Ruminating thoughts, worries, anger, and/ or fantasizing can take up the majority of our brain power and hours in the day. Breaking this repetitive thinking, or looping cycle, leads to less stress. One way to break this cycle is through practicing mindfulness.
Studies demonstrate the effectiveness of mindfulness practices, pausing and reconnecting with the present moment, and their positive effects experienced by the practitioner. But sometimes it’s difficult to take a moment to ourselves, leading us to never fully experience the present moment. Our society tells us that if we aren’t actively producing, then we should be. Our self worth may come from doing, leading to less being. Doing has it’s place, but it isn’t everything.
Let’s take back our being, living with more presence and aliveness, so at the end of our lives we aren’t merely a list of tasks completed, but an array of experiences which led us down a path.
Counting the Segments
Six Full Rounds of Breath
Placing your thumb on the segment at the base of the index finger, inhale. Exhale, moving your thumb to the middle segment of the same finger. Inhale to the tip of the index finger, exhale the the tip of the middle finger. Move like this, breathing mindfully until you reach the inner middle segment of the ring finger.
One round is enough to calm the nervous system, lowering cortisol levels. Two to ten rounds will continue these effects, leading to a calmer, clearer, more focused you!
In an area as small as a yoga mat or as large as a football field, begin by standing with two feet on the ground. Become aware of your weight being transferred through the soles of your feet into the earth. Bring your attention to the subtle movements which happen in order to keep one balanced and upright. Notice the constant adjustments made in order to maintain balance.
Begin to walk at a fairly slow but normal pace, and in a normal manner, inhaling as you lift and set down the foot. Exhale as you lift and replace the other foot, alternating the breath with each step taken. One might repeat the mantra given by Thich Nhat Hanh, “I am here, I have arrived”.
I find the practice of breathing while walking enough to refocus my “monkey mind” (a term used in the Buddhist tradition meaning restless or unsettled) on a normal day, but there are days when adding the counting strengthens the call to presence. To do this, simply count each step, beginning with one and continuing to 20 or beyond. Notice how this practice calms the ruminating thoughts and an awake, aware presence.
Also referred to as body anchoring because one is anchoring awareness by means of body sensation. This practice can be done in a comfortable lying or sitting position (the following steps have been adapted from a Yoga Journal Body Sensing Meditation).
- First, affirm your intention during this practice of meditation to focus on sensation rather than thinking. While breathing slowly through your nose, begin noticing the sensations of the breath in both nostrils.
- Become aware of the sensations in your jaw, mouth, and tongue. It may be in the form of tingling, pulsing, vibrating, numbness. Just notice and allow these sensations.
- Move your awareness to the ears, cheeks and nose. Then to forehead, top of the head, and base of the skull.
- Sense your shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers.
- Bring attention into your upper chest and back, and then your middle chest and back. Bring attention to your abdomen and lower back. Feel your entire torso, front and back.
- Sense your pelvis, buttocks, and hips, and then your thighs, legs, feet, and toes.
- Sense the entire front of your body, and then the back. Next, sense the left side of your body, and then the right. Feel sensation inside your body and on the surface.
- Feel yourself as spacious, open, and aware.
- Focus on feeling your body, welcoming feelings of security, groundedness, peace, and well-being.
- When you’re ready, gently open and close your eyes several times. Move your body as you reorient yourself to your surroundings, continuing to feel your body as radiant sensation.
- Affirm that sensations of deep relaxation, ease, peace, wholeness, and well-being are accompanying you in every moment.
This audio provided by Tara Brach is my absolute favorite. It combines body sensing with a listening practice based on body sensations and sounds.
May you feel the steady, unchanging presence within and allow it to be your guide.
Walking Meditation Introduction: http://www.wildmind.org/walking/introduction
Oprah Winfrey talks to Thich Nhat Hanh: https://youtu.be/NJ9UtuWfs3U
Body Sensing Yoga Journal: http://www.yogajournal.com/article/meditation/bodysensing-learn-listen-body-meditation/
Tara Brach: www.TaraBrach.com
Effects of Mindfulness: Compassion Cultivation Training https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11031-013-9368-z