by CASSIE MCINTYRE
I’ve been taking a break from the social media world when it comes to my yoga practice and stepping into a more physical world on my mat and in my moment.
I’ve been finding it frustrating at times moving through my sequence and trying to quiet my mind from the outside world.
I kept asking myself what I was missing these past few months during my practice and why I was getting so fed up with trying to move through these postures and it hit me, I wasn’t being mindful of that I was doing. I was letting myself focus on my distractions of work, and school, and life and not letting myself just be on my mat and be mindful of what I was doing.
I was trying to see what wasn’t clicking into place for weeks when it was sitting right in front of me the whole time. Being mindful during your practice and what it means.
Mindfulness seems to be the latest trend in the wellness realm. Some have even branded the current obsession with the benefits of mindfulness as “McMindfulness” taking on the mainstream approach to the word.
Today you can download apps, pick up every book in the self-help section, and see every “influencer” post about it on social media.
But, what is the core message and meaning of the technique? Most people assume mindfulness training is about keeping your attention on a single point for a few minutes a day.
While very useful, the effort that you exert in the force of your mind’s focal point to stay fixated is usually more simply called concentration.
Mindful awareness should flow naturally after a period of in-depth attention. There can’t be mindfulness without attentiveness.
A distracted mind cannot be mindful and not all attentive minds can be mindful.
I know it can sometimes bring on a feeling of confusion however, mindfulness is a state of awareness that holds all experiences in a state of openness. When the state of mind of mindfulness is present, the mind is vast, illuminated, empty, and completely aware all at once. An open mind leads to an open heart.
Another way to understand the difference between attention and mindfulness is to think of the difference between convergent and divergent focus.
Mental focus is an easier thing to practice, which is why most meditation techniques begin with bringing the mind to a single point of attention; convergent focus. If the mind is in a distracted state, as many of us get distracted easily, then working on maintaining your undivided attention for a period of time might seem like an epic feat.
When the mind wanders you constantly try to bring yourself back to your focal point. This effort is a practice of concentration and attentiveness. If your mind is able to find a balance point, it might be possible to shift towards divergent focus. Divergent focus allows the mind to be full of the entire field of experience without a preference for what arises.
For example, if while you are practicing on your mat feelings of frustration or defeat come up for you, the mind is aware of the feeling yet doesn’t linger on it.
You acknowledge the feeling, feel its presence, and don’t let it distract you form the big picture.
If you put in the work to develop a steady, calm and focused mind capable of convergent focus, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to sustain the open field of mindfulness while moving through the inevitable distractions of life. Mindfulness has a deeper end goal. The purpose of every technique on your yoga journey is to help the seeker broaden their truths on life and existence. Your spiritual path on your yoga journey will never look like someone else’s. It’s for you alone to take and for you alone to make those small changes to open your mind and broaden your perspective.
The cultivation of mindfulness may be linked to various positive health benefits such as less stress and better work or school performance, better physical health, better sleep, and more, but remember, the tool of mindfulness has a higher purpose than something to add to your green juice in the morning. Mindfulness is a tool of spiritual liberation and if you happen to bring it into your practice and into your daily life, you’d be surprised on how much your world can change. Change your perspective change your world, and remember, don’t be afraid to get on your mat and practice.
Cassie McIntyre is a NASM certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and nutritional coach at The Edge Fitness in Bristol.