What is mindfulness?
The human brain is very busy. Many of us notice this most in the evenings as our bodies and our daily activities begin to wind down. Without the daily distractions drowning out our thoughts, the incessant chatter can come right to the foreground. But nighttime isn’t the only time this is happening. Our minds are busy and distracted all day by this ongoing story line and this story line impacts our brain chemistry and the ways we interact with our world.
Mindfulness is the tool for coming into the present moment, to check-in with what’s happening in our mind and body and to become aware of our reactions. As we develop this skill, we are more able to create a small pause, calm a little and make conscious choices about our internal state and our external interactions.
Dan Harris, ABC anchor and author of 10% Happier, explains mindfulness well in this video: (Click the picture to link to the video)
What is meditation?
We should probably start with what meditation is not. Meditation is not sitting for hours with a completely blank mind.
Mindfulness meditation is a practice of exploration. It is a tool that allows us to be with ourselves with consciousness, curiosity, non-judgement and with compassion. It is a way of knowing what is happening internally. It is a way of seeing those parts of us that are momentary and those parts of us that are more stable.
How can I learn more about mindfulness?
Our therapists and yoga instructors are all trained in mindfulness and in ways to help you tap into it. Feel free to try a yoga class or make an appointment with one of our therapists.
We host a free monthly community meditation on the fourth Monday of each month where you can try several different types of meditation. We host silent retreats each spring and fall. We teach a beginning meditation class several times a year and throughout the year we teach and host various workshops and classes.
Is this something I can do on my own?
Absolutely. Mindfulness and meditation are free and always available to you.
The Basic Mindfulness Practice:
1. Commit to an ongoing practice:
Set aside time each day. It’s okay to start with just a few minutes. Most of us find ourselves periodically stressed or in crisis. It’s in these moments when we recommit to wellness practices like exercise, healthy eating and meditation. However, if we only check-in mindfully when we are in these stressed states, our mindful, conscious experience of the self is this agitated state. When we check-in in a disciplined, ongoing way, we become more aware of the parts of us that are passing states and the parts of us that seem more stable.
Additionally, just like exercise, the practice of mindfulness strengthens this ability to be present and less reactive. This makes it a useful tool when we are stressed. So, commitment to a practice, however brief, is important.
2. Observe the present moment just as it is.
What does that even mean?
Start with the breath. This is a nice anchor to return to when we get lost in thought. We start with noticing how we feel as we fill the body with nourishing oxygen, and we notice the release of thought, tension, toxins and carbon dioxide as we exhale.
Maybe we notice the feel of the air on our skin, the comfort or discomfort of our body. Maybe we notice the sounds in our environment and our reactions to them.
At some point a thought will roll in and carry us away. THIS IS OK. We are NOT failing. This is what happens. It’s what the brain does. At some point we will recognize that we are lost in thought. Just come back to the breath; noticing the sensations of the inhalation and the exhalation.
Eventually, we will become aware of the thoughts as they roll by without being carried away or lost in thought. We will become more aware of our likes and dislikes, clinging and aversion and of the distractions that pull us away from the present moment experience of our lives.
That’s it. It’s simple, but not always easy. We are here to support you in your process and in your discoveries.
Interested in having The Center for Mindful Exploration present at your facility? For more information or to register for a class, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org