To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, take a little time for yourself: find a little breathing space in your life by decluttering your mind and finding time to just ‘be’.
‘Busy.’ How many times have you answered a ‘how are you’ with this word?
If your life is crazily busy (is there a woman whose life isn’t?), your first reaction to the idea of mindfulness for women is likely to be something along the lines of ‘sounds great’, swiftly followed by an incredulous ‘but who on earth has time for that – definitely not me!’ Whether it’s professionally, socially or psychologically, almost all of us feel too busy. And none of us, it seems, has the time to take time out.
Life these days can feel pretty relentless. It’s multi-faceted, multi-layered; a melting pot of opportunity and choice in our personal and professional lives. Even finding time to so much as make a list feels stressful, let alone carving out enough hours in the day to tick things off it – and still fit in some time for doing nothing. If it’s not work, home, children, family, new friends, old friends, working out, renovating, upsizing, downsizing, gardening, internet shopping or box sets, then there are texts to reply to, Facebook statuses to update, a Skype call to make, a LinkedIn connection to respond to, a Pinterest board to add to or some other social media platform to interact with. And those are just the fun things!
MINDFULNESS FOR MODERN WOMEN
Whoever you are and whatever you do, it’s a fact that life is moving at an ever-faster pace. And the need to escape that ‘hamster-on-a-wheel’ feeling every once in a while and find some peace and quiet for ourselves is something women in particular relate to. Why? Because we wholeheartedly buy into the idea that if you want something doing properly, you must do it yourself. And the ever-increasing number of tasks before us and techy gadgets at our disposal makes this philosophy all too easy to adopt. The irony being that every time-saving gadget you own seems to leave you with less time. And for every job these techy miracles help you complete quicker, they create another that a few years ago you’d never even have thought of.
So the crucial question becomes how to stay sane in the midst of such massive cultural and practical transformation? While it’s exhilarating to be busy, challenged and part of a digital revolution, we need to balance this with its direct opposite. We need to embrace ancient qualities, like mindfulness, to provide balance and peace. Mindfulness, it seems, is needed more than ever.
If you want to feel:
- Full of vitality
Then mindfulness can help.
Of course, you will need to devote time to the practice in order to see results but those results are so worthwhile – and part of reason that mindfulness has become such a buzzword. Intrigued? To give you a taste of what mindfulness involves, here is a short exercise from Mindfulness for Women by Vidyamala Burch and Claire Irvin
Exercise: A taste of mindfulness
Get yourself into a comfortable posture. You can be sitting or lying down, it’s up to you. Relax for a moment to allow yourself to settle.
Now, notice how your body feels. What physical sensations are you experiencing at this moment? Maybe you feel pressure between your bottom and the chair you’re sitting on or the floor beneath you. What does this feel like? For a few moments, just be open to any sensations in your body, experiencing them with an attitude of kindly curiosity.
Now take a moment to listen to any sounds you can hear. Observe their quality, register and volume, and how you instinctively respond to them. You may feel an urge to try to identify where they are coming from, but try to park that for a moment and instead simply notice the sounds as sounds. Your mind might also ‘fly out the window’ towards the sounds. See if you can let the sounds come towards you instead, keeping your awareness inside your body as the sounds flow in through your hearing sense. If you’re in a very quiet environment, then notice the silence.
Now notice your breath. What does it feel like? What parts of your body move as you breathe and how many different movements can you feel? See if you can rest your awareness ‘inside’ the movement and sensations of breathing, rather than observing them as an onlooker. Is it pleasant or unpleasant to inhabit your breathing in this way?
Now allow your awareness to focus on your emotions. How would you describe how you are feeling overall? Are you happy, content, sad, irritated or calm – or is it hard to be entirely sure what you are feeling?
Take note of any thoughts that pass through your mind. Ask yourself, What am I thinking? Rest your attention on your thoughts for a few moments: see if you can look ‘at’ your thoughts as they flow through your mind rather than ‘from’ them.
Now spend a few moments resting quietly as you allow your awareness to rest inside the sensations and movements of the breath in your body; and any thoughts, sounds and feelings as they come and go. There’s no need to look for a special experience. Simply notice what is actually happening, moment by moment.
OK, so this may not have been the most extraordinary of experiences, but, if you have engaged with this exercise to any level, congratulations – you have just had your first experience of mindfulness, and have started your journey towards enhancing your awareness of life.
International Women’s Day 2017 is on Wednesday March 8th and the theme will be #BeBoldForChange: women everywhere will come together and take action to help forge a better working world – a more gender inclusive world. Check out the official IWD website for a list of all the events taking place on March 8th internationally and to Take Action.