Mindfulness Blog 3: Practicing Mindful Living (Part 1)
Following on from our previous post Mindfulness - How to Get Started this is where the rubber hits the road (so to speak) and we really get down to the business of practicing Mindful Living! We have broken this into two parts:
Part 1. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicomb's 2012 TED talk provides the perfect platform to set the scene and at over 5 million views, a few others seem to think so to. As he succulently wraps up his talk he reminds us we “don’t have to burn any incense and we definitely don’t have to sit on the floor” to practice Mindful Meditation…
What is Mindfulness Meditation
The University of California Center for Mindfulness, part of the medical school’s psychiatry department, defines Mindfulness Meditation this way: “(Mindfulness) is a quality, which human beings already have, but they have usually not been advised that they have it, that it is valuable, or that it can be cultivated. Mindfulness is the awareness that is not thinking but which is aware of thinking, as well as aware of each of the other ways we experience the sensory world, i.e., seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling through the body.”
We have found that Mindfulness can be experienced in everyday activities as we breath and feel into our bodies, perhaps as the day passes we begin to utilise all of our senses to bring attention to the present moment.
Seated Meditation is a commitment to a regular uninterrupted setting aside of the usual doing mode of our being, and a switching on the non-doing being mode. We have found six main categories which make up the practices of Mindful living and mindfulness Meditation to better understand the breath, body, sound, and thinking in our practice.
To do this find a comfortable seat either on the floor or on a chair with your back sitting tall and beginning to bring the attention to the breath. Noticing its movement as it comes into and leaves the body, just noticing where is i.e. nose, nostrils, chest, and abdomen. Remembering that it is natural and normal for the mind to wander off to worry, with memories popping up and to do lists circulating through out minds. But as we notice our attention drifting away from the breath we begin to bring our awareness back and not giving ourselves a hard time as we do! We simply continue to ride the waves and duration of our in and out breath, utilising this as an anchor whenever the mind moves out of the present moment.
2. Body Awareness
In time we being to widen our awareness to the breath as it moves throughout the whole body, feeling and noticing the body and it’s contact points i.e. feet on the floor, buttocks on the chair or floor, our back feeling tall and our head feeling steady. If there becomes an overwhelming need to move there are two options, 1. Mindfully shift to a more comfortable position, yet in moving be aware of the intention to move and move mindfully. 2. Try to stay with it, restrict the attention in these intense moments, place the attention on the uncomfortable spot, experience it fully, breath with it fully, respond by opening and softening instead of tensing up and resisting. Find stillness and acceptance in the intensity. Becoming aware of our reactions, observing. When the intensity subsides, re-focus attention on the body as a whole, the breath and the fullness of each of the in and out breaths.
If we find the whole body awareness difficult to grasp then the Body Scan Technique can be helpful. This is where the Meditator in addition to noticing any overall tensions or tightness throughout the body can run a scan throughout each part of the body becoming aware of feelings and sensations, tingling, heaviness, warmth, pulsing etc. You start by scanning and observing smaller parts of the body by focusing for example on the feet, it’s soles, top, ankle joint, lower calf and continuing to observe and scan each body part, limb by limb right up to the face, cheekbones, ears going all the way to the top of your head scanning the whole body before bringing the awareness back to the breath and the body as a whole beautiful unit.
3. Sound Observation
After a little time, we begin to notice sound and the consciousness of hearing. We don’t search for sounds but are receptive to what enters our consciousness as sound, full awareness of sound from one moment to the next as we sit and breath. If you find sounds, not judging, liking of disliking them but just letting it be, being with the hearing. Becoming aware of the space in-between the sounds, of the silence of being with each moment.
4. Thinking Processes
After moving our awareness of the present moment through our breathing, feelings and sensations in the body including conscious sounds, we come to notice our thinking processes by letting this become center stage in our observation. We aren’t interested in getting involved in the content as we go from one thought to the next, but we being to observe the thoughts much like observing the body or the sounds around us. Seeing each thought as it comes up as a one-time event and letting them come and go by simplifying observing it’s presence and letting it go.
The thoughts can be about anything i.e. thoughts about thoughts, thoughts about feelings, thoughts about food, thoughts about sleep, the time, past or future events, thoughts of our emotions i.e. calm, frustration, neutral, and noticing our judgments, restlessness etc.Yet as they come into our awareness and as they leave we are simply an observer of these thoughts, nonjudgmentally, simply being with what is… We may notice as we drift away from the awareness of these thought processes, we gently return to this place of observation. If thoughts come up that involve fear, worry, preoccupations, pressure, deadlines or obligations, regardless of its charge or energy, just be with it without pursuing or rejecting it, just noticing from moment to moment as these new thoughts come and go.
5. Letting Go
As we move through this Mindful Meditation by becoming an observer of our breathing, body, hearing, and thinking, we start to close the loop by removing focus on these areas and allowing ourselves to just sit and be… Being aware in each moment and of whatever is contained within each of these, if it’s sound, pain, thoughts, breathing, just letting it be, sitting in it’s stillness and allowing ourselves to be human, whole and fully in each and every moment.
6. Commit and Celebrate
As we wrap up our understanding of Mindful Meditation and it’s practice it’s an excellent idea to commit to this process on a regular basis, to nourish yourself and be in the active expression of your life! As you end any meditation it’s a time to celebrate the intentional nourishing yourself in this state of being and non-doing, congratulating yourself for making time be who you are, what a gift!
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