In my post about Mindfulness, I talked about the term ‘mindfulness’ used to describe an awareness of the self, of the present moment. An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience, being aware of our thoughts and feelings as they happen.
We all know we are entirely too dependent on our laptops and smartphones. Our busy lifestyles have created an underlying urge to be connected at all times, but constantly engaging with our handheld devices can have detrimental effects on our overall health and wellbeing. Mindfulness could be the solution….
One way we can be more mindful is to meditate and this is something I do on a very regular basis. All you have to do is pay attention to your breath as it goes in and out, noticing when the mind wanders. When we pay attention to our breath, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment. By purposely anchoring yourself to the here and now, you can go some way towards temporarily switching off from worries about the past or anxieties about the future. Don’t judge or get involved in the passing thoughts, just be. Easy! And you don’t need any expensive gear or gym membership!
In reality, it’s a tricky thing to master, and takes practice. Switching off is hard, and I find it near impossible at times, but just a few minutes can really make a difference, and bring about a feeling of calm and order. In addition, regular meditation can bring far-reaching and long-lasting benefits into our lives. Give it a try:
In general, the easiest way to begin meditating is by focusing on the breath. Mindfulness meditation involves sitting silently and paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensations of breathing or parts of the body, and bringing your attention back whenever the mind starts to wander. Through mindfulness meditation, you can become more aware of how your thoughts and feelings tend to move through your mind. With practice over time, you can develop an inner balance to help you feel more relaxed and present.
This meditation exercise is an excellent introduction to meditation techniques:
1. Sit or lie comfortably. Personally I really like to have music playing in the background (without lyrics) and Spotify has some great options. You might like to try your favourite chillout songs but if they will make your mind wander, try something innocuous like rainfall, waves crashing, bells gently chiming, piano playing etc – totally up to you. For some reason I ended up listening to Ministry of Sound: Karma Collection on repeat throughout the duration of childbirth (cue tired midwife rolling her eyes 4 hours in) and love the Indian vibe of this for locking into a mindful state.
2. Close your eyes (I find it really helpful to put a small pillow or eye mask over my eyes to shut out any light and calm my eyes from flickering).
3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
4. Now double-check that you are comfortable and warm enough. Do you need a blanket? Socks? Pillow under your head? If you’re conscious of a draught or external noise, it defeats the object. Whenever I’ve led a guided meditation after an exercise class or in the workplace, it’s something I’m particularly aware of for the participants.
5. Rest your hands on your stomach and focus your attention back on the breath, without controlling its depth or speed. Notice how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and stomach. Don’t clench your hands or jaw. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
6. Maintain this meditation practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.
7. Open your eyes. How do you feel?
Many people choose stillness when meditating but the movements of yoga can help with developing awareness of your breathing too. In my next post, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on yoga and how it quietens the mind and allows me to focus inwards and calm down. Walking meditations are also really beneficial and easy so we’ll be talking more about them too in the coming months.
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