Mindful 01 :: Introduction

Monday, February 10, 2014

I'm excited to be introducing a topic that has meant a lot to me this year. Something that has turned me into a more calm and purposeful person, helped ease my way through challenges, improved my sleep and eating habits, and kept me out of many a fight with my love. I'm talking about the practice of mindfulness.

There is a lot I could say about it, so in the interest of time and organization I'll be doing a little series on the hot topic- stay tuned!

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So, What is Mindfulness?

"Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." -Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn

In other words, it's about being fully in the moment. It's a practice, but also a way of being. It's about intentionally being attentive, being open to the present, and knowing what is being observed.

Why Practice Mindfulness?

The more that you practice mindfulness, the more mindful you will be. Increased mindfulness can help you become more focused, happier, healthier, more creative, more relaxed, and simply more in control. It can improve your sleep, help foster healthy relationships, cultivate self understanding and inner wisdom, and allow you to more deeply appreciate each precious moment.

Does this sound too much like one of those lists in a health magazine encouraging you to try the newest fad? Like, "If you do head stands and eat tons of chia seeds, you'll be happy and perfect and skinny and a genius and Channing Tatum will come sweep you off your feet!".

Well, perhaps this is a hot topic lately, but similar to yoga (which I also support deeply!), it's something that has been around since, oh, I'll just say forever.  And I'm not much into health fads, so you can trust me. And if you're still not sure, just try it out for yourself :).

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Establishing Mindfulness

So, care to give mindfulness practice a try? Download the "10-minute mindfulness of breathing" mp3 from freemindfulness.org, or try this 20-minute guided meditation on YouTube. Then keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. You'll start by getting comfortable and noticing your posture. You can practice mindfulness in any way that supports awareness - usually for me this means sitting up straight in a chair or on the floor.

2. Have an intention in mind when you start off your "sit". As a first timer perhaps you'll tell yourself "I intend to stay open to the experience and nonjudgmental of myself during this sit" or, "I intend to pay attention to my body", or "I intend to come out a bit more clearheaded and calm than I'm going in."

3. Find awareness in your body. Bring attention to the sensation of sitting. Feel the heaviness of your body and the way your skin and clothes feel grounded on the chair or the floor, and notice the feeling of groundedness that this brings.

4. Next, try paying attention to the breath. Don't feel the need to alter your breathing in any way, just pay attention to it. If it helps, use noting phrases in your mind such as "breathing in....breathing out....".

5. At a few points during the sit, take note of your mental tone. Are you being judgmental of your experience, thinking "this isn't working" or "this is boring", or is the mind curious and open to the experience?

6. As your mind inevitably wanders during the sit, gently bring it back to noticing the feeling of your body or the sensation of your breath. That moment of noticing your wandering mind is a moment of mindfulness.

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Think you'll give it a whirl? Let me know if you've tried Mindfulness practice, or if you think you might try it, or if you have any specific questions about it. I'm no pro, but as you can it's something I've really loved learning about. I look forward to hearing how it goes for you guys!

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