Meditation & Mindfulness

Mindfulness

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Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Being mindful is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.” Mindfulness can be thought of more as a lifestyle and daily practice than a religious tradition or belief. In essence, mindfulness is simply paying attention to the present moment. For so much of our lives, we go through our days on ‘auto-pilot,’ without even being aware of what is really happening in us and around us in any given moment. But ”living in the present moment” can be difficult. Living mindfully ”requires us to be fully open to our experiences” and “being nonjudgmental” about what we’re experiencing and how those experiences affect us.

So how do we start living mindfully?

1. Keep mindfulness reminders around you: quotes, pictures, anything that expresses peace or openness to you.

2. Move a little more slowly through your day. Whether it’s walking, eating, speaking, doing chores, if you can focus on doing those a little more slowly, it helps you stay more relaxed and present. Doing tasks like washing dishes and laundry can be a great time to focus on your breath and feel relaxed.

3. Don’t rush to answer the phone (especially if it’s a person who will stress you out!). Take one or a few deep breaths, and answer on the 3rd or 4th ring. If you need to, call the person back when you feel more centered.

4. Make things like your alarm sound and ring on your phone sounds that are calming and relaxing.

Mindfulness and the Body

One of the most important and easiest ways to practice mindfulness is to stay present and alert to your bodily sensations. Especially when a situation occurs that causes stress, where do you feel that stress in your body? Does your belly start to hurt? Does your jaw clench? Does your throat tighten up? Do you get headaches? Locating tension in your body can be a great way to recognize your emotion(s) and give yourself some space from immediately acting out on that emotion. Further, our bodies are constantly speaking to us, telling us what they need, when they need to eat, what they need to eat, when they need to move, when they need to rest. Developing this skill can be an incredible way to practice mindfulness and to living a happy and healthy life. Our bodies are our vehicles through this world, pay attention to them, nurture them, and honor them.

Try this short exercise as a way to stay mindful of the body and in the present moment:

The purpose of a sensory grounding exercise is to bring your attention into the present moment by using all of your senses.

The name of this strategy is called 5-4-3-2-1.

Take some deep breaths and try the following:

1. Look around the room and name five things you can see.

2. Move your focus into your body, and name four things you can feel.

3. Bring your attention to your hearing, and name three things you can hear.

4. Pay attention to your sense of smell, and name two things you can smell — or imagine two things you like the smell of.

5. Name one thing you can taste or that you like the taste of

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Body Scan Meditation

“Take a moment to appreciate that you have taken this time to be aware and in the moment.

And now very gently bring your awareness to your breath in the belly.  As you breathe in, be aware that you are breathing in.  And as you breathe out, be aware that you are breathing out.  This is a moment to moment awareness of your breathing.  Feel your belly expand on an inhalation and contract and on an exhalation.  Just notice this breathing in and breathing out, being mindful of the belly’s expansion and contraction one breath at a time.

If you notice that your mind begins to wander, going into the future or the past, or following thoughts, memories or dreams, just gently acknowledge to yourself that your mind has wandered.  Notice where your mind has wandered to, and then gently bring yourself back to the breath.  And again following the breathe in and out, noticing the expansion and contraction of the belly.

Now let us begin to draw our attention away from the breathe and to the body scan.  In doing this practice, please pay attention to what it is that you are experiencing sensationally.  Sensations can be variable, ranging from aches and pains, to itchiness, to deep feelings of relaxation.  From heat to coolness, wet to dryness, heaviness to lightness.  These can all be sensations that you experience as you begin the body scan.  Whatever it is that you are feeling, just simply acknowledge what’s there.  Be aware from moment to moment.  There’s no need to make it come, or go away.  All this is is a simple noticing of your experience.  If you notice tension as you do the body scan, see if you can release that tension.  However, if you are unable to relax, just allow yourself to settle into the experience of tension, noticing what your muscles feel like when they’re tense.  Just being aware of the sensation of tension.  There’s no need to either make it come or go.

Now gently bring your awareness to your left foot.  Be aware of the sensations in your sole and your arch, the top of your foot, and your ankle joint, as you focus your attention on your left foot.

And of course, as we’re going through the body, if emotions arise as well, just let yourself experience those emotions and acknowledge them too for what they are, an emotion that you’re having at this point in time.

And now shift your awareness gently from your foot, to the lower part of your left leg.  Noticing the calf, the shin, and your knee joint, simply be aware of what it is that you experience in that area.  Allow yourself the simple sensations of skin and muscle.  And now allow your awareness to shift to your upper left leg, noticing your thigh, and the back of your upper leg.  Paying attention to the sensations that you feel in this area of your body.

Now gently shifting your attention to your lower right leg, first starting with your foot.  Noticing the arch, and the heal, and the top of the foot, and the ankle joint, just take a moment, to notice these sensations.  And now gently shift your attention to your lower right leg, noticing your calf, and your shin, and your knee joints, paying attention to the sensations that you experience in this area of your body.  Now I’d like you to gently shift your awareness to your upper right leg, noticing the muscles in your thigh, and in your hamstring, pay attention to the sensations that you experience, moment to moment.

And now I’d like you to gently let go of your awareness of your right leg, on the in-breath letting go, and on the out-breath, gently shifting your attention to your hips, buttocks, and groin area.  Noticing the sensations, paying attention and being mindful, allow yourself to be aware of what you experience in this area of your body.

And now gently leave the area of your buttocks, hips, and groin, and focus your attention, and place your awareness on your lower back.  Starting with your tail bone, gently move upward, noticing the muscles of your back, being aware of your spine, and the area between your chest and your buttocks on the lower back.

Follow your spine up to the area between the tops of your shoulders, paying attention as you scan your back.  Notice any sensations that arise, or any tensions you might have, and again if you can let that tension go, do so.  And if not, just be aware of the sensation of tension.

And now I’d like you to gently shift your attention from your back, and on the in-breath, place your attention to your abdomen, your stomach area, and on the out-breath, just let your attention settle there.  And notice any sensations that arise as you focus your attention on your belly.

If you find your mind wandering away from the body part you are focusing on, just again remind yourself to return, acknowledging that your mind can go off to different places, like the future and the past, and then just gently bring your mind back.  And in this moment notice that you are focusing on the area of your body–the belly, the abdomen.

And now I’d like you to, on the in-breath, let go of the abdomen, and on the out-breath, gently focus your attention on the chest.  Being aware of the space between your shoulders, your neck, and your belly, noticing the muscles of your chest area.  Just gently scan across this area, as you become aware of this part of your body, and the sensations that are present there.

Now I’d like you to gently shift your attention to your left arm, starting at the tips of your fingers on your hand, gently begin to scan your hand, being aware of the sensations that you experience, around and in your fingers, on the back of your hand, and your palm.  Notice what you feel as you become aware of this part of your body.

Gently move up to the experience of your wrist, noticing your wrist joint.  And then to the lower part of your left arm.  Paying attention also to your elbow joint, and then shifting your attention to your upper left arm, the area of the biceps and triceps.  Simply notice the sensations that you experience there, as you become aware of your upper left arm.

Now gently on the in-breath, letting go of your upper left arm, and on the out-breath shifting your attention to the tips of your fingers in your right arm, noticing the sensations of your fingers, the back of your hand and your palm, as you become aware of your right hand.  Gently scan upward to your wrist, noticing your wrist, and the lower part of your right arm, simply be aware of the sensations that are present there.  Gently scan to your elbow, and then up to the upper part of your arm, so that you are aware of your biceps and triceps.  Take a moment to notice the sensations that you experience there.

And now I’d like you to leave the area of your right arm, and on the in-breath letting go, and on the out-breath, shifting your attention to the back of your neck.  Noticing what it is that you experience there, being aware of the skin, and the muscles.  And then scan upwards, allowing yourself to feel the sensations of the back of your head.

Begin to scan around to the front of your head, paying attention as you scan the ears, the chin, your lips, your nose, your eyes, and your forehead.  Be aware of the facial structure that your bones create.  Notice your face.

And now gently scan upward from this place to the very top of your head.  Noticing your head and the sensations that you experience right at the top of your scalp.

And now I’d like you to gently leave your awareness of your scalp, and shifting your attention back to your breathing, being aware of the rise and fall of your belly, and the expansion on the in-breath, and contraction on the out-breath, of your abdomen.  Take just a moment or two now and follow your breathing, being aware, paying attention to the in and out of the breath.

And now, allowing yourself to be in this aware state, gently come back to the room.  Again taking the time to appreciate yourself, and allowing yourself to be present to this time and this day.” http://staybetter.utila.us/2014/07/body-scan-meditation-script.html

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“Creativity is maximized when you are living in the moment.”

Meditation & Mindfulness Go Hand & Hand

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Essentially, meditation is about relaxing and tuning out your brain, whether its time you set aside for yourself in the morning or the evening, sitting quietly in your favorite chair, or a trail walk with your favorite fur baby, it’s stillness without any distractions. Mindfulness brings the same peace, except you’re doing one or more tasks at the same time.  Maybe it’s making the kids lunches, taking out the dog, a disagreement with a friend or family member, cleaning the house, presenting at a meeting, I could go on and on, but it’s all of things can further distract your mind to the past or future if we don’t have mindfulness. By practicing on a daily basis it will eventually become second nature. Here are four steps to help you make mindfulness part of your routine.

Bring yourself to the present moment

When you begin practicing mindfulness, bring attention to the present moment,  don’t create any pressure, just practice when you feel you need to practice. A great time to practice is when you experience any negative thoughts throughout your day.  The negative thought is a reminder to bring yourself back to the living in the now.  Try and do this at least once a day.

Do one thing at a time

Concentration is one of the foundations of practicing mindfulness.  Without concentration, your mind will be going a mile a minute like a Ninja blender.  When people have a lot going on they tend to get overwhelmed with all they have to do.  Create a list of tasks and allow yourself to complete them one at a time. Try not to see it as you have to do it all at once and trust that it will get done. Pay attention to the amount of time that you can stay focused before you notice your mind wandering.

Immerse yourself into the task or activity

Choose the task or activity and practice mindfulness. This is a perfect time and will come naturally to you since we all have things to get done during the day whether it’s at home, work, or school.  Emerge into the activity without any distractions and practice living in the present moment.

When thoughts come to mind, recognize them and let them go

Do not dwell in the past or future, allow yourself to come back to the present. Many emotions such as, anger, fear, anxiety, or sadness are associated with the past or future. If we can be mindful and practice living in the present moment, positive feelings will begin to flourish in our daily lives, leading us to follow our heart rather then our mind.

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New to Meditation? “Meditation is a simple yet powerful tool that takes us to a state of profound relaxation that dissolves fatigue and the accumulated stress that accelerates the aging process. During meditation, our breathing slows, our blood pressure and heart rate decrease, and stress hormone levels fall. By its very nature, meditation calms the mind, and when the mind is in a state of restful awareness, the body relaxes too. Research shows that people who meditate regularly develop less hypertension, heart disease, insomnia, anxiety, and other stress-related illnesses.” 

There are a ton of different philosophies, practices, and techniques regarding meditation. If it’s something new for you, keep it simple at first, and practice the following for a few months:

1. Everyday, set a timer for 15 minutes

2. Focus on your breathing, inhaling, and exhaling. Don’t worry about manipulating the breath as much as just observing it flowing in and out of you.

3. Have a mantra: Some people like a simple sentence, chant, or prayer to come back to during their meditation as their minds start to wander. It can be simple like: Today I live happiness. Pick a mantra that resonates with you, and makes you feel more centered, peaceful, and loving.

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“Concentration meditation

A concentrative meditation technique involves focusing on a single point. This could entail watching the breath, repeating a single word or mantra, staring at a candle flame, listening to a repetitive gong or counting beads on a rosary. Since focusing the mind is challenging, a beginner might meditate for only a few minutes and then work up to longer durations.

In this form of meditation, you simply refocus your awareness on the chosen object of attention each time you notice your mind wandering. Rather than pursuing random thoughts, you simply let them go. Through this process, your ability to concentrate improves.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation technique encourages the practitioner to observe wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind. The intention is not to get involved with the thoughts or to judge them, but simply to be aware of each mental note as it arises.

Through mindfulness meditation, you can see how your thoughts and feelings tend to move in particular patterns. Over time, you can become more aware of the human tendency to quickly judge experience as “good” or “bad” (“pleasant” or “unpleasant”). With practice, an inner balance develops.

In some schools of meditation, students practice a combination of concentration and mindfulness. Many disciplines call for stillness — to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the teacher.

Other meditation techniques

There are various other meditation techniques. For example, a daily meditation practice among Buddhist monks focuses directly on the cultivation of compassion. This involves envisioning negative events and recasting them in a positive light by transforming them through compassion. There are also moving meditations techniques, such as tai chi, chi kung and walking meditation.

Benefits of meditation

If relaxation is not the goal of meditation, it is often one result of it. Back in the 1970s, Herbert Benson, MD, a researcher at Harvard University Medical School, coined the term the relaxation response after conducting research on people who practiced transcendental meditation. The relaxation response, in Benson’s words, is “an opposite, involuntary response that causes a reduction in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.”

Since then, studies on the relaxation response have documented the following short-term benefits to the nervous system:

  • lower blood pressure
  • improved blood circulation
  • lower heart rate
  • less perspiration
  • slower respiratory rate
  • less anxiety
  • lower blood cortisol levels
  • more feelings of well-being
  • less stress
  • deeper relaxation

Contemporary researchers are now exploring whether consistent meditation practice yields long-term benefits, and noting positive effects on brain and immune function among meditators. Yet it is worth repeating that the purpose of meditation is not to achieve benefits. To put it as an Eastern philosopher might say, the goal of meditation is no goal. It is simply to be present.

In Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate benefit of meditation is liberation of the mind from attachment to things it cannot control, such as external circumstances or strong internal emotions. The liberated, or “enlightened,” practitioner no longer needlessly follows desires or clings to experiences, but instead maintains a calmness of mind and sense of inner balance.

How to meditate: Simple meditation for beginners

This meditation exercise is an excellent introduction to meditation techniques.

1. Sit or lie comfortably. You may even want to invest in a meditation chair.

2. Close your eyes.

3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.

4. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage and belly. Make no effort to control your breath; simply focus your attention. If your mind wanders, simply return your focus back to your breath. Maintain this meditation practice for 2–3 minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.”

See more at http://life.gaiam.com/article/meditation-101-techniques-benefits-beginner-s-how

There are also a ton of free guided meditations on YouTube, play around with different things and figure out what works best for you.

 

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