Developing Your Mindfulness Practice – Part 6

Over the last 2 months or so I have talked about Mindfulness exercises that have begun to shape our perceptions of ourselves. Perhaps you have already begun to notice shifts in how you think, how you react to situations and how you feel physically. If you have been keeping a Mindfulness Journal, take a look at your entries and see how your experiences have affected you. You might not notice any changes yet and that is completely normal (so don’t worry!). Continue to be a witness to your experiences and take them as they are in each moment. Remember, try not to cast judgement on what you are experiencing. Drop any expectations you have about where you think you should be in terms of your mindfulness practice (notice that expectations exist and then, let them go….). Expectations are a form of desire that block the process. No one ever said this was easy work.

This next practice helps us to examine our relationship to food. How we eat is usually a reflection of how we go about our day to day lives. We rush through a meal or snack, maybe you are watching TV, driving a car or reading a book while you eat. Maybe you don’t even notice what your food tastes like anymore.

Mindfulness Practice 6:

Mindful Eating

The first time I consciously practiced this exercise was in mindfulness meditation class where my yoga teacher brought in apples for everyone. If you’d like, have an apple ready for your first go at it. However, because I want this to be accessible to you to try at any time, start with any meal or snack of the day. It’s easier to start small.

  • Give yourself at least 5 minutes to eat your snack, if not more. For example, you have an apple. Clean your apple, notice the beauty of the apple (it’s shape, texture, colour, smell).
  • Take a moment to thank the universe for it’s abundance (and while you eat or before you eat, acknowledge all the people who made this apple in your possession possible: express your gratitude to everyone/everything involved in making this apple available for you to eat (i.e. the sun, water, earth, the farmer who planted the seed, and cared for it, the pickers, the transporters, the farmers who hired the workers, the grocery store (the staff who stocked the shelves, the clerks, the store owners who made the store possible), the bankers or government who have the farmers and store owners capital to their work, the builders who built the grocery store, your boss for giving you a job so that you could afford to buy the apple, your teachers/parents who gave you the knowledge to go to school to get an education to get the job so that you can make a living, etc etc).
  • The Eating process: take a small bite. Chew that piece until it is completely gone. You may not even need to swallow. Repeat one bite at a time.
  • While you chew, notice the taste, notice the texture, the juices, how the taste might change, and any other thoughts that arise. Repeat until apple if finished. Pause and reflect on the experience, comment in your journal. (Post it notes are great when you are on the go!)

While  healthy choices are ideal for our well-being, don’t feel guilty when you indulge in a tasty treat. Instead of scarfing it down and then feeling guilty, take your time to truly savour and enjoy.  Watch how this practice, over time, changes your relationship to what you eat, how you eat, and even how much you eat.

Namaste,

Lindsay

Developing Your Mindfulness Practice – Part 3

offeringWelcome to part 3 of developing your mindfulness practice. So far we have learned a simple breathing exercise and body scan. This week we are going to add on to the first breathing exercise. This practice requires 2-5 minutes of your time. Spend about 2 minutes on Breathing Exercise 1 to centre yourself.

Mindfulness Exercise 3:

Breathing Exercise 2

  • Find a comfortable seat. Begin Breathing Exercise 1 and then stop saying “inhale/exhale.” Simply sit quietly and focus on the breath. Try to sit as still as possible.
  • When a thought arises label it “thought” and go back to breathing. If a body sensation arises such a cramp/tingle/pain/ache/itch, label it “cramp/tingle/pain/etc” and go back to breathing.
  • At the beginning your experience might be this: Breathing….”thought”, breathing, “thought” “thought thought thought, breathing thought thought thought…..”

It is completely normal to think, however, try not to attach any significance to this. It is what it is. Over time and with practice, you might begin to notice this: “breathing, breathing, breathing, thought, breathing, breathing, breathing, thought”. The space between thoughts that arise gets longer. With practice you can start to become aware of the thoughts that arise. Is it a different unrelated thought each time, or are the thoughts that arise the same or are they related to a theme? Try not think of “thinking” as something negative or unwanted and try not to attach any meaning to the thoughts that do come up. We want to break the habit of over analyzing our thoughts and just let them come and go. There is no destination, it is about the Process.

In your journal, make a note about how you felt during this practice. What did you witness?

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