Developing Your Mindfulness Practice – Part 7

Yoga_Micheal_easy pose lower bodyIt’s not always happiness and joy felt this time of year. The holidays are often a time of increased stress and anxiety. For others it could be loneliness and sadness. We all experience pain at some point in our lives. This week is the final instalment of my blog series of simple mindfulness practices. After today, I encourage you to keep practicing a little bit a time until it becomes habit. A little by little you will begin to see these mindfulness practices filter into different parts of your life and you will feel great! Today’s practice is an extension on the mindful breathing exercises.

Mindfulness Practice 7:

Melt away __discomfort__ (insert your choice: stress, anxiety, fear, panic, pain, etc)

When you experience  any kinds of discomfort, it is obviously uncomfortable and we want it to go away. Discomfort can come in many shapes and sizes and can be experienced in different ways by different people. For example, anxiety or stress might manifest itself as unwanted thoughts, tightness in your chest or stomach pain. Using our skills as an observer, we can learn to melt our discomfort away, by meeting it head-on.

  • Step 1: recognize the pain/discomfort and label it, eg. “anxiety”.
  • Step 2: breath into that anxiety. Know that it is happening, feel it, be curious about it – how is effecting how your heart feels, how your belly feels, how your chest feels, how your head feels, how does it feel when you begin to breath deeply and slowly. Breath into the most intense discomfort and stay with it for as long as you can.
  • Step 3: be kind to yourself. Recognize that many other people in the world also experience this type of pain/discomfort. Allow yourself to work through the process. The pain/discomfort is not something that is happening to you, it is something you are experiencing and it is your choice how you relate to it.
  • Step 4: As you observe your breath and your discomfort, witness what happens to it. You are in control.

If you have any questions for concerns about your mindfulness practice, or if you would like to share how these practices have influenced you, contact me. I would love to hear your story and try to answer your questions.



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.