St. Francis offers a good model of being mindful and loving all of God’s creation

In today’s lifestyle it is growing more and more difficult to think about just one thing at a time. Technology seems to fracture people’s attention while allowing them to be many places at once. Everyone is hyper connected. Mindfulness is intended to help people quiet a busy mind, becoming more aware of the present moment and less caught up in what happened earlier in the day or what might be yet to come. It is also a way to cope with anxiety and depression and to deal with stress. It can even strengthen a person’s spirituality by (re)focusing his connection and time with God. Meditation is considered essential to achieving mindfulness, but the ultimate goal is for the individual to give his attention fully to what he is doing. One can work and parent mindfully, eat and exercise mindfully, learn and walk mindfully, and pray mindfully.

Powering down the internal urge to remain connected to everyone and everything is not easy. In early attempts involuntary distractions are normal. The ability to recognize that one’s attention has been diverted is what’s important and at the heart of mindfulness. Attention can be compared to a muscle: it makes sense to exercise it, and it will strengthen from exercise. A good starting place is mindful breathing. Sit quietly for ten minutes a day for one week, focusing only on breathing effortlessly in through your nose and out through your mouth. If the mind wanders, simply notice it and bring the attention back to breathing. This practice can be expanded to longer periods of time and different objects of focus.

Those who already engage in meditation and/or regular prayer and reflection as part of their spiritual life are inclined to be good candidates to practice mindfulness. Another simple exercise is mindful observation which can increase the appreciation of simple things. Choose a natural object from your environment and focus on watching it for as long as your concentration will allow – it could be a flower, a bug or even the moon. Look at the object as if seeing it for the first time – visually explore every aspect of its formation and be consumed by its presence. Try to connect with its energy and purpose within the natural world. This practice can be expanded to different things on a regular basis.

Mindfulness can assist individuals in dealing with various conditions of the body, even chronic pain. It helps refocus attention, so a response to pain may be more positive, thereby reducing overall suffering. Other health benefits of people who practice mindfulness may include lower cortisol levels and blood pressure and increase immune response. These suggestions cause interest to grow! In 2003, 52 papers were published in scientific journals on the topic of mindfulness; by 2017, the number has jumped to the thousands. Mindfulness has moved into the mainstream. Where can you increase your mindfulness today? 

Written by Guest House Staff Writer