3 effective and simple mindfullness practices
Being fully present is probably not a normal mental state for most of us. We're accustomed to constant distractions thanks to the nature of our daily lives and the places we frequent. There are times throughout the day when we may as well be on autopilot, whether it's getting somewhere without much of a mental record of the trip, mindlessly browsing social media while eating, or planning our response instead of paying attention to the person we're talking to.
Mindfulness is a skill that enhances our awareness of the here and now, allowing us to better connect with ourselves, others, and the world around us. To feel more connected, clearheaded, and alive, we can enter this intuitive and easily accessible state of presence.
Mindfulness is a skill that can be honed and developed through regular practise. By practising meditation and other techniques, we can train ourselves to be more in the here-and-now in our personal and professional lives.
We can choose to respond to events, thoughts, and feelings in a more constructive manner as we become more aware of some of our habitual, perhaps unconscious, emotional and psychological reactions.
But rather than getting caught up in reading about Mindfulness, it is best to try it for yourself.
Here are three practises from our Mindfulness Training course that you can try.
1) The Raisin Exercise: A Mindful Eating Exercise
The raisin exercise is typically taught early on in a Mindfulness programme. By practising this technique, we can learn to eat more consciously. Taking a raisin and chewing, swallowing, and appreciating each stage of the experience requires nothing more than your full attention. Then, as "homework," try out the method with a bite or an entire meal.
This is a straightforward task, but it may also be challenging. If you feel uneasy doing this because of your relationship with food, try switching to another routine daily activity like getting dressed or brushing your teeth, and paying attention to your inner experience as you go.
The Proper Procedure
Pick one meal a day to eat consciously for a week. It's important to avoid distractions like checking your phone or turning on the TV. Put your plates down and take a seat. Put some flowers on the table or light a candle. Examine the food you intend to eat. Take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the food and your anticipation of eating it. Do your best to observe these thoughts without engaging with them or trying to alter them in any way.
Take note of how you feel as you get ready to eat, focus on the motion of bringing the food to your mouth, and evaluate the flavour. If you were to chew it and swallow it, how would it feel? When do you stop noticing that you have that mouthful in your mouth? Take note of how your whole body reacts to the food. Take it one bite at a time and focus entirely on the act of eating. Pay attention to your feelings of satisfaction, dissatisfaction, hunger, and contentment. When you finish your meal, switch these out. Focus on the moment when you realise you have completed the task. Afterward, take a deep breath, assess how you feel, and release any lingering emotions.
For the next week, try this method out for just one meal a day. Take notes on how you are feeling.
2) A complete body scan
The body scan is our next mindfulness practise. This practise helps us tune in to our physical selves, our breathing, our sensations, and our internal processes.
Savasana, performed at the end of a yoga session, may remind you of this. A more in-depth version of this body scan is included in our online Mindfulness training programme, but the underlying idea is the same. Carefully focusing on each individual body part, you let yourself feel whatever sensations arise without trying to alter or change them. Learn the process by reading the text several times and then putting it into practise once a day for a week. Remember your journeys by writing them down.
The Proper Procedure
Get into a relaxed supine position, using pillows or other aids as needed. Ascertain that you will be comfortably warm and undisturbed. The goal of this practise is to avoid daydreaming or falling asleep.
Put your attention on the in and out of your chest as your breath rises and falls for a while. Relish the way each breath travels through your entire system. Take a moment to become aware of your entire body, from your head to your toes, and the shape of your skin. Take note of the pressure points where your body makes contact with the ground, chairs, and other surfaces.
Focus on the space between your big toes on both feet, and see what you can learn about the sensations there. Expand your focus to take in both feet, and gently let your muscles loosen and soften there as well. Visualize your breath descending to your feet, where it can relax and be held in awareness like a warm light.
As you bring your focus higher, you can feel the muscles in your legs relaxing and becoming heavy. Think of the tension in your muscles melting away and the space opening up in your joints. Focus your attention on your breathing as if it were coming from your legs.
Gradually let it permeate your entire body, starting with your pelvic floor and working its way up through your lower and upper back, shoulders, rib cage, and chest. Feel the breath moving through your body as you bring your focus to each of these areas.
Focus your attention all the way down your arms to where your fingertips meet the floor. Take note of the warmth and energy that lies dormant in your hands. Take note of how the hands feel when they are at rest.
Focus your attention on your upper body and pay special attention to any tension in the muscles of your face, neck, and head, especially in the areas around your eyes, jaw, and the top of your mouth. Your face can soften with the realisation that you are doing this.
Refocus your attention on your breaths. Focus on the sensations of breathing throughout the body, and try to keep this sense of being fully present in your body as you go about your day. Focus on the experience itself, and take note of any feelings it evokes without passing judgement.
To finish, begin by moving the body slowly, taking care not to snap out of it and into regular consciousness.
3) A pause of three minutes
There is a link between the brain and the body through the breath. By paying attention to your breathing, you can reconnect your mind with your body and vice versa” - By Thich Nhat Hanh
During this three-minute break, we will perform a three-part exercise in which we will shift our attention from a broad to a narrow and back to a broad perspective. About a minute is spent on each stage. You can compare this to looking through the viewfinder of a camera and observing the scene before you without interfering with it. Then, you use the zoom function on your camera to zero in on an individual feature, such as a tree branch, studying how it sways in the wind, the form of its leaves, and so on. The final action is to expand the view to take everything in once more.
Try to incorporate at least one three-minute Breathing Space into each day for a week. Write down your thoughts and feelings before and after the event to get a full picture. When we become skilled with this exercise, it can become a useful tool in managing anxiety and anger or difficult situations.
Awareness is the first step
Relax your shoulders, sit or stand up straight, and close your eyes if you can. The next step is to focus inward, on your body. Pay attention to and take note of your present state of mind, including your emotions and physical sensations. Recognize any unsettling mental or physical experiences without trying to change them at this time.
Focus on the breathing process
Next, focus in on how breathing actually feels in your body. Your attention could rest on the sensations in your nostrils, your belly's expansion and contraction, or the sensations of breathing in and out. Ground yourself in the here and now by focusing on your breathing. If you find your thoughts wandering, bring them back to the breath.
Expand the field of your attention
Now, from this point of concentration on the breath, widen the scope of your attention to encompass the entire body as though it were a single breathing organism. Imagine the breath moving into and around any achy or tense areas if you feel any arising. Instead of fighting against these feelings, try to accept and even embrace them.