I recently completed a mindfulness-training course for the parents at an elementary school in Akron, Ohio. The majority of our time was spent learning and experiencing mindfulness meditation -- which is the core of this practice.
There was one mother in the group who expanded my appreciation for mindfulness as a whole. This woman worked, had a family (including a special needs daughter) and the thought of trying to commit to a sitting meditation was, at this point in her life, just adding one more thing to her already loaded, loaded plate.
Now, I've heard that type of statement many times and always pontificate that meditation is a commitment and worth the time... blah, blah, blah. She decided to take a couple of mindful breaths each day -- that's it. And, for her, it really worked. For me, I could feel her body and soul relax as well as see her face brighten as she talked about her experience with this simplicity. So, if she can do it, why not you? Really, every little bit of awareness you incorporate into your life makes a difference. And, at the end of the day, isn't that what it is all about?
So, here are five ideas (more specifics on what the mom did in #1). I wouldn't be me if I didn't again mention (wink)... if you can commit to a daily or weekly meditation practice of some sort, that would be powerful (don't focus on how long you do it, just however long it feels "right" to you). However, if you can just do something mindful -- even in small doses, that would be and is powerful, too. Those somethings...
- Stop -- say, three times per day (increase as you wish) -- and bring complete awareness to your body and thoughts. Wherever you are, take a deep breath and if you can close your eyes, do so and pull everything inward. Then, open your eyes and reconnect outward. A couple of seconds is all you need. As you are doing this ask yourself: How is my body feeling? Am I tense anywhere? If so, can I relax? What is my mind doing? Is it calm, stressed, whirling? Am I in the moment or somewhere else?
What this does: This quick exercise allows you to connect with yourself, check in and greet the present. It increases body awareness, mind awareness, environmental awareness.
- When you wake up in the morning, immediately take inventory of your mind and body. Do you wake up energized, tired, stiff? Do you have immediate thoughts? Are your thoughts about the day ahead or something completely random?
What this does: Look for consistencies. Amazingly, when you start to recognize patterns, that's when you can really start to change things that you want to alter or foster things that make you feel good. Okay, I gotta add a "hot dog" in here 'cause this is rich!
- When you are in the midst of person who makes you stressed, unhappy or self-conscious, take a moment to step outside of yourself and bring awareness to your mind and physical self. Where do you feel tension? What if you try to relax it? Does that change the dynamic? What is it inside of you that makes you feel this way?
What this does: The goal here is to open yourself to accept your role in your feelings. People don't make you feel this or that -- you do. Foster your own sense of control.
- Is there a part of your body that makes you unhappy? Once again, you are going to bring awareness to it. Okay, I did not say make friends with it. Every day I would ask you to look at that part of you in the mirror. Simply be aware and open to all the inner self-talk. And, while doing this also feel what is going on inside your body.
What this does: This simple exercise can reveal so much. Ideally, you are looking to understand. If you can get to the heart of a feeling or a belief, then you can start to change it or accept it. Take your time on this one and listen intently.
- What is your favorite time of day? If it is morning, for example, take glance outside your window as you prepare for your day. See if you can notice five to 10 things. Maybe the sky is a magnificent color? Maybe you've never noticed the color of your neighbor's door or that they just peeped outside in their underwear to grab their paper? Maybe you notice a bird singing? What this does: What lies in front of us everyday is substantial. If we don't take the time to look, we miss out. And, maybe you can even take a second to give gratitude for your vision. What a precious gift. And, if you have challenges with vision, try to bring awareness to your emotions in connection with sounds.
Ooh, I could keep going and going. The point here, mindfulness is about being in life... experiencing all the little, fabulous details and feelings. Those details then connect you to the big picture as you start to see the glorious web that embraces you snuggly with everyone and everything. Mindfulness and meditation allow full-body, full-mind and full-spirit experiences. An hour a day or a minute a day... it and you can improve the world... one connected thought at a time.
For more by Eden Kozlowski, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.