Home' Nova National : July 2010 Contents Probably one of the most useful
meditation exercises practised
by Buddhists today is called
mindfulness. From the very
beginnings of this oriental philosophy,
Buddha was asking his disciples to learn
to be fully aware of every moment of
The practice of mindfulness is a time honoured method
for improving the quality of our life... and relieving stress.
In Part One of a new series, Olivier Lejus shows us how.
their lives. They were reminded of the
importance of focusing their energy on
the present, instead of the future and
the past. Today, mindfulness is being
practised all around the world. It has been
shown to be very effective in a variety of
areas, from improving students' ability
to learn, focus and memorise when
practised in the classroom, to helping
patients suffering from terminal illnesses
to deal with chronic pain. In this column
during the next few months, we will
explore this fascinating form of meditation
in depth, with practical exercises, which
can lead to long lasting improvement in
our quality of life.
In ancient times, followers of Buddha
lived in a very simple way close to nature,
in an environment which was conductive
to meditation and insight. Two and a
half thousand years later, the world
has changed beyond anyone's wildest
Nowadays, we are being constantly
overstimulated with noise, images,
advertising and new technology.
Consequently, many of us suffer from
a chronic inability to attend to what we
are doing. We have gradually adapted to
this increased pace of living by dividing
our attention, and multi tasking to get
things done without even being aware of
how strange our behaviour has become.
We start several tasks at once and
leave them unfinished. We eat while we
scan the Internet. We send text messages
while we are driving. We talk to a friend
on the phone while we watch the news
and try to remember what we need for
shopping tomorrow. We fool ourselves
into thinking that doing three things at
once is a lot quicker, but we waste time
and become stressed because we can't
find our keys when we leave the house.
Mindfulness is about relearning to
devote our full attention to every action
that we undertake. If we reflect on the
most satisfying life experiences that we
have encountered, we find they have
always occurred when we were totally
absorbed. This is the aim of this form of
meditation -- to notice what is around and
inside us, to observe our mind and change
the way we respond.
Changing our behaviour does not
come easily. In fact, mindfulness is
surprisingly difficult to practise. But if we
start focusing deeply for a few minutes
several times a day on our actions and
what is happening around us, we
will experience small alterations in
our behaviour, which will lead to big
improvements in our emotional and
Every time we practise mindfulness,
every time we concentrate deeply on
the present moment -- observe the light
30 © NOVA JULY 2010
'Soon, we will find that our life runs more smoothly, that we are more
relaxed and satisfied and more in control of our emotions.'
filtering through the curtains, the weight
of our hands resting on the arms of a
chair, the stream of our thoughts -- we
cultivate a thread of awareness that will
gradually become stronger and stronger.
Soon, we will find that our life
runs more smoothly, that we are more
relaxed and satisfied and more in control
of our emotions. Until one day, like
the Buddhist masters, we can attain a
permanent state of peaceful strength
and harmony. This is what I propose to
explore in the next few months. We will
start today with a simple exercise for
dealing with stress.
One of the earliest discoveries I made
when I started meditating was how closely
my mind and body were interrelated.
I became aware of the numerous subtle
physical changes that occurred as soon
as my mind became affected. Next time
you experience the onset of stress, which
will come very quickly, I suggest that
you immediately look for these physical
reactions. It is important to catch these
symptoms early, since the longer we wait
the harder they are to control.
Try to feel how your body is reacting to
this emotional change -- maybe there
will be a feeling of tension in your guts,
a sudden tightening of your shoulder
muscles, or maybe in your neck. Now,
immediately stop whatever you are
doing -- it could be arguing, shouting, or
banging on your computer screen -- and
concentrate on the lower part of your
body for a few moments. Try to feel the
weight of your feet on the floor, your
toes pressing against the bottom of your
shoes. You will also notice how your
breathing has suddenly changed. It has
become fast and very shallow, so reverse
the action and extend your out breath for
as long as you can with your lips slightly
open, as if you are blowing through a
straw. As a direct response, your in breath
will become longer as well. I suggest
that you repeat this action maybe five
or six times, until you feel the storm has
gradually passed, and that you have
regained control of your emotions and
You have now planted the seed of
awareness in yourself. Learn to nurture it
in the next few months, and you will be
Olivier Lejus MHSc. (TCM), BHSc. (Acup.)
is an accredited acupuncturist practising in Sydney.
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