It would be easy to think at Endoca we only care about bringing CBD to the world. It’s true, we believe 100% in the transformative potential of hemp, both for our health and the environment. But that’s not where our view of natural health ends. For us, living in harmony with ourselves and the world is our utmost priority, and that’s why we are number one fans of practices that promote both inner and outer peace. Top of our list is mindfulness, so here are five reasons we make sure it is part of our daily Endoca lifestyle.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is everywhere at the moment. There are mindful colouring books, mindfulness walking holidays, mindfulness apps on our mobile phones, and billion dollar tech firms giving mindfulness classes to their employees. When what is essentially a spiritual practice goes global on this kind of scale, it’s tempting to write it off as a money spinning fad. Only mindfulness is more than just a temporary fashion, and has in fact been in existence for over 2,000 years.
That’s because mindfulness, sometimes called present moment awareness, is a technique developed in India by Siddhartha Gautama, otherwise known as the Buddha. Born a prince, he dedicated most of his life to understanding the human mind and how our habitual patterns lead to suffering. For him, mindfulness was the ‘path to enlightenment,’ allowing each and everyone of us to free ourselves from the prison of our minds.
For most people living in the ever increasingly secular, the 2,600 year teachings of an Indian prince may seem like they have no relevance. But curiously, despite the fact our lifestyles bear no resemblance to those back in the Buddha’s time, we all still suffer in the same way. A major reason is our inability to rest in the present moment, as our minds endlessly jump backwards and forwards between the past and the future, robbing us of being present to what is unfolding in the here and now.
This is essentially the nature of mindfulness or as Insight Meditation Teacher Joseph Goldstein terms it: “The quality and power of mind that is aware of what is happening, without judgement and without interference.”
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How To Cultivate Mindfulness In Everyday Life
Modern life does not foster mindfulness. Think about how unaccustomed we have become to doing just one thing at a time. While eating our breakfast, most of us are probably looking at our phones, checking Facebook, Instagram, work emails, or whatever else we’ve convinced ourselves is more important than what we’re currently doing.
But think about the effect this has on our whole ‘eating breakfast’ experience. For a start, we don’t taste the food, and as a result we probably don’t chew or digest it properly. If we’re checking our work emails, we’re probably feeling stressed about what we have to do when we get to the office, rather than appreciating all the precious ingredients and work that has gone into getting this food onto our plate. What work you might ask? I just opened a box of cereal and poured the milk. But if we ate mindfully, we might appreciate the cows the gave us the milk, the farmers that tended the cows, the rain that nourished the lush grass the cattle ate, or the sun that ripened the cereals in your Cornflakes packet.
So a good place to start if we want to become more mindful is to do just one thing at a time, giving it our full attention. With that, a whole new world of sensations will become available - it’s no wonder that Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh calls it “The Miracle of Mindfulness.”
Another mindfulness must is to learn how to meditate. But before you start reaching for the panic button, this does not mean sitting in a lotus position and clearing your mind of any thoughts. Even meditation masters like the Dalai Lama probably have thoughts passing through their heads while they’re meditating. The difference is that they do not get attached to those thoughts, instead allowing them to pass by like clouds in the sky.
A standard meditation technique that cultivates mindfulness is to focus on the breath entering and leaving the body. This action in itself calms the nervous system and generally allows thoughts to slow down of their own accord. But when they do appear, the practitioner will just acknowledge them, let them pass, and return to their breath. This improves both concentration and our ability to create space between the often unruly contents of the mind and our emotional wellbeing.
Other techniques include mindful walking, where attention is placed on the sensations of walking. But in reality, everything can be done mindfully, as long as you are putting attention on what you are doing in the present moment.
So, here are 5 reasons why we love mindfulness in our life:
1. Being Present Makes Us Happier
Mindfulness courses are regularly taken by people with anxiety and depression as a way of having a healthier relationship with their emotions and feelings. But researchers have gone one step further, saying that being in the present moment actually makes us happier.
In a study published in Science Magazine, Harvard Researchers Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert describe how “a human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.”
They developed an IPhone App which tracked the happiness levels of 2,250 volunteers, with respondents reporting that their minds wandered 46.9% of the time. Killingsworth noted that people were least happy when their minds were somewhere other than the present, concluding: “Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness. In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”
2. Mindfulness Helps Us Cope With Difficult Emotions
With all this talk of happiness and freeing oneself from suffering, it would be easy to think that mindful people are immune from the mud life slings at us. But no, life also throws the brown stuff at mindful people, they just learn to react in different ways than the rest of us.
Much of the time, we experience emotional suffering as unpleasant sensations in the body. If we’re fearful, we might get a tightness in the chest or a knot in our stomach. Sadness might be accompanied by a heaviness in our heart. These are are sensations that we’d rather not feel and so we tend to tense against them, push them away or bury them. A mindful approach would be to allow these sensations to be there, without judging or trying to change them, knowing that like everything else, they are impermanent and will leave us when they are ready.
It takes an awful lot of practice and patience to have this kind of relationship with our difficult feelings and emotions. But the compassionate witnessing developed with mindfulness practice allows us to stand back and not get overwhelmed when they do strike.
3. Mindfulness Improves Our Relationships
Healthy human relationships are impossible without presence. How many of us when we are engaged in conversation are never really listening to what the other person is saying? Instead, we’re thinking about how to get our very important point across. Throw in the death knell to any healthy relationship - the smartphone - and it’s fair to say we are currently the most disconnected generation to ever walk this planet.
So how does mindfulness positively affect relationships? For a start it means really being present to the person you are with. Thich Nhat Hanh describes this as deep listening. In this great interview with Oprah Winfrey, he describes the power of listening without judging or feeling the need to give advice:
Mindfulness also allows us to see that we are not so different from the other, making us more compassionate, empathetic and less confrontational.
4. Mindfulness Makes Us More Environmentally Aware
When we pause to contemplate the nature of ourselves and our environment, we begin to see that as humans, we are not separate from nature. In fact, we are nature, and nature is us. That’s because mindfulness helps us to develop a sense of interconnectedness. We see that we are the stars, we are the mountains, we are the air we breathe and plants that we eat. The more mindful we become, the harder it is to take actions that wreck our environment, to eat in a way that perpetuates needless cruelty to animals, or mindlessly consume just to follow the fashions or fads of the day.
It’s not that mindful folks are boring, cardigan wearing, 21st century saints. It’s just that through mindfulness, you suddenly begin to see the Earth as the extraordinary place it is, how we are blessed to be here, and that it is not our right to wreck it beyond all recognition. Quite the contrary, if we destroy the Earth, we destroy ourselves.
5. Mindfulness Shares Some Of The Same Health Improving Qualities As CBD
Finally, studies show that as well as making us happier, mindfulness positively affects our physical health. And coming full circle, it shares some of the same health benefits as CBD.
Chronic inflammation is at the root of many modern day illnesses - everything from autoimmune disease, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Mindfulness has been found to lower levels of the inflammation marker Interleukin-6. In one study, healthy subjects took part in either a mindfulness retreat or one that simply allowed them to relax. Those learning mindfulness displayed both greater functional connectivity in their brains and reduced inflammation, something not experienced by the relaxation group.
Lead Researcher David Creswell said: "We've now seen that mindfulness meditation training can reduce inflammatory biomarkers in several initial studies, and this new work sheds light into what mindfulness training is doing to the brain to produce these inflammatory health benefits."
This is not where the similarities between CBD and mindfulness end. Both have been found to increase the production of new brain cells in the hippocampus region of the brain, responsible for emotional processing and memory. Scientists believe that CBD’s antianxiety effect can be partly attributed to hippocampal neurogenesis, and studies show how mindfulness causes increased grey matter in the left hippocampus, as well as “increases in the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction, and the cerebellum.”
This is known as neuroplasticity - the ability of the brain to form new synaptic connections or brain cells and is the holy grail in protecting our brains against cognitive decline in old age.
So if you’re using CBD as part of your wellness routine, why not start developing a mindfulness practice as well. Whether it’s meditating every day or just listening to the birds singing as you’re walking to work, your body, mind and spirit will definitely thank you.