Mary Lou’s Mindfulness Guide
Mindfulness has been around for centuries. The Buddha taught that awareness could alleviate suffering. If your thoughts are in the present moment, you cannot regret or grieve or resent or feel depressed about the past, nor can you feel anxiety, fear, or worry about a future event that may not happen. Kabat-Zinn (MBSR Researcher and author of several books on Mindfulness) talks about awareness as a sense just like vision and hearing and that it can be strengthened through practice.
Mindfulness practice doesn’t mean you have to sit and meditate, it can be done virtually anywhere and at any time and almost anywhere… Walking, upon waking, trying to get to sleep, in moments of stress, or confusion. It’s simply about attending or focusing your attention on where you are and what you’re physically experiencing in the present moment, it’s being fully present… and the real trick is no judgment, just observe! Accept and refocus when your mind wanders, and it will.
Perhaps you’re completely new to the concept of Mindfulness? Read the next paragraph and then have a go…
Wherever you are… Stop what you’re doing… Tune into your senses… Can you feel the chair you’re sitting on? Feel your feet inside your shoes or your bare feet resting on the floor? Is there a breeze floating past your neck? What can you hear? The distant traffic, the AC humming? What can you smell? Anything? No! Yes? Now think about your breath, start to notice it going in and notice it coming out of your nostrils, does it feel warmer as you exhale? How about that! Can you hear the air moving in and out as you breathe? Can you notice your chest expanding and then relaxing? Stay in this moment for a short period of time, breathing in, breathing out… Go for 20 breaths… If thoughts appear and distract you, (is this working? This isn’t working. This is silly. I don’t have time for this. It can’t be this simple. What about what John said to me this morning. I feel stressed sitting here). Attempt to just observe your thoughts, let them flow as they come into your mind – let them leave your mind, acknowledge them, or observe them, categorize them if you like (Oh, I’m having judgmental thoughts, Oh, I’m distracted, Oh, Look at that), let them go, they will dissipate, they will return, other thoughts may appear, same, same, observe, return to your breath, in, out, in, out… You did it… You had a moment of present awareness or mindfulness. Another even easier option is to put the phone away while you’re walking the dog, or the cat. On the beach? In the park? And… Focus on what you can see and hear and feel, contemplate your gait, can you feel your feet alternatively moving through the motions of heel down-toe off. How beautiful is our world!
Being present for moments in your day can be an opportunity to refresh your mind, and appreciate your livingness (is that a word)? Rejuvenate? Connect with yourself.
Do you want some direction as a newbie or someone with time-poor issues? I practice Vipassana Meditation recurrently and intermittently; it is hard but very beneficial. This is a 10-day Buddhist meditation course run out of Pomona QLD or Blackheath NSW. It’s meant to be an hour twice a day commitment; I just do 20 mins at least once a day most days (thank you Covid for returning me to my practice).
Another well-known option is Transcendental Meditation. TM courses are run regularly in Brisbane. These are typically a weekend commitment with two consecutive evenings after the weekend to allow the instructor to check your technique. Your TM facilitator will give you a unique Mantra – which is basically a saying you repeat as you meditate to help you maintain focus, it’s a great technique, and typically only a 20-minute commitment twice a day to get great results. Results such as heightened levels of clarity, peace, focus, and serenity. I currently listen to Sarah Raymond on her Mindful Movement website; she does a 50-minute Yoga-Nidra meditation which is about focusing on your body and letting go of tension; a great way to get in touch with being present in your skin. She also has thousands of guided meditations of varying time intervals from 10-15 minutes to 2 hours. Also, if you are interested in a more detailed explanation of Mindfulness search out Jon Kabat-Zinn on the line! (ha-ha), or at the bookstore. Happy Practicing.