Knowing the mind; Training the mind; Freeing the mind
Mindfulness - what does it mean? How do we actually practice this ancient teaching that has been around for hundreds of years?
What is Mindfulness?
"Mindfulness is a state of active open attention on the present. When you're mindful you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience." - Psychology Today
Well, it's 2017. Minds are cluttered, overloaded, overused. For those that have been to any big city, you know it's a mad house of people rushing from one task to the next. When was the last time you stopped, paused, and really took in the present moment? We are always thinking to the future or back to the past. We disregard this moment - right here right now. Are we truly living, or is our precious time here on this Earth passing us by? ( Deep I know)
This quote really opened my eyes:
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”
- Eckhart Tolle
So, how do we act out this practice? Below are several tips to help bring mindfulness into your technology-obsessed, fast-moving, schedule-packed life.
Observe The Rise & Fall
Our breath represents the present moment; a subconscious movement of the body, where you can relish in the fullness of the space you currently reside in.
So, for a moment of time, softly close your eyes and feel the breath. place one hand on the tummy , solar plexus or heart. Rather than trying to control the in and out, take notice!whats you natural rythm?Use the breath as a focal point where you draw your energy. Do find your inner monologue beginning to take you on a journey. In the moment, rather than forcing or defining, take note of that thought that drew you away from the breath and become aware. Gradually shift your focus back to your breath. We all have a monkey mind, but imagine the you give a monkey a banana it focus on that one thing. the breath is the same way our minds may wander off, but let your breath be that banana. lol
Eat In Silence
Without a phone, iPad, or television on. Just you and your food. Savor it. Take a couple breaths in between each bite. Find gratitude for the food that's in front of you and giving you life.
Mental Check-In Timer
Set a timer on your phone for each day at the same time. When it goes off, place your hands on your belly and breathe for 6 cycles.
The average person spends 8 hours and 41 mins on electronic devices per day.
Sound familiar? It should, because this is us on social media. I'm one of those people, we all are. I find myself mindlessly scrolling from time to time - zombie scrolling. Just liking to like. Following to follow, commenting to comment. So when you catch yourself doing this - look up and ask yourself: What can I be doing right now? There's even an app for it! All the time you spend scrolling on your phone, can be used stimulating your brain.
Here is one of my favorites: https://www.headspace.com
Red Light Check In
When at a red light, use this time to take 4 deep breaths. From there, begin to scan your body for any tension that you may be feeling within the body. Are your shoulders rising up to your ears? Does your back hurt from hunching? Is your heart rate increasing? Take this little moment in time to stop.
Use Your Yoga Mat As A Rug
Take a yoga mat and place it along a well walked path in your bedroom, somewhere that you walk often and will be reminded to take a moment of mindfulness or mediation. Over the time you walk over your mat, you're reminded of the importance of pausing - even if it's just for a couple rounds of breath.
Appreciate Each Moment
Observe your mundane tasks, the things that you habitually do. Most of the time we are doing rather than being.
Before you eat, notice if you're feeling hungry. What is your body craving?
While brushing your teeth, make eye contact with yourself in the mirror.
Observe your actions and their intent:
- opening the door
- giving a hug
- making eye contact with a complete stranger
- watching the clouds, rain, snow, birds chirping
- making your food
- holding someone's hands
Observe Your Thoughts Like The Weather
No judgement. Be a witness to inner chatter. Begin to take note of what feelings or thoughts consistently pass through your mind each day (anger, anxiety, fear, negativity, happiness, etc) Just like we check our weather apps. we should check our internal weather. Observe these thoughts from a kind place of understanding rather than jumping into critique mode. You can do this sitting up in your bed upon waking or at the end of your day. Jot it down in a notebook to see if you notice a trend of thoughts.
If someone cuts you off while driving, immediately you get pissed off. Your blood starts to boil, your heart rate speeds up and your mind begins to race with and without any thought at all. We make a split decision to react, speeding up to tailgate the person, putting both of you in harm's way. When this happens, notice the first thing that comes to mind. Notice how it makes you feel inside, from there give yourself a moment to regain clarity - that way we can move forward with a better mindset. Respond, rather than react. I find that our world is in reactive mode, which has caused a huge disconnect with us and the souls around us. If we aren't connected to ourselves, how can we possibly connect fully with others?
What We Practice Grows Stronger
Previous research indicates that long-term meditation practice is associated with altered resting electroencephalogram patterns, suggestive of long lasting changes in brain activity. We hypothesized that meditation practice might also be associated with changes in the brain’s physical structure. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess cortical thickness in 20 participants with extensive Insight meditation experience, which involves focused attention to internal experiences. Brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula. Between-group differences in prefrontal cortical thickness were most pronounced in older participants, suggesting that meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning. Finally, the thickness of two regions correlated with meditation experience. These data provide the first structural evidence for experience-dependent cortical plasticity associated with meditation practice.
Simple mindfulness meditation:
Sit tall legs crossed - softly close the eyes when you feel called to.
This is not a task - just be an observer of where you currently are emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually. Tap into all your senses.
Softly surrender to this moment, notice the presence of your breath moving through you. Take a couple of soft inhales and exhales here.
Stepping fully into what you are currently experiencing - high or low. Observe with kind attention, no judgement. Let go of any hidden agendas.
Scan the body.
To honor yourself as is.
Say here for as long as nesscary.
Simple as this - if you practice compassion continuously, it will grow. If we practice hate, it will grow. Meditation allows me to exercise the muscle of compassion, love, humility, and empathy, rather than the complete opposite. Plant the seed and watch it blossom.
Say Good Morning - I Love You
A task that may seem silly and crazy - but hold on, don't leave me now. I promise. If you take anything away from this blog let it be this:
If any of the tasks above just seem too time consuming to start, start with this simple task. Every day when you rise, place one hand on your heart, close your eyes. Repeat this to yourself out loud: "Good Morning, (insert name here.)" And when you are ready to go deeper, begin to repeat "Good morning, (insert name here) I love you."
Feel those words resonate within your being. Vibrate within your heart. You are here. Alive. That is a miracle in and of itself.