Lauren Stinson (Arts/Law III) shares with us the importance of mindfulness and meditation!
The human brain – what a miraculous organ, so complex – the pinnacle of evolution … thought your brain. What about when the brain lets us down? I’m talking ‘bout seeex baby- nope, I’m talking about the way our brain is geared towards unhelpful, often distracting or negative thinking. Specifically: I’m mindful of the fact that the very word ‘meditation’ has probably turned you off reading this article. You say, I don’t have time for it, or, why am I not levitating yet, and what the hell is ‘broga’? (which, to be fair, I don’t know either). The benefits of practicing mindful meditation are all vaguely summed up as ‘re-energising’ or ‘clearing your mind’, with a vibe of tourists in Thailand appropriating a practice originating in Buddhism. And your brain says, I don’t need that, even though science speaks to the contrary, showing that mindful meditation is important for our mental well-being.
Mindful meditation is both an example and an answer to the problem of our brains – it’s about taking a step back from all the things our brain tells us, which aren’t all necessarily true. You can meditate anywhere, just close your eyes and focus on your breathing, being mindful of the present moment. That can mean anything from noticing your leg pressed against the chair, or the booth next to yours in the Law Library discussing a case from Equity, or it can be noticing internal things, like thoughts and emotions, positive or negative. The keyword is noticing: you notice the thought, and then let it go – some experts liken it to letting a leaf flow down a stream (thank you Uncle Iroh) or letting a bubble float away, all while breathing deeply and in rhythm.
This kind of ‘mindful’ focus stops us from thinking too much about the past, think all those embarrassing screw ups your brain likes to bring up right before you sleep, as well as stopping us from focusing too much on the future – like stressing out about exams, whether we will find a job, AND WHAT THE MEANING AND PURPOSE OF LIFE IS – without trying to stop us from thinking. The breathing exercises are also useful for when you are stressed (including for panic attacks), slowing your heart and breathing rates down to a habitual pace, based on practice. The best part? There are free audio tracks available to guide you through*, and there’s no way to fail at mindful meditation – notice that your brain is thinking that thought, and let it go. Bring your mind gently back to focusing on your breathing, and continue!
*The author recommends the free app ‘The Smiling Mind’, or the guided audio tracks @ www.actmindfully.com.au