Mindful of Breathing: Mindful breathing involves focused attention on breathing. Notice how you are breathing. Notice slower breathing and fuller breaths. Notice your belly rise and fall as you breathe in and out. When your mind drifts away from your breathing, and it will, simply notice what caught your attention and gently shift your attention back to your breathing.
Mindful of Sounds: Following mindful breathing, focus your attention on sounds; soft sounds, loud sounds, nearby sounds, distant sounds. Notice your response to sounds. Notice if you are annoyed by a sound or judging a sound; then gently re-direct yourself to listening to sounds without judging. When your attention drifts away to a thought, notice what thoughts you were distracted by, and gently return your attention to sounds.
Meditation: The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to become more aware and accepting of internal processes; thoughts, feelings, urges, sensations, cravings, triggers, etc. Meditation is not intended for relaxation. People who are extremely anxious about internal processes or have difficulty sitting still may need to work up to a full session of 20 minutes, beginning with only 2-3 minutes at a time and working on other exercises more at first. The goal is 20 minutes of meditation two times a day. During meditation, if your mind drifts to thoughts about the past or worries about the future, gently re-direct your attention to the present moment. Mindfulness meditation is about staying in the present, not about achieving a heightened state of awareness or bliss (that’s transcendental meditation).
Mindful Eating: When eating mindfully, choose a place that is quiet and free of distractions. Before beginning to eat, look at the food. Notice what it looks like; its shape and size and color, and how it smells. Notice any internal sensations; salivation, hunger, urges before you taste the food. Now take a bite. Notice the taste, texture, and sensations in your mouth. Notice your chewing. Notice urges to swallow. Notice your swallowing. Notice your stomach as you swallow. Continue eating mindfully, noticing sensations in your stomach; feelings of hunger and fullness. Decide when you are finished eating based on when you are no longer hungry. Avoid eating while engaged in other activities, such as watching television, reading, or working. Notice feelings and thoughts associated with eating and urges to eat between meals.
Beginner’s Mind: Pick an object in the room that is familiar to you, then examine it with your beginner’s mind; that is, as if you have never seen the object before. Some people imagine they are an alien from another planet or an alien on another planet, seeing the object for the first time. Notice the shape, weight, texture and color of the object. Try to imagine what the object could be used for. As you continue to examine the object, do you notice anything about it that you may not have noticed before? When you put the object away, reflect on what you learned about the object that you didn’t already know. Consider what would happen if you approached other areas of your life with a beginner’s mind; people, places, objects, situations. How would these other areas of your life be the same or different if you approached them with beginner’s mind? What expectations do you now have that you would not have if you saw them for the first time?
Mindful of Thoughts: Once you are comfortable and have become mindful of your breathing, shift your attention to your thoughts. Become aware of whatever enters your mind. Remember that your purpose is simply to observe the thoughts that are in your mind without judging them. Observe thoughts as they come and go in and out of your awareness without trying to engage them, continue them, stop them or change them. Simply notice them. If you find yourself getting caught up in a thought, notice what caught your attention, then gently re-direct yourself to observing your thoughts. It is normal to get caught up in thoughts. When this happens, return to observing thoughts.
Mindful of Emotions: Begin by getting comfortable and becoming mindful of breathing. Think of an event in the past in which you experienced a particular feeling that you want to get in touch with; happy, sad, glad, scared, upset, angry, proud, embarrassed, etc. Remember the situation and imagine you are in the situation now. What do you see, hear, taste, smell, and touch? Notice what thoughts, feelings and sensations come up as you remember the situation. Pay particular attention to your feelings. Is there one feeling or more than one? Notice any urges to hold onto or push away your feelings. Respond to these urges with understanding. Notice how your body responds to the feelings. Is there tension anywhere? Sweaty palms? Racing heartbeat? Urge to cry? Urge to run or hide? Urge to fix it or make it go away? Simply be aware of your emotions without judging or trying to get rid of them. Re-direct your attention to just observing your emotions. Notice any changes in your emotions during this exercise. Do they change or stay the same? Get stronger or weaker? Return to mindful breathing before ending this exercise, as it can be a difficult one. This exercise can be done with moderate, less intense feelings at first.
Mindful of Physical Sensations: Physical sensations can be urges, pain, tension, hunger and racing heart. Begin to focus on sensations involved in your body as your body contacts the surface you are sitting or laying on. Notice the parts of your body that are not in contact with the surface. Notice the sensation of air on skin or a sheet touching the skin. Notice the air temperature. Notice any body sensations: urges, cravings, hunger, pain, muscle tension, racing heart, stiffness, cramps, body temperature, etc. Notice any thoughts or judgments you are making about your physical sensations; then gently re-direct your attention to your body sensations. After 5-10 minutes, shift your attention back to the sensations you feel as your body contacts the surface of your chair or bed, then focus on breathing.
Mindfulness in All Activities: We can apply mindfulness to any activity at any time during the day. We can drive mindfully and do household chores mindfully; meaning we are keenly focused on what we are doing at the moment. We can practice mindfulness in the shower, during a walk, in a park, at work, during exercise, in a store, in the Dr’s office, in the waiting room, while dressing, while playing or drawing, etc. When we find feeling of guilt about the past or anxiety about the future creep in, or unwanted thoughts, memories or cravings, we gently re-direct our focus to the here and now.
This article was written by Marc Baisden, MACP, MIN
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