Mindful Meditation and three techniques you can start using today.
Mindfulness has been a buzz word for a few years, but what exactly is it and how is mindful meditation related to it?
Mindfulness means being present with yourself. A complete awareness of your body, your feelings, your reactions and your behaviours as they happen. The awareness brings understanding and control so that reactions are thought out and considered rather than being reactionary.
Mindfulness is a way of life, those who practice it choose it as a lifestyle. A lifestyle that creates humans who think about their behaviours. Understand their body and themselves, bringing awareness and care into all actions. As a result, they become their best selves, benefit others and as the research has shown positively enhance their health, happiness, work, and relationships.
How can you find the capacity to be always present when you are trying to think about your next meeting and worrying about whether you upset your friend yesterday. Angry that your holiday has been cancelled and thinking about the cake in the fridge that you really want to eat but really do not want to eat? Everything is a mumble jumble in your mind and I’ve just told you that the pinnacle of mindfulness is being able to ‘feel and be’ totally in the moment.
Mindfulness involves taking time. That isn’t to say it means you have to spend a lot of time practising, but taking time, regularly to observe yourself. When feelings arise you can react mindfully by exploring the feeling. If you feel anger, think about where you are feeling that anger physically. How are you feeling compelled to react? Are you in control of yourself? Become accepting of the feelings, allow them to sit there for some time. Even write down what you are feeling physically and emotionally. Consider your options. Then react in a thoughtful way.
Mindfulness does not expect you to prioritise the needs of others, neither does it expect you to suppress feelings to prevent inflammatory reactions. The intention is to bring awareness to the feelings and respond accordingly. Those that use mindfulness may incorporate non violent communication into their practice so that they can express their anger, hurt or other negative feelings in a beneficial way.
Mindfulness meditation helps the user to achieve a more permanent state of mindfulness. Read more about some other uses of meditation here. Below are three different mindful meditation techniques that can take you one step closer to living mindfully.
I wanted to write about active meditation first. Not everyone enjoys sitting still for a period of time. There is also the problem of time restraints. The great news is you can meditate whilst performing your daily tasks. I find teeth cleaning is a great way to get in two minutes of mindful meditation twice a day.
If you have a timer on your toothbrush it’s really helpful. Otherwise a simple egg timer or phone timer will do the trick. Set your two minute timer and away you go. Close your eyes, feel the toothbrush as it moves over your teeth. Pay attention to each tooth, giving each one time. Notice the sensation. Stand with both feel flat on the floor and feel the strength of your body. Allow any outside sounds to drift away as you give the process of brushing your teeth 100% of your attention. Initially you will find it easier uninterrupted. With practise you will be able to switch off from others around you as you retreat into yourself and get into ‘your zone’.
You can do this with any activity throughout the day. Exercise, personal care, washing up, cooking food. Or you can incorporate activities into your day such as colouring. Explore the different sensorial experiences and if you find your mind wanders bring it back to the present.
Avoid judgement, mindfulness is about noticing differences without making judgements on whether one is better than the other. The cold water in the shower causes goose bumps to rise and the body to shiver. Hot water does something different. Whilst you may prefer one over another try to keep in mind mindfulness is exploration not judgement.
The body scan enables you to become aware of your physical feelings, reconnecting the mind and the body. The process of a body scan meditation involves scanning the entire body from tip to tail to become aware of what it feels like. You will notice aches and pains or areas of tension. You will also notice areas that feel good.
Whilst the purpose is not to relax there may be areas of your body that do relax so you experience areas of nice feelings as you scan your body. As always remember that you are enquiring without judgement. When you first begin practising you may want to make yourself comfortable and avoid disturbances. This process can take as much or as little time as you have. When you have more time try to allow yourself a longer meditation.
A big hindrance to meditation is a wandering mind. Using a focus such as your breath or a mantra can prevent this. You can also use a technique called noting. When you notice that your mind has diverted make a note of the thought. Some people like to label the thought, for example “this is worry”. You can take note of the physical feeling it creates. Once you have noted the thought, allow it to leave and return your attention to your breathing.
To begin this meditation, make yourself comfortable and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing. Notice whether your breaths make your chest rise or your abdomen, how does the air feel when it comes into your body? How does it feel when it leaves? Explore your breathing and the way it feels in as much detail as possible. It isn’t necessary to search for thoughts to note and label. If you can continue the meditation without your mind drifting this is a positive. If however you do notice that you have started to focus on something else, note your thought, label it if you choose and return your focus to your breathing. Again, remaining judgement free.