Updated: Jun 19, 2021
The word mindfulness first came into the English language in 1881 translated from Pali by Thomas William Rhys Davies. “Samma-sati, Right Mindfulness; the active watchful mind.” It is also seen in the closely related Sanskrit samyak-smṛti. Pali has not been spoken other than in Theravada Buddhist practices since the first millennium CE.
Other more modern synonyms include: Attention, Awareness and Presence.
The purpose of mindfulness is to pull us into the current moment, experiencing what is happening consciously rather than automatically. It prevents us projecting into the past and present. Remember that thinking about the past encourages regret and psychological self-flagellation. Thinking about the future creates worry and anxiety.
Most of us are used to physically moving quickly to increase efficiency, in a goal-oriented fashion. Indeed, some of us move at lightning speed. In doing this, we may feel we are likely to achieve more, but, in fact we can cultivate the opportunity to engage more consciously with the task in hand.
Mindful movement is a great way to achieve mindfulness, and moving mindfully is the best way to fully engage in our daily routine.
There are some specific Mindful Movement Activities that we would like to introduce:
Oigong; Qi “vital energy” gong “cultivation”
Qigong is an ancient, Traditional Chinese Medicine practice that encourages the development of our ‘life-force.’ It combines a harmony of breathing, flowing body movements and specific body positions. It is a meditative exercise that promotes vitality and mental resilience and is used in martial arts training.
Tai Chi Chuan; “Supreme ultimate boxing”
Emerging first in the 12th Century, Tai Chi is a complex form of Qigong. This Chinese tradition began as a Martial Art (think Karate Kid) and is now more widely used as a meditative exercise. This too combines breathing, movement, and mediation to exercise the whole body and align with and focus the mind. Tai chi philosophy teaches that everything has two opposing parts that create balance. Yin and Yang. This is reflected in Newtons Third Law of Motion; “when two objects meet, they exert equal and opposite forces on each other. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” In Tai Chi this translates to when one part of the body moves, the whole will move.
Yoga, “yoke or union”
Yoga is over 5000 years old, first seen in India as a spiritual exercise to unite the practitioner with their true self. Again, this combines body positions with breathing and meditation. Yoga involves nourishment of mind, body and Spirit and comprises of meditative movements including stretches and balances. It can be observed that many of the stretches in the practice of Yoga directly align with the meridians in Chinese Medicine, which, in turn align with the recently described planes of fascia recently described in Western Medicine by Thomas Myers. These are seen as channels within the body which transport proprioceptive and biochemical information and Chi (energy) from one place to another.
The benefits of all these mindful movement practices are impressive. Improvements in blood pressure, sleep, balance, bone density, and fitness levels. Reductions in anxiety, pain and inflammation. Better cognitive function and skilled attention
Walking meditation is popular form of meditation where a walk becomes the focus for our attention.
There are many forms of walking meditation available. In a traditional Zen version, participants walk clockwise with a closed fist out in front of them clasped by their other hand. Theravada Buddhists walk back and forth. The idea being that the repetition means little attention needs to be paid to where they are putting their feet encouraging mindfulness.
Our own Walking Meditation is available in our new book 'How to Rise - A Complete Resilience Manual.'
Consider taking time for a mindfulness movement exercise.
Several mindful movement activities have been described above. Try them and find one that suits you.
Remember, however that all movement can be performed mindfully.
Coming into the present moment by bringing awareness to your body during movement is a step towards living consciously, even if you are rushing to complete a task. You can be aware of the body sensations that the movement has to offer you to bring about presence.
You can use any chosen activity to practice mindful movement that works for you. Running, climbing, strength exercises, your favourite workout video, dancing, playing. See last weeks wellbeing article on How to Get Moving for more ideas.
‘How to Rise – A Complete Resilience Manual’ from Sheldon Press is now available with over 60 tools and techniques to help improve your mental wellbeing, reduce burnout and allow you to take control of your life.
 Anatomy Trains, Thomas W. Myers 4th edition, 05/2020 Published by Elsevier.  Clark Dav, Schumann, Frank, Mostofsky, Stewart H. 2015; Mindful Movement and Skilled attention: J Frontiers in Human Neuroscience