4 • practise mindfulness

 

To help develop the ability to stand back and watch your thoughts you might want to consider practising mindfulness. There are many different definitions of mindfulness. I use the term to describe alert, calm presence with what is. Mindfulness training has emerged as a powerful, evidence-based tool for enhancing psychological health. It is empirically supported as an effective intervention in a wide range of clinical disorders, including chronic pain, anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, OCD, substance abuse, and borderline personality disorder. One study at University of Wales and John D. Teasdale at the Medical Research Council in England found that eight weekly sessions of mindfulness halved the rate of relapse in people with three or more episodes of depression. The National Institute of Health in America is financing more than 50 studies testing mindfulness techniques to help relieve stress, soothe addictive cravings, improve attention, lift despair and reduce hot flashes.

 

Practising Mindfulness

 

Because mindfulness is a way of being, you can practice it all of the time! I am going to share some of four of the mindfulness exercises that I use with my own clients, try them out and see which one of them suits you best. I highly recommend to start off with that you make some time each day to practise them, this will get you use to them. In addition to this leave some post-it notes around your home, such as in your bathroom and inside of your front-door reminding you to practise mindfulness.

 

 

Watching the Breath

 

This is one of the most important foundations and building blocks of meditation. It involves simply sitting, watching your breath, moment by moment and doing so without judging, resisting or reaction. Here are the instructions, you should allocate about 10 to 20 minutes for this

 

  • Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair
  • Close your eyes and bring your awareness to an aspect of your breathing. You may choose to focus your attention on the passage of air in and out of your nostrils, focus on the rising and falling of your chest or watch the movement of your belly as you breathe in and out. Just choose one and stick with it throughout the session.
  • Don’t do anything with the breath, don’t try and control it in any way, just allow it to be, just observe it.
  • Notice how your mind wanders, this will happen and it’s completely ok, its part of the process. Notice the story that your mind is telling you for example ‘I can’t do this’ ‘this is boring’ and so on. Don’t engage or fight with the story, just gently return your attention back to the breath
  • Keep relaxed and keep observing moment by moment at the movements of the breath. When you get caught up in thinking, again, just gently return your attention to your breath

 

So it’s a very simple exercise, but one that can be quite challenging given the fact the most of us are so used to getting caught up in the stream of out thinking and feelings. The real key is to be gentle with yourself and to be persistent, no matter what let go of the minds mutterings and just watch the breath. If you feel yourself becoming impatient or frustrated just notice it and then return your attention to the breath. Whilst you might feel disheartened initially because of the minds propensity of pull you out of present moment awareness, by being playful with this exercise, keeping it light (not being overtly tense or serious about it) and adapting an attitude of curiosity (you are exploring what awareness feels like) you should make good progress and start to feel the benefits of present moment awareness shortly. Another alternative is to use a CD that guides you through the process or to attend meditation classes.

 

Watching Your Thoughts

 

This builds on breath awareness, by turning your attention to you thoughts, as an alternative you could choose to focus your attention on your emotions or bodily sensations. Watching your thoughts is such an important practice because it helps you to start dis-identifying from them, and in doing, reducing the power that they have over you

 

  • Sit quietly undisturbed and close your eyes 
  • Bring attention to your breathing. Observe the in and out breath without trying to interfere with the rate, rhythm or depth of breathing.
  • Now become aware of your thoughts, observe them without judgement or analysis, notice how they come and go. Notice the chaotic and sometimes non-sensical nature of those thoughts.
  • If you catch yourself being drawn into the thoughts, just relax back once more and continue watching them as though watching a film in the cinema.
  • As you continue with this observation practise, notice how the quantity and intensity of thoughts start to settle as you start to withdrawal energy from them.
  • Witness how the space in between the thoughts starts to expand. This will become your focus of attention during meditative practise.
  • Continue this for at least five minutes and then open your eyes.

 

This practice doesn’t have to be done within a confined period of time, you can practise it whilst walking or carrying out a particular activity. It can be part of a life awareness practice.

 

Life Awareness Practice

 

Life awareness practice, as the name suggests involves bringing awareness to whatever you are doing as you are doing it. This is something you do as you get on with your life, whilst everything offers an opportunity to practice awareness, I have found that bringing awareness to the experience of eating, walking and washing has been a very useful tool for increasing awareness of the present moment. Every time you shower, brush your teeth, make love or go for a walk, rather than going up into your head and thinking about issues unrelated, bring your full attention to what you are seeing, hearing and feeling. Allow yourself to experience fully what you are doing and notice how this immediately changes and enriches the quality of experience. See Resources for further reading

 

Instant Presence

 

I developed Instant Presence as a tool to help myself and my clients rapidly shift the way they feel and to become present and grounded quickly. There are many instances when we need to change the way we feel in the moment in order to meet the needs of a situation. For example if you had an argument with your partner just before leaving for work, but you knew you had a important presentation to do, you certainly wouldn’t want to bring those emotions into work with you. By using Instant Presence, you would be able shift your state within a couple of seconds or minutes to one that enables you access your maximum level of creativity, confidence and clarity. The value of the Instant Presence is that it can shift your mental state on demand because the situation that you are in warrants it. That’s its purpose. However it shouldn’t be used to escape valid feelings that need to be welcomed and processed. So you wouldn’t for example want to use it every time you felt sadness or anger. Those emotions are trying to tell you something, the key is to feel them and to process them fully.

 

Instant Presence is therefore a tool that needs to be used with some discernment and in situations that require it. It shouldn’t be used as a habitual emotional avoidance strategy. You can read more about emotional avoidance in module three

 

Here are the six steps of Instant Presence. Read through them and then read the instructions beneath them.

 

1.       Head – I am aware of air flowing in and out of my nose (as you say this breath in and out of your nose)

2.      Heart – I am aware of sensations and feelings in and around my heart (as you say this breath in and out of your heart area, whilst noticing what you are feeling / sensing in and around your heart)

3.      Belly – I am aware of sensations and feelings in and around my belly (as you say this breath in and out of your abdomen whilst noticing what you are feeling / sensing in and around your belly.)

4.      Legs – I am aware of sensations and feelings in and around my legs (as you say this breath in and out of your feet, whilst noticing what you are feeling / sensing in and around your legs)

5.      Body – I am aware of my whole body (as you say this breath in and out of your entire body, whilst noticing what you are feeling / sensing throughout your body)

6.      Expansion – I expand as joy – or whatever quality you want to focus on (as you say this feel/sense/imagine these energies pouring out of you into the world around you).

 

  • Then take three deep breaths in and out and savour what you are feeling
  • If you want to and feel moved to you can start the whole process again by going back to 1)

 

How to Use Instant Presence

 

  • For the first two weeks I would set aside some time each day, say 10 minutes to practise and get familiar with the Instant Presence process. During this time make sure you won’t be disturbed and practice it either whilst seated or whilst standing.
  • Before you use Instant Presence, set your intention beforehand. For example ‘my intention is to become present, alert, confident and clear headed.’
  • Instant Presence works by bringing your awareness into certain parts of your body. This helps to ground your awareness in the moment.
  • The text in italics is what you say silently to yourself. Rather than thinking the words, pretend you are actually saying them without moving or opening your mouth. When you do this you should become aware of some sensations around your throat and voice box.
  • With the expansion sentence – use whatever words are appropriate to the situation you are in – for example instead of using I expand as love, you could use I expand as creativity, clarity and confidence
  • Watch out for your minds tendency to judge your experience as you are using Instant Presence. If judgments come up just notice it and then return your attention to doing what you are doing. The key is not to engage with or get caught up in the judgment.
  • Another way to reduce the likelihood of you getting distracted whilst using Instant Presence is to do it at a firm pace. It shouldn’t be rushed and it shouldn’t be slow, it needs to be somewhere in between. Play around with the pace and find out what works for you.
  • In addition to your 10 minute daily practice, use it throughout the day. Play with it and observe how it shifts the way you feel. Try it out at home, with friends, family and in your work situation.
  • As you get more familiar with the process used to the process, you can just say the words in bold or even the word Instant Presence and experience the shift in the way you feel.

 



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