Mindfulness implies being in the present moment. Focus on the present situation. Forget about the past gains and pains. Stop projecting the future. Just be in the moment. Rein in your mind to the present moment. To realize this special trait, people are visiting mindful travel destinations in different parts of the world. According to wellness tourism expert Anna Guchok, “the application of mindfulness is the key to a full and conscious life.” Our mind is a den with a random inflow and outflow of thoughts. In this fast paced world, our mind is always ‘on’ wandering aimlessly and ceaselessly amidst this chaotic flow of thoughts. We strive and struggle to get things done, meet deadlines and fulfill tasks one after another. We stop living for the present moment. This agitates our mind. Struggling is important in life but equally important is to pause and slow down a bit. For example, many of us rush to pick up a phone call driven the hasty nature that we have developed bit by bit. We tend to lose our focus instantly. We cease to be mindful.
Mindfulness programs highly sought after in wellness resorts and retreats
Dr Prem Jagyasi, globally renowned speaker and wellness and medical tourism consultant comments, ”The trend of integrating mindfulness programs in wellness retreats and resorts along with yoga and meditation programs is growing fast. People have realized the importance of mindfulness to beat stress, increase productivity and get rid of unwanted thoughts and apprehensions.” Being an expert in the domain of wellness, he strongly advocates the practice of mindfulness that can change our approach to various life situations. He believes, mindfulness teaches you to be more proactive and thoughtful and fetch long term gains.
You are unmindful most of the time:
To understand mindfulness better, let us study the word unmindful. What does it mean? It means our attention in constantly shifting gears completely losing focus on the present moment. Just recollect when did you last enjoy the beautiful sunshine or admired the beauty of a blooming flower or the flock of birds flying across the sky? Seldom. Because hardly your mind is aware of the present moment. Mindfulness is just the reverse of unmindful or ‘mindlessness’. It means raising the moment-to moment-awareness and focus our attention to the present with full acknowledgement and acceptance of our feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. It helps us reconnect with self and create harmony with the world.
History and origin:
Now from where did the concept of mindfulness originate? Its roots can be traced 2500 years back in the early Buddhism text Satipatthana Sutta. Sati meaning mindfulness. The first ever set of instructions of mindfulness is laid by Buddha guiding the practitioner in 4 different aspects as follows:
- The Body (or the breath)
- Feelings and sensations
- Mental content
It is also said that Mindfulness has historical roots in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the 1970s, it was Prof. Jon Kabat Zinn who played a significant role in popularizing Mindfulness in the West. He got trained in mindfulness by several notable Buddhist teachers. He founded the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Oasis Institute for Mindfulness-Based Professional Education. He devised an 8-week long Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program which gained immense popularity. The same program gave birth to another therapy based program Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy aimed to treat people with severe depressive disorder. The subject roused enough interest in people of all age groups and a number of researches were conducted indicating the correlation between mindfulness and reduced stress and improved psychological functioning. The effectiveness of mindfulness in improving physical and mental health is documented through a number of clinical studies. Programs of Jon Kabat and similar models are being widely adopted in schools, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, sports center and centers for senior citizens to calm down the agitated mind bringing the focus to the present.
Mindfulness is based on the person’s awareness of present events. Ruminating is ingrained in human nature. The intensity varies from person to person. Studies have shown that rumination is the root of depression and anxiety. The intervention of mindfulness is useful to get rid of this habit as we gain more focus and awareness of the present moments. The practice of mindfulness gives you a deeper insight of reality. These are centered on three marks of existence as laid by principles of Buddhism: Impermanence – Anitya (nothing is permanent) Unsatisfactionness – Dukkhya (pain or suffering) Non-self – Anatta (non-existence of permanent self or soul) As the practitioner gains insight, he/she achieves the first state of liberation known as Sotapana and grows the power of overcoming stress, pains and suffering.
There are key principles that would lead you to mindfulness:
Focus on the present moment – Don’t get lost in thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Being fully present– What are you experiencing around you at present? What are you seeing? What are you hearing? What are your body sensations? Be open to experience – We always dread or apprehend any experience. But we should welcome these with curiosity. The thoughts and feelings that come up naturally are mere momentary sensations. As you become aware of the flow of your thoughts and sensations, these change naturally overtime preventing you from getting overwhelmed. Be non-judgmental – Do not judge your feelings as good or bad. You should not even try to change or act on them. Every feeling has an objective. Accept them with an open mind but consciously. Accept life as it comes to you – Your vision may not fit in the reality. Therefore, never force any change in reality and consider yourself as a victim of unfairness. Have the strength that you can tolerate any experience that life gifts you. This would give you the strength to extend this acceptance to others. Be connected – As you practice acceptance, you feel connected with yourself and all animate and inanimate objects around you. You feel thankful for your life and traits that nature has endowed on you. Practice non-attachment – Nothing is permanent as life is a continuous flow. Never hold on to any thing, people and experiences. Attachment breeds worry and fear. Be confident enough to adapt with the flow of life. Maintain equanimity– Life brings you highs and lows. Never get swept away in this tide. These situations do not present the entire scenario. Be firm in your vision and values and you walk away with a peaceful heart and non-harming attitude. Extend your compassion – Never criticize or punish yourself and others. Be compassionate. Understand your capabilities and accept those. Understand other’s situation instead of condemning or punishing.
How to achieve Mindfulness?
It is the power to say ‘Yes’ to the present. You accept the reality without being judgmental. It may not sound easy but is not that tough either. Remember mindfulness is our innate trait. We just need to nurture it through practice. We do exhibit a certain degree of mindfulness through our various activities. Don’t you get lost while reading an interesting book or watching an exciting movie? You become so engrossed that you become oblivious of what is happening around you. Your full attention remains on the present happening. To practice mindfulness you do not need any formal setting. You can do it at your home at anytime of the day that suits you best. You can go for a nature work or practice meditation regularly. The objective remains the same – to achieve a state of mental awareness through focused relaxation.
Mindfulness and meditation- The difference:
Meditation is a temporary state of mind but mindfulness is not. During meditation, you remain focused for a limited period of time and it vanishes later in the day. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is a regular practice that teaches you to be mindful in your every word and actions. Mindfulness is not a tool to eliminate your life’s challenges and difficulties but being mindful you will be able to have a better control of the situation good or bad. You will have the ability to make proper judgments according to situational demands.
All mindfulness techniques involve some sort of meditation. You may ask, “Is meditation at all necessary to achieve mindfulness?” I would say, Meditation is the tool to sharpen the inherent trait of mindfulness. The more you practice more will be your consciousness and awareness. You would be able tackle any situation or experience remaining unperturbed. Let us go through the simplest mindfulness meditation technique:
- Sit comfortably on a stable and solid seat or cushion.
- Position your legs. If you are sitting on a cushion or mat fold your legs comfortably. If on a chair, rest the bottom of your feet on the floor.
- Keep your body straight but not stiff.
- Position your arms comfortably in parallel to your torso with the palms resting comfortably on your thigh.
- Position your chin a little downwards. Fix your gaze gently downwards. No need to close your eyes but you can if you wish so.
- Notice your breathing. Focus on the inhaling and exhaling process. The rise and fall of your belly and chest.
- Check when your mind starts wandering shifting the focus from breathing. It is natural. No need to worry. Just bring back your attention to your breathing process.
- No need to wrestle with your wandering mind. Instead of reacting, just refocus your attention. It is tough to maintain the focus. You need to repeat this focusing on your breath again and again without being judgmental.
- When you are able to give full attention, lift your gaze slowly. Try to observe the sounds around you. Try to feel the body sensations. Observe your thoughts and emotions.
The psycho therapeutic approach for better physical and mental health:
Building your capacity to mindfulness helps you to lead a more satisfying life. You become more observant in what you do and think. Instead of random application of thoughts and actions, you exercise a mindfulness approach. Scientists have discovered varied health benefits of mindfulness. For example, it can drastically reduce your stress, blood pressure and also help in treating heart ailments. This is simply because your mind guides you to respond better instead of giving a reaction. You will not feel the sudden rush of adrenaline, which often has a negative impact on your health. This also helps in improving your sleep and easing gastrointestinal problems.
Mindfulness in psychological therapies:
Of late, mindfulness has been considered as a significant tool in psychotherapies and various stress-reduction programs.
MBCT (Mindful-based Cognitive Therapy):
Many healthcare institutes often recognize this as a useful tool for treating recurrent depression. Several mindfulness techniques are used like breathing, meditation, stretching exercises and some elements of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
MBSR (Mindful-Based Stress Reduction):
Prolonged stress can be damaging for your physical and mental health. MBSR is often used as the single mode of therapy for stress management in individuals without any significant mental illness or can be used in combination with other treatments in individuals suffering from chronic anxiety and other mental issues.
Can mindfulness ease our lives?
Mindfulness has become almost a buzzword since past two decades. Today, this simple meditation practice has turned into an industry. Psychologists are concerned about the claims made that can cure anything from depression to cancer, which are not validated. They are also concerned that mindfulness meditation may cause adverse effects in some people. Amidst all sorts of opinions, it can be concluded that harnessing the mind is essential. It is essential to sweep the chaos from our mind so that we perceive a better clarity of thoughts and take suitable actions. Mindfulness teaches us that.
10 Most Mindful travel destinations of the world
Relaxing holiday has different connotations of pleasure and peace combined for different people. Basically, it boils down to a serene escapade far away from the grind. Your objective to find peace together with connecting with inner self would drive you in search of mindful travel destinations. It doesn’t matter if you are planning a family trip or looking for a romantic sojourn with your fiancé or just absenting yourself from the din and bustle. These destinations come with a promise of offering a laid-back ambience. Here you uncoil yourself and immerse into eternal sea of tranquility. The quaint spots can be close to your neighborhood or might be located in remote corners. However, the common feature that binds these destinations is their blissful atmosphere. They help you open your mind’s eye and rediscover yourself. They help you establish a firm contact with nature.
As a mindful travel destination, Maldives has been experiencing a growing fame worldwide. The pristine beauty and a relaxed atmosphere is an absolute departure from a hectic city life. Sea beaches are wonderful with a long spread of powdery white sand offering terrific strolling opportunities.
Sun-soaked beach with rolling surf breaking on the Indian Ocean shores is a feast for your senses. It heals your mind and body and gives you a shot of rejuvenation. If you are an adventure freak there are a lot of water sports to go for including snorkeling, angling, deep sea fishing and surfing the waves.
2. Bangkok, Thailand:
Bangkok and the magical islands close by including Phuket, Ko Samui and Koh Phangan are abodes of complete harmony. Your soul is in complete connection with your body and very few places in the world exist where you have everything under the sun -exquisite Buddhist temples, mouth-watering Thai cuisine and mindboggling shopping malls.
Top class spas and legendary Thai massage parlors and the quality of service delivered help you find peace while savoring an all Thai flavor. It is a splendid journey aiming unification of mind and body with the environment.
3. Marbella, Spain:
Located in the southern bank of mainland Spain, Marbella is a perfect meditation retreat. A spectacular fusion of picturesque harbors, lush green woods and pristine sea beaches, the place guarantees peace and harmony between soul and body.
It is one of the most popular mindful travel destinations with a composed ambience for de-stressing every cell of your body. Right in front of the ocean, Tapas bars are lined in a neat array offering excellent Mediterranean cuisine smoking off the unmistakable flavor of the sun and sea.
4. Ananda in the Himalayas, Uttarakhand, India:
Perched on the mighty Himalayas is one of the most talked about mindful travel destinations. From here you have a wide angle glimpse of the river Ganges flowing from its abode of paradisiacal charm.
The river is still young as it crosses Rishikesh and Haridwar washing the banks dotted with temples. Here you confront sages and religious buffs and the atmosphere itself spells of a sacred essence.
The property is a sprawling spread of gardens, yoga pavilions and a 21000 sq ft Spa, a renovated place that has turned a former Maharajah’s palace into a retreat of peace. Luxury tea rooms and antique billiard rooms are way classy with splendid vistas of a mountainous terrain. Ananda is among one of the most significant Zen places known for spiritual powers. It is much more than just a vacation break.
5. Shambhala Mountain Centre, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado:
Located in the majestic Rocky Mountains about 50 miles northwest of Fort Collins, Shambhala is a scenic 600 acres hidey hole offering personal retreat packages for enthusiasts looking for mindful travel destinations.
It is a carefully designed program that includes “Introduction to Mindfulness-based stress reduction” to “The path of simply being”. Several other programs are themed on nature and environment with an interdisciplinary emphasis on the cosmic energy. The stay, equipped with a Colorado RV park, will give you a wonderful experience of rediscovering yourself.
6. Virginia Coast Reserve, Virginia, US:
This is a splendid getaway for those trying to explore mindful travel destinations. One of the 10 Virgin Islands includes a nature conservatory is a pocket of idyllic charm. However, your journey should be in the broad daylight.
Relax on the tranquil stretch of beaches and have a peaceful sojourn into your inner self. Surf casting or fishing from shoreline will keep you engaged as would watching thousands of nesting shorebirds. Their cacophony rises to a crescendo punctuated by the waves of Atlantic pounding the coastline. Reposeful vibes deliver an induced trance to the visitors.
7. Big Sur, California, US:
Here we have one of the most fetching locations where the rugged mountains meet the ocean. Santa Lucia Mountains run into a sheer drop diving deep into the Pacific. The long stretch of 90 miles sanctuary offers mind-blowing vistas of delight. Yoga and meditation are organized by Esalen Institute together with feeding the guests with nutritious food grown organically, which has been a part of long held philosophy here.
8. American Prairie Reserve, Montana:
This is a huge reserve spanning over 3,53,000 acres where conservation efforts are being made to restore the Great Plains to unspoiled Lewis and Clark expedition status. Camping opportunity exists in high-end Yurts and you have wildlife roaming close with herds of elks, bison and mule deer as frequent visitors. This is one of the most sought after Zen places where fusion with Mother Nature is the eventual moksha of enlightenment, liberation and release.
9. Mt Sinai, Egypt:
This sacred place of pilgrimage perched on mountain top where Christians, Jewish and the Muslim community throng together can be your choicest meditation retreat. The place appeals to the atheists as well for its divine comeliness. Here stands the Monastery of St Catherine, one of the oldest orthodox monasteries of the th century. Journey uphill together with the religious crowd is a venture well worth the effort. This is a quest that is a great diet for your soul and by sunrise, you are at the mountain summit.
10. Tobago, Caribbean:
Whether it is food or nature quest, Tobago is a bright spot in the world map of vacationing. Curried crab with dumplings is as much appeal as the chance to bird and animal watching in Tobago’s pristine forests. Home to world’s most primitive rainforests, Tobago is a peaceful getaway amid virgin nature and an amazing mindful travel destination indeed!