughts about the past. Training your mind is just like training your muscles (in this case your attention muscle). This prevents us from doing everything on autopilot and having a choice about how to react.

Mindfulness helps you to recognise and observe thought patterns. During mindfulness training you learn to recognise when thoughts come up and you can look at them without judging. This allows you to distance yourself from these thoughts and does not evoke an emotion or an 'automatic' reaction. This reduces stress and helps you to focus on what you are doing. In addition, it gives you a fresh look and allows you to come to new insights.

Mindfulness exercises

The skill in consciousness can be developed by simply practising. There are different ways to practice mindfulness. You can do this through meditation (sitting or walking meditation such as yoga) or more 'informal' meditation (drawing more attention to daily routines, such as conscious eating).

Breath space 

Breathing space is a short exercise in 3 steps that will help you to step away from the autopilot and return to the 'now'. You use your breathing as an 'anchor' during this exercise. The exercise is explained in more detail below. It is a nice exercise to just do in between when you feel that things are getting too busy.

The 3 minute breathing space

1. Attention on the now, what kind of thoughts do you have now. For example, it can help to be seated comfortably, with good support, so that you can place yourself consciously in the 'now' for a while. You can, if you like, close your eyes.

During the first step of this breathing space exercise, focus your attention on yourself and your thoughts at that moment. You can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What experiences am I feeling right now?
  • What thoughts do I have right now?
  • How do I feel right now? Does it feel comfortable? Or not? Are there any special feelings or emotions that I can recognise in myself right now?
  • How does my body feel now? How does the chair feel?
  • You don't have to change anything in the things you notice. Just observe and acknowledge that they are there, even if you prefer not to.

2. Attention to your breathing

Now you can let go of all your experiences from step 1 and shift your attention to your breathing. You are aware of every breath, how, for example, your chest goes up and how it feels when you breathe out. It is possible that you let yourself be distracted and that you get certain thoughts again. Notice this and then use the anchor of the breath and shift your attention back to your breathing.

3. Expanding your attention

In the last step of this exercise, shift your attention to your whole body. How does your body feel, how are your feet on the ground, how does your face feel and so on. You can open your eyes after about a minute.

Author: Mariska Baauw,ASML (Team)Coach and Mindfulness Trainer