Developing Your Mindfulness Practice – Planting the Seed

Yoga_Photoshoot_Hany_easy pose 2Hopefully you have not become too overwhelmed with your weekly mindfulness practices. Remember that you do not need to do all of them everyday. If you find that a particular exercise resonates with you, stick that one. We learn to observe and become witness to our thoughts and actions we begin to notice those tricky little desires that pop up all the time. The desire to rush or speed up the task, the desire to tell ourselves stories and over analyze, the desire to make excuses and procrastinate. I bet you are smiling to yourself right now, if you recognize one of those habits in yourself. Becoming aware those desires, is the first step in the process of working through them.

When you begin to notice the anger rise up, you can catch that anger, watch it, observe it. How it makes you feel, how you choose to react or watch that anger. Don’t push the anger away or try to hide. Sit with it, feel it, recognize it. Be aware of the anger in you. Try not to analyze or justify they anger. Just let it be.  Over time, the anger will fade. You will see that the anger no longer serves a purpose. It is tiring, it is no longer worth it. You decide to stop suffering from your anger because it’s not worth it. You begin to notice when other people are angry but you now have this new understanding that perhaps they are unaware of their anger and their pain. You feel compassionate towards them. You are grateful you have been able to process through the anger you feel.

This is just one small example of how Mindfulness can manifest in our lives. It doesn’t happen instantly overnight or in a week. Perhaps months or even years of dedicated mindfulness practice can help us to let go of deep seated emotions or feelings that have be growing for years.

We are constantly talking to ourselves. There is what psychologists call a ‘feedback loop’ of chatter that we say to ourselves all the time. Unfortunately our mind tends to focus on the negative. Perhaps you have hear, “I’m not good enough” “No one loves me” “Your so ugly”. We all have triggers that set off this self talk which ultimately keeps us from living our life to its fullest. Each time you say to yourself “I suck” you are watering a weed that is growing and growing and becomes hard to control. We all have a garden in our minds full of weeds. We know that from research, negative self talk can lead to poor self-esteem, low body image, depression, anxiety, stress and even physical health ailments. Our mindfulness practice can help us to clear out the weeds and start planting new seeds. Once the seeds are planted we need to keep watering those seeds so that they too begin to bloom.  The challenge that we face is many of our weeds have been passed down from our ancestors through the generations having cultural and ethnic complications. Through each of the Mindfulness Practices you can begin to develop your perceptions and your awareness of your own self-talk. Remember, awareness is always the first step. Now it’s time to plant the seeds. Whether is it through a seated breathing meditation or a walking meditation, choose your mantra, “I am kind” “I am helpful” “I am worthy” “I am enough” “I am loved”. Repeat these words to yourself everyday. Express gratitude to the universe or to god for granting us these capabilities, these gifts. We believe “I suck” because we’ve heard to hundreds if not thousands of times. When that “I suck” seed was planted in you years ago, the person that said those words was wrong. Perhaps they were suffering from their own negative weeds, they could be the very same words spoken to them years before. They said those words lacking awareness of how they would impact you. In your own time, forgive the speaker of those words, because they said so with out awareness or understanding of the power of those words.

The thing with “Awareness”: awareness develops differently for everyone. Some people are ready and open to it. Awareness requires us to do some hard work and often we discover some shadows that we don’t like. Others prefer to live a life of ignorance, “I don’t know, what I don’t know” and they are okay with that. We cannot force awareness on anyone who isn’t ready for it. Also recognize the desire in you to pass judgement. It is natural. We are taught to judge others through comparison. Without judgement or comparison we wouldn’t be able to make sense of our world. The wisdom that I pass along here, is to catch yourself if you find yourself judging someone else for their apparent lack of awareness. Recognize you are on a different path from that person. It is okay. Smile and be grateful for your process.

If you have children, teach them how to plant their own seeds of kindness and compassion. Teach them that every person in the world shares the same desires: to be loved unconditionally.

Next week, Mindful Eating.

Namaste,

Lindsay

Developing Your Mindfulness Practice – Part 2

IMG_1626Welcome to Part 2 of my new blog series on simple and easy ways to develop your own Mindfulness practice. In Part 1, I taught a basic breathing exercise to get you started. This week we will focus on how to do a Body Scan. If you practice yoga this might sound familiar. Sometimes yoga teachers guide students through a body scan during Savasana at the beginning or end of class.

Mindfulness Practice 2:

The Body Scan

  • Do this first thing in the morning when you wake up or before you go to sleep because you are already lying down. This can also be done sitting. It only takes a few minutes.
  • Lying down or sitting. Get comfortable. Start with a few rounds of deep breathing.
  • The body scan involves starting at your toes and working up to your head, noticing how each body part feels – relaxed, tight, tense, etc.  Start with your toes…. feet…. ankles…. shins…. knees…. thighs…. hips…. waist…. belly…. ribs…. chest…. low back…. upper back…. shoulders…. upper arms…. elbows…. forearms…. wrists….. hands….. neck…. jaw…. eyes…. forehead….. ears…. top/side/back of head. (If this is too much to start try only: feet….legs….torso….arms…hands….head)
  • When you come to an area that is tight or tense, send your breath (visualize if you need) to that area and give it permission to let go of holding onto to that tension and begin to relax for 5-10 breaths.
  • With practice you can get more specific and do one side of the body at a time including each toe and finger as an example.
  • When the body scan is complete, finish with  a few rounds of deep breathing. Check in with how you feel.

If you have a mindfulness journal  make a quick note about your experience.

Namaste,

Lindsay

Developing Your Mindfulness Practice – Part 1

mudraWe are all starting to hear through the media the benefits of a mindfulness practice. Starting something new can be daunting, especially when you don’t have time to attend a yoga class, workshop or seminar on meditation or mindfulness. I get it, our lives are busy. However, mindfulness works. It just takes time.

I have decided to start a new series of blog posts on how you can begin to practice Mindfulness a little bit at a time, making the process manageable and realistic. There are numerous medical studies demonstrating the benefits of Mindfulness. These benefits include but are not limited to: improved social relationships, reduction of stress, anxiety and anger, boosts memory and focus,. Now medical studies are demonstrating that mindfulness reduces chronic pain, manages stress, and helps us to feel better about ourselves.

So what is mindfulness?

mind·ful·ness
ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/
noun
  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Mindfulness starts with developing your perceptions of being aware of what you are doing. We don’t think about breathing because it happens naturally. But when we bring our conscious attention to our breath, feeling the air enter and leave our body, then we are breathing with awareness. Practicing mindfulness means we become the observer, the witness, of our bodies and minds without attaching meaning to what is happening. This means letting go of analyzing our thoughts, or trying to create meaning out of our experiences. The observer, “sees” something, notices it, and that’s it.

As an observer of thoughts and feelings we learn to suspend judgement with practice. We get to know our bodies and minds and by doing so we become a little bit kinder to ourselves and to others. With practice the benefits extend to other areas of our lives and we begin to see and feel these changes taking place.

To develop a new habit, it requires repetition and consistency. The activities to follow are recommend to be done at the  same thing everyday. By repeating the exercise at the same time, will help you remember to do it and it will become a part of your mindfulness practice.

Each week I will post a new mindfulness training exercise. Get comfortable with it and then add another practice next week.

 Mindfulness Practice 1:

Breathing Exercise 1

  • Sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths completely filling the lungs and slowly exhaling all the air out. Continue to breath deeply. Notice how the breath feels entering and exiting the lungs through the nostrils. Perhaps you can feel the belly expand with each breath in and soften with each breath out.
  • Begin with each breath in, silently saying to yourself “I am breathing in.” Each exhale, “I am breathing out” (eventually, your inhale, you say “inhale” or “in” and on exhalation say, “exhale” or “out”).

Finding a consistent time is key. Try: when you first sit down at or your desk, or after you respond to your emails in the morning or before you start lunch. Start with 2 minutes. Set a timer. You can always go longer if you like. If day time is a not an option for you, find a time before work or in the evening where you can sit for a couple of uninterrupted minutes.

If you like, start a journal and jot down how you feel before and after each mindfulness session.

Namaste,

Lindsay