Does Mindfulness Help?

(video 3:30m) If Mindfulness Meditation doesn’t take away the things that are bothering me, how does it help? How does noticing what’s bothering me benefit me? I already know how bothered I am! How is paying attention to it going to make things better?

Great questions! Glad you asked.

It does seems counter-intuitive to do something that not only doesn’t fix the bad things, it has you pay attention to them more! The difference is really about perspective or point of view… normally, when we’re realizing that we feel terrible, we’re in the middle of it. We’re believing the thoughts and emotions that we’re having and we think and feel as if they are our whole reality. We’ve forgotten that actually they’re just thoughts and emotions and that they come and go.

Mindfulness offers us another place to notice from, a place that we have access to at all times if we care to be in it – that part of us that is simply aware that we’re here doing what ever we’re doing (thinking and feeling). It’s simply to notice from that state of mind that is always here, available, that can notice what we’re thinking and feeling.

It’s so simple that it is easy to miss. You can access it right now by noticing where you are physically. Notice that you (in your body) are standing or sitting or lying down where ever you are. Notice that you are there and not say, in Paris (unless of course you are and then notice that you’re in Paris and not in London.) That part of you that just noticed that simple fact is the part we’re using in mindfulness.

If you start thinking or feeling things about the place that you’re in, say that you really like the temperature, there’s a part of you that can notice that you’re thinking. There’s a part that can say, “This is me having the thought that I like the temperature.” That’s it. That’s the part of you that we’re accessing. Super simple.

So how does accessing that part help? Well, imagine that you’re really upset about something. Your heart is racing, you’re breathing fast, you’re looking around for someone or something to yell at… you’re in the middle of emotion. What if you could in that moment access that part of you that can say, “Hey, this is me feeling really upset. Wow. This is big! I’m REALLY upset!”

Right in that moment, you have just given yourself a tiny bit of room from the emotion. You’re still feeling it and you’re also aware that it’s not your whole reality. Suddenly, you have choices. “Hm. I wonder what I want to do with this feeling? Do I want to yell at the person in front of me? Or do I want to let them know I’m super upset and need to go outside and vent for a few minutes?”

See how that works?

Yes, it takes practice and commitment to keep practicing, and if you like it it can change your life. In the beginning you might just get to watch yourself yell at the person, which is pretty painful. “Wow, this is me yelling at this person and being a complete jerk. Ouch.” And slowly, we get better and better at being in the mindful place even during stress, and our ability to choose what to do (vs just yelling) gets stronger and stronger.

Enjoy being mindful.

(p.s. If you’re interested, practicing this state actually causes measurable changes in the brain according to studies. Psychologists call it “self-regulation” and neurologists have found that the related part of the brain grows in size. Look for Dr Sara Lazar’s studies on my Links page.)

10 min Field of Vision & Sensational Awareness

MME Album Art(meditation: 10:47 min) This meditation is a combination of two practices. It starts with Field of Vision and then shifts to Sensational Awareness.

This meditation is great for people who prefer eyes open practices and who also want to work with pain or discomfort in their bodies.

Instructions:

  1. Begin by getting into position, whatever position works best for your body. This position will become your body-mind’s signal that you are starting a practice. I suggest the following:
  • Sit on a chair (sofa, bed, etc) with your feet flat on the floor. Rest your hands in your lap. Feel your sit bones pressing down. Float the crown of your head up so that it softly lifts your torso into alignment. Let your back body be a bit firm to maintain this posture and your front body be soft and relaxed.
  1. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Notice how it feels to breathe for a few breaths.
  2. Then, soften your eyelids and open your eyes. Look down, comfortable distance in front of you at the floor or desk/table if you are sitting at your desk/table.
  3. Let your physical eyes be soft, relaxing the muscles around the eyes. Your vision may get blurry at some point, and let that happen.
  4. Notice what you can see in front of you and also widen your attention to notice your whole field of vision. With out moving your eyes or head, take in your peripheral vision.
  5. Let thoughts float through the background like passing clouds.
  6. If you find that your attention has become absorbed in your thoughts and you’re no longer noticing what you’re looking at, gently bring your attention back to what you can see.
  7. After a few minutes, shift your attention to your breath for a few breaths, and then into body. Find an area of the body that is stiff, sore or painful.
  8. Bring your attention to this part, honoring it with your attention. You are not trying to make it go away, instead you are noticing it in all of it’s uncomfortable glory. It is there for a reason, and we’re honoring the wisdom of our body – the signals that it is giving us.
  9. Notice the qualities of the area, how big it is (where are the edges?), how dense? how sharp/dull, what texture? if you could see it what color would it be? etc.
  10. When you feel ready or when your timer rings, end the practice by bringing your attention back to your breath for a few breaths and then gently opening your eyes.

 

To Download:

Click on the Download button below.

If it does not download automatically:

  1. A new window will open with an audio player (like the player above).
  2. Right click on the player and choose “Download File” or “Download Video”
  3. iPhone users will want to first copy the meditation into iTunes (on your computer) and then sync with your iPhone.

Note that you are welcome to download and share this files as many times as you like provided you do so in it’s entirety and it is used for personal or educational use only (no commercial uses).

Download

 

Body Strength Challenge 3 (Plank)

(video 55sec) Here is the third body strength exercise that Personal Trainer, Joey Hunter, challenged me with. She asked me how long can I hold 3 simple exercises & what goes through my mind as I do them?

I decided to see what would happen if I did each exercise a second time while practicing mindfulness. Would it change my experience? Would I be able to hold it longer?

Above is the third exercise, a plank, done ‘normally’ and while voicing my stream if conscious.

Below is me doing it mindfully! (video 1:16min)

Try this yourself! On your hands and the balls of your feet, hold your body as straight as you can and  and see how long you can hold it. Then do it while practicing mindfulness meditation and see if you can hold it longer.

Body Strength Challenge 2 (Wall Squat)

(video 49sec) Here is the second body strength exercise that Personal Trainer, Joey Hunter, gave me. She asked me how long can I hold a few simple exercises & what goes through my mind as I do them?

I decided to see what would happen if I did each exercise a second time while practicing mindfulness. Would it change my experience? Would I be able to hold it longer?

Above is the first exercise, a wall squat, done ‘normally’ and while voicing my stream if conscious.

Below is me doing it mindfully! (video 2:04min)

Try this yourself! Put your back against a wall, thighs parallel to the ground and see how long you can hold it. Then do it while practicing mindfulness meditation and see if you can hold it longer.

How to Calm Your Mind, Part 2

(video 12:04min) In Part 1 we covered the idea that when we’re practicing mindfulness, and when we’re being mindful we’re going to keep thinking… And that actually we WANT to think (gasp!).

And now we want to know why we’re told during practice that we should “let go of our thoughts”? If thinking is ok, then why do we need to let go of it?

Great question! On to Part 2!

Why is it important to practice mindfulness regularly?

(video: 5:31 min) Does mindfulness ever become permanent? Will I ever be mindful all the time with out having to practice it regularly?

Well yes. And no.
Yes in that you can reach a stage where mindfulness is something you’re doing all of the time, as a behavior, a habit or an state of being.

And no in that until it becomes an ingrained habit, you need to keep reinforcing the behavior by practicing it!

Why? Because your brain learns and changes based on your behaviors. What you do today is changing your brain. You’re either creating & maintaining neurological structures for mindfulness today or you’re creating structures for something else.

Thanks to Dr Lara Boyd on TEDxVancouver for making the relationship between our daily behaviors and our brain so clear.

Reclining Body Scan (for falling asleep)

MME Album Art(meditation: 21:22 min) You may be familiar with Body Scan meditations from your yoga or relaxation classes. They are an ancient way to relax the body and mind.

There are a variety of ways to do body scans. Usually you start at one end of the body (head or feet), focus on the sensations in that part, and move slowly, part by part, to the other end.

This recording is long and slow enough to help you fall asleep. Soft muscle contractions are suggested throughout to help you release muscle tension and relax your body for rest. You can also listen at low volume, so that you dream peacefully through it once you fall asleep.

Rest well.

Mindfulness Practice: Reclining Body Scan (for falling asleep)

  1. Begin by lying down in a comfortable position.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice how it feels to breathe.
  4. Gently shift your attention to your feet and feel the sensations in your feet.
  5. Keep most of your attention on your sensations. Let everything else float by in the background. Let thoughts, emotions and other physical sensations float through like passing clouds, knowing that during this practice, you don’t need to do anything with your thoughts or feelings except notice that they are here.
  6. If you find that your attention has become absorbed in your thoughts (emotions or sensations) to the point that you are no longer noticing the sensations in your feet, simply redirect your attention kindly and gently back to your feet and start a fresh. Your thoughts will remain, and you don’t need to do anything with them to make them go away. Each thought will pass on it’s own. You don’t make them come and you don’t need to do anything to make them go. Simply notice that they are here and that is enough.
  7. With your attention on your feet, gently squeeze your feet muscles, softly contracting and releasing, and noticing how your feet feel as you do this. Do this a few times.
  8. Then, let your feet rest and invite your feet to soften like butter and melt down into the cushion.
  9. Next move your attention up to your lower legs and repeat this process of first noticing, then gently squeezing and releasing, resting and melting.
  10. Move slowly up the body, repeating the process with each part.
  11. When you get to your head you can start again with the feet, continuing the cycle until you fall asleep, or you can end the practice at any point by returning to the sensations of breathing for a few cycles of breath and completing the practice there.

 

To Download:

Click on the Download button below.

If it does not download automatically:

  1. A new window will open with an audio player (like the player above).
  2. Right click on the player and choose “Download File” or “Download Video”
  3. iPhone users will want to first copy the meditation into iTunes (on your computer) and then sync with your iPhone.

Note that you are welcome to download and share this files as many times as you like provided you do so in it’s entirety and it is used for personal or educational use only (no commercial uses).

Download

 

Mindfulness Practice: Field of Vision

MME Album Art(meditation: 6:18 min) This practice is also a classic mindfulness practice that is very old. In this practice we focus on what we can see in the space in front of us.

As with River of Sound, some people love this practice. It  really suits them. “Now this is a practice that I like!” And other people really don’t like it.

This is why I offer it, because I find that different people like different practices, and the best practice is one that you like! Why? Because you are more likely to do it if you like it!

Try this out and see what you feel. You may find that this is the one for you! And if you like this kind of practice, there are lots of other practices available in the world of meditation with eyes open.

Enjoy!

Mindfulness Practice: Field of Vision

  1. Begin by getting into position, whatever position works best for your body. I suggest the following:
    1. Sit on a chair (sofa, bed, etc) with your feet flat on the floor.
    2. Rest your hands, palms down, on your thighs.
    3. Feel your sit bones pressing down.
    4. Float the crown of your head up so that it softly lifts your torso.
    5. Tuck your chin in a bit so that the back of your neck is soft and long.
    6. Soften your jaw.
    7. Let your front body be soft (relax your belly, chest and face) and your back body be firm and upright.
    8. Close your eyes.
  2. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice how it feels to breathe.
  3. Gently open your eyes and gaze down a comfortable distance in front of you (1 to 2 meters)
  4. Soften your eyes and take in your whole field of vision. Rather than look at just one thing, let your eyes gently take in your whole field of vision at once.
  5. Be curious about what you can see. Stay soft and let your eyes un-focus or anything that they want to do. Relax and notice what ever you can see in any given moment, including blurry vision, etc.
  6. Keep most of your attention here as much as you can. Let everything else float by in the background. Let thoughts, emotions and physical sensations float by in the background like clouds.
  7. If you find that your attention has become absorbed in your thoughts (emotions or sensations) to the point that you are no longer noticing what you can see, simply let the thoughts go, and kindly and gently bring your attention back to your vision and start a fresh. You can have an infinite number of fresh starts, so you can relax.
  8. End the practice when you feel ready or when your timer rings by coming back to your breath for a few seconds and then raising your eyes.

 

To Download:

Click on the Download button below.

If it does not download automatically:

  1. A new window will open with an audio player (like the player above).
  2. Right click on the player and choose “Download File” or “Download Video”
  3. iPhone users will want to first copy the meditation into iTunes (on your computer) and then sync with your iPhone.

Note that you are welcome to download and share this files as many times as you like provided you do so in it’s entirety and it is used for personal or educational use only (no commercial uses).

Download

 

What to Do When You Feel Bad

(video: 9:44) Confused? Angry? Guilty? Sad? Depressed? Anxious?Overwhelmed? …?

What to do?
Mindfulness gives us a great tool: notice how you feel. Feel it. Observe it from the inside – feel how it feels to feel what you are feeling. What does it feel like to feel confused right now? What does it feel like to feel angry right now? Ask and feel and remember the whole time that you are asking the question, that you are exploring, that a part of you is doing the noticing, the observing, the exploring and taking notes.

This is incredibly powerful because it allows us to feel what we’re feeling and learn from it at the same time.

Maybe all we learn is what it feels like to feel confused. Already this is a million times better than being lost in confusion, where confusion is our entire experience & we can’t gain from it because we’re drowimg in it.

Bringing in the noticing is like popping our heads out of the water. Suddenly we have a bit of breathing room. We’re not drowning anymore. We can look down and see that we’re up to our neck in confusion. We have a whole new perspective on the situation. We can see that we’re in it versus being overwhelmed by it.

And then what?… You’re welcome to watch the video for my recent experiences with the next steps.