Mindfulness is a way to escape from the internal and external judgment in our lives. It trains our minds to be present, enhancing our sense of self.
Mindfulness teaches us how to live life in the present. It teaches us how to take the struggle for perfection out of our minds. The continual judgment we face leaves us feeling empty. Mindfulness teaches us how to accept the moment we are in without judgment. It helps us stop the noise of the world. It teaches us how to be kind to ourselves, accepting who we are in the world without judgment.
Our world has become filled with non-present multitasking humans running on auto-pilot. We fill our lives with activities, responsibilities, and various social media apps. We seldom take the time to focus on one current activity at a time. We check our emails at work while skimming our latest Facebook feed. All the while we are never fully present on one particular task.
We do not understand what living ‘in’ the moment truly means. We live in so much chaos we have become addicted to the busy. We wear our endless to-do lists like a badge of honor. The overwhelming exhaustion can end. It’s time to stop our auto-pilot lives by living ‘in’ the present moment. We don’t even need to stop what we are doing. We need only to be aware of what we are doing.
Once we realize what we are doing, it is often obvious we are doing too much. Once you are aware of the overwhelming multitasking; stop. Pause and breath. Bring your awareness to your breathing. Pause for six breaths, bringing your awareness inward.
After the pause, bring your awareness outward. Ask yourself how your body feels. Bring your attention to what you feel without judgment of the feeling. You need only to acknowledge the feeling and move on. Then bring your attention to your surroundings again without judgment. What do you see, hear, smell? This slight break will help interrupt the auto-pilot life we have grown accustomed to.
The Body Scan
There are several videos available to help you walk through the body scan meditation. You can go on YouTube and search body scan meditation to find a video that works best for you. Here is a 10 – minute body scan mediation by Jessica Richburg to give you an idea of how the meditation works. There are also longer videos available that go into more detail.
Body scan meditation is a simple practice with rewarding benefits. The more often you practice this meditation, the easier it is to perform. Implementing this routine into your life for a minimum of four weeks has shown the best results. Sustaining this meditation practice in daily life will cause prolonged change.
With our busy lifestyles, it is hard to take the time for self-care, but the benefits are worth it. If you’re not a YouTuber, I have made a step-by-step list on how to perform a body scan meditation.
- Find a comfortable seat on the floor or in a chair – bringing your attention into your body.
- Close your eyes to help block out external distractions.
- Notice the weight of your body where you are seated.
- Take a few deep breaths.
- Focus your breathing. Feeling the oxygen enter your body enlivening you. Feel the calmness as you exhale..
- Start at your feet. How do they feel against the floor?
- Slowly work your way up your body – legs, back, then your stomach.
- Is your stomach tight? Let it soften with your breath.
- Continue up your body to your hands, arms, then your shoulders.
- Are your shoulders tight? Let them soften with your breath.
- Continue to your neck, throat, jaw, and face.
- Does your face feel tense? Soften it with your breath.
- Now slowly breathe focusing on your entire body.
- Feel the breath coming in and out of your body, being fully aware of your body presence at that moment without judgment.
- Now open your eyes. You have successfully taken a moment to focus on your body.
Mindful seeing allows us to separate our thoughts from reality. When we look at the world, we usually see it filtered through our opinions. Mindful seeing teaches us how to separate our interpretation from what is. This skill gives us the opportunity to see the world without internal judgment. Simply put, life is what we see, not what we feel.
For example, saying you are waiting for the bus with other people, what do you see? Do you notice the color of the lady’s shirt? Or do you think to yourself, she looks nice? Did you see the man’s briefcase? Or did you think he looked angry?
Attributes are not physical things we can see with our eyes. Those are the opinions of the surrounding people we encounter during the day. We are seeing with our thoughts, not our eyes. Mindful seeing takes the focus off our thoughts, both positive and negative. Mindful seeing teaches you how to be ‘in’ the moment, seeing the blue blouse, not the gracious lady.
Mindful listening is a tool for us and our relationships. Mindful listening teaches us how to listen without judgment, criticism, or interruption. So we can know our internal thoughts and reactions that cause communication issues. It also teaches us how to listen to the sounds of the outside world instead of our inner critic.
Listening with understanding and compassion reduces frustration. We can hear the speaker when we stop listening from our personal life experiences. Letting go of our emotional reactions, enabling us to be present. This takes practice and patience with yourself. Learn to mindful listen in your own space before you practice with another person.
Once you learn how to silence your emotional responses practice with your partner. Thich Nhat Hanh has four mantras to help us connect with our partner or loved ones.
Darling, I am here for you.
Darling, I know you are there, and I am very happy.
Darling, l know you suffer. That is why I am here for you.
Darling, I suffer. Please Help.
The great gift we can give anyone including ourselves is our presence. Our uninterrupted, full presence without distraction. Once we learn how to give that to ourselves it is much easier to give it to others.
Stillness is not the only way to practice mindfulness. Mindful-movement is a tool helping us align our minds and our bodies as one. This practice is unlike exercise, where our goal is to get into physical shape. Our goal with mindful movement is mental clarity improving the regulation of our nervous system.
Mindful movement is mindfully engaging in movement while focusing on our breathing. Give yourself the opportunity to practice the different mindful movements available. After a while, you will find which practice is best suited for your wellbeing. Mindful movement brings awareness to what’s happening inside our bodies. Body awareness improves our emotional regulation, overall wellness, including reducing stress and anxiety.
Examples of Mindful Movement
- Mindful Walking
- Mindful Running
- Tai Chi
The movement you choose is not the important part. The essential part is staying focused on what your body is doing and how you are breathing. Walking and running our straightforward tasks to focus on. If you are interested in the other practices check out YouTube videos on Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga to help you practice. Movement is healing in our sedentary world.
Mindful breathing is when we focus attention on our breathing. You can practice mindful breathing in various poses. If you are feeling irritated standing in line at the grocery store, practice mindful breathing. Mindful breathing is a helpful tool to use before bed. If you are someone that struggles with falling asleep instead of focusing on technology, focus on your breathing. Don’t think this tool is an all-or-nothing practice. Any time you feel out of connection with your body, pause and breathe. That means sitting watching TV is also an acceptable position to practice mindful breathing. Here are some techniques to practice mindful breathing.
4 – 7 – 8 Breath
This breath practice is quick and simple. Ideally, you want to sit with your back straight. For best results, practice breathing at least twice a day. To prevent becoming lightheaded practice only four rounds of breaths when you first start. After the first month, you can increase to eight rounds of breaths. This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for your nervous system, unlike medications whose results change with time. Anytime you encounter something upsetting, remember your mindful breathing practice before you react.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of 4.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of 8.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.Thich Nhat Hanh his book Being Peach
Alternate Nostril Breathing
This technique aids in lowering stress levels. It provides you with a sense of control, helping to calm you through distraction. Alternate nostril breathing has positive effects on the nervous system. Our circulatory system improves because of those effects. This technique is simple to use practically anywhere.
- Plug right nostril with the right thumb.
- Take a deep breath through the left nostril.
- Remove your thumb from your right nostril and plug your left nostril with your ring finger.
- Slowly exhale.
Mala beads are a helpful tool to prevent losing track of your breathing. Mala beads incorporate repetitive movement, helping your mind stay grounded. Mala beads give your mind a tangible tool to focus on making it easier to keep mindful focus. Drape the Mala beads across your hand for effortless movement. Put two fingers on the bead next to the guru bead, thumb and middle finger. Each bead is a complete full breath (inhale & exhale). Continue each breath cycle until you return to the guru bead.
Life is full of suffering, it is crucial to your mental well-being to allow yourself compassion. Don’t confuse self-pity with self-compassion they are distinct things. Self-pity only prolongs your suffering while self-compassion frees you from your suffering. When you feel your mind spinning out-of-control because of something negative going on in your life, offer yourself a self-compassion pause. Recognize this is suffering and suffering is part of being human, but it need not consume you.
A mantra is a word or sounds repeated to aid concentration in meditation. Mantras are a helpful tool for the self-compassion pause. Recognize your feelings and stop in the moment of your suffering. Reciting a mantra will help you learn how to embrace the feeling without getting trapped in the cycle of negative feelings. Mantras help to focus your mind on the now, allowing you to move past the feeling.
- May I love and accept me just as I am.
- I am calm
- I am loved
- I am safe
- I am worthy of happiness
- Repeat the sound ‘Om’
You can say the mantra out loud or use an internal repetition. You can also create your own mantra best suited for your personal feelings. You can use one mantra or repeat a series of mantras depending on what healing you need to focus on.
Mindfulness is a positive activity to implement in your daily life. Don’t feel overwhelmed by these mindful activities. Pick one that feels right to you. One mindful activity you feel you can easily implement into your life. As you implement one practice into your life, it will be easier to implement more. Your sense of self will continue to grow as you continue to practice.