This is week one of our ventures into Mindfulness. Each week we will focus on trying out at new techniques, building on techniques we already know and sharing our experiences and questions.
First Practice, quick breathing exercise to bring us into the right state
- Sit with back away from back from the chair
- Feet on ground
- Rest on hand on the lap
- Place one hand across the tummy
- Gently close your eyes
- Take 6 slow, but comfortable breaths into your belly. If this is difficult focus on your hand rising and falling as you breathe.
Do a quick self-check-in. How do you feel, tired, energised, are your thoughts here or elsewhere?
I’ve been meditating on and off since my teens. I’ll let you work out how long that may have been! I started a good continual meditation habit several years ago.
A few years back I had a wake-up call when a Buddhist Nun kindly said ‘You try too hard’. Further along, I learnt I was a little too attached to the phone apps, the guided meditation and the ‘props’ of meditating.
Since then, my meditation has been a much simpler and more rewarding habit. All I need is myself and (occasionally) a timer.
So I’m a little rusty on the art of guided meditations. I believe they are good for beginners. But shouldn’t become a prop, nor an excuse to not meditate. You can meditate without a special cushion or chair, and you can meditate without an app or a voice to guide you.
Are Meditation and Mindfulness the same thing?
There are many definitions of Mindfulness, and the words Mindfulness and Meditation are confusingly used interchangeably. It is essential to distinguish the two.
What is Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be described as being aware, with intent on what is happening right now in the present.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), describes it as follows.
The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.
- Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us >- mindful.org
What is Meditation
Meditation is an incredibly useful tool to increase Mindfulness. Meditation works on improving focus and developing skills to raise awareness of our thoughts and emotions.
This is an important distinction. Meditation is a tool, not a destination. Meditation would have limited value if it were the goal. If we meditated for 30 minutes, we would be mindless or mindfull the other 23 1⁄2 hours of the day!
Second practice, mindful minute with no props
This quick meditation gives you a simple and powerful meditation technique that needs no accessories, not even a timer or Watch once you have practised twice.
We will practice this technique standing, but you can do this when sitting, standing or laying down.
It is a fantastic go-to technique whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or need to stop procrastinating and get focus.
- Let us do this one standing.
- Keep your eyes open, but lower your gaze to a point in front of you while keeping your head upright. anywhere where you aren’t making contact with a person
- We are going to meditate for 1 minute and count the total number of breaths in that minute.
- Hands just by your side or held comfortably in front of you
- Count each breath until the end of the practice
- Each breath should be a deeper than usual breath, but comfortable rather than forced
Remember or write down the total number of breaths.
Repeat the exercise above and again remember or write down the number of breaths.
Make a note of the highest number. This is your Mindful Minute secret number. Simply stop where you are and count out that number of breaths while focusing on the sensation of breathing.
Whenever you need to prepare for an event, meeting, get focus or shrug off a stream of business. This technique provides a simple, no-fuss method to bring yourself into the moment.
Use it often throughout the day, before or after lunch or break.
Third practice, body focus
This practice brings awareness to the connectedness of your mind and your body. It will likely be challenging. Be kind on yourself, and simply acknowledge which parts of the body respond and which don’t.
This is a great technique to practice regularly to improve connectedness between mind and body. In particular, in the way, emotions are felt in the body.
Where do you feel fear, anxiety, happiness?
- Sit comfortably, back away from the back of the seat, feet on the ground. Hands rested in your lap.
- Close your eyes or gently focus on a spot on the ground in front of you
- Squeeze your toes in both feet, hold for 3 seconds, one, two, three. Then relax your toes
- Squeeze your calves, hold for 3 seconds. Then relax.
- Squeeze the tops of your legs, thighs and hamstrings. Hold for 3 seconds and relax.
- Squeeze and hold your butt. Hold for 3 seconds and relax.
- Squeeze your hands tightly together, feel your forearms contract. Hold for 3 seconds and relax.
- Squeeze and hold your upper torso, back and chest. Hold for 3 seconds and then relax.
- Raise your shoulders towards your ears and squeeze. Hold your shoulders for 3 seconds. Slowly relax.
- Grit your teeth for 3 seconds. Then relax.
- Scrunch your face, nose, cheeks, brow. Hold for 3 seconds then relax.
- We’ll spend a moment in this relaxed position to seek out any areas that are tight. Focus in on the muscles in that area. Squeeze hold for 3 seconds and relax. Scan for any other areas.
- Now for a few moments, just sit and breathe.
- Let your body settle as it is. Let your mind know how each part feel, don’t adjust.
Reflect on the third practice
How do you feel now?
Were any parts hard to squeeze?
Where were your thoughts as you moved through this practice?
Building the habit of meditation tips
- Regular short meditation is more effective than infrequent marathon meditation sessions – you might be asleep!
- Set a goal of meditating x number of times a week at a specific time. Try to not miss more than one day in a row – you are trying to form a healthy habit
- If you decide to meditate in the evening do it at least 1⁄2 hour before bedtime to avoid dropping asleep
- Keep track of your mediation progress, visually in a calendar or notebook
- Be kind, your ‘worst’ meditations’ are your best!
Need an App?
Insight Timer, free timer, daily logging and reminders.
Headspace, free 10 day program, good clear guided meditations
SmilingMind, great app, a large range of options for adults, teenagers and a series of schoolkid based meditation programmes in Australia