“MINDFULNESS” or being mindful of the moment you are in, the tasks you are doing, is an ancient idea with roots in the East, but not easy for most Westerners. Meditation is a mindfulness practice and has been proven to postively effect physical and mental health as well as precipitate lasting life changes. The meditative process of “emptying the mind” is not, however, something most people in our culture can do even for a few moments, let alone for 20 minutes to an hour, as may be considered normal for traditional meditation.
Recent brain science shows that shorter and more natural exercises of mindfulness are equally powerful and may be more effective – because people do them! Making time for a manageable meditative exercise several days a week can help control the symptoms of mental and physical ill-health by ameliorating mental and physical stress, helping to solve problems, motivating behavior changes – in general bringing a greater sense of peace and well-being. Like any type of practice, the more or longer one does it, the more ability one has to use the skill whenever one wants ~ even when you are not in your designated quiet spot!
Triggered off by a situation at work or home? If you’ve practiced mindfulness at other times, you’ll be more able to take a few breaths and speak some thoughts to yourself; your body will calm down and you can deal with the situation in a more positive way – to your own lasting benefit.
Nervous, anxious, or uptight in academic, professional, romantic, or sexual situations? If you’ve learned mindfulness, you can take a breath, return to that calmer place, and focus on the current challenge, activity, and experience feeling more confident and in control.
You don’t have to know all the answers or what to do – you only need to really BE here, each moment. This allows your inner self – which does know, or can find out, what to do – to help you handle things better on the spot.
Each moment is, after all, the only time and place we truly are and CAN be.
Over time, you will likely discover that you don’t get triggered off as easily, or as often. How great would that be? And – mini-tating is FREE!
It may take more than a mindfulness practice to change your life, and help your inner self develop – you may need additional support, information, new experiences, or counseling to deal with many kinds of pre-existing problems. But the fact is – mindfulness practices change brain chemistry and autonomic body functions and improve self control. Without the side effects of drugs – and with the benefit of knowing – it’s YOU creating the changes in your life.
I’ve found the following practice do-able on a fairly regular basis for busy people who may or may not have experience with other forms of meditation or mindfulness exercises. I call it –
Find a quiet place to sit that is comfortable
Relax and close your eyes
Do a body scan – just pay attention, make adjustments to comfort and relax as needed
Take a few deep breaths, then
Focus on breath deliberately thinking the words –
“I’m breathing in…” peace or calm or health or strength- whatever you feel the need to breathe in
“I’m breathing out…” stress or pain or sickness; anger, anxiety, procrastination, fear -whatever you need to breathe out
You can keep it very simple – “In peace, out stress” – or “customize it” for your needs that day
Do that for as many breaths as you can, it may be only a few to start out. You can also try counting breaths in and out, while truly filling your diaphragm down to your stomach and totally emptying it. ANYthing that makes you think deliberately about breathing for at least a few breaths!
Another option is to visualize with these breaths – what color is the air you are breathing in that is peace (for example)? Silver? Gold? Blue? Clear? What color is the air going out that is stress (for example)? Black? Brown? Red? Perhaps you will “decide” – or perhaps, you will just “see” >>> your breath will tell you…
For pain and body stress relief, visualize, as one example, knots untying themselves in your neck, back, shoulders, legs…; or “see” a headache drain away. If you need to take aspirin (or whatever) for bad or chronic headaches or body pain, take it first, then do the visualization. By the time you finish mini-tating, your pain may be eased or gone. You may experience fewer headaches over time, less chronic pain, and may be able to take less aspirin or *medication *(consult your physician).
WHEN YOUR MIND WANDERS – WHICH IT WILL – SIMPLY RETURN YOUR THOUGHTS TO YOUR BREATH AGAIN. Build up how many breaths you can focus on – maybe it’s only ONE at first, or three…it doesn’t matter, just keep working at it. It all helps.
Witness thoughts without judgment.
Allow your thoughts to come and go – a thought parade perhaps. This gives space for new thoughts, ideas, intentions, inspirations, to join the parade. If no new thoughts arrive, fine. No judgement, and no entanglement – keep returning to the breath, or visualizing color, or thinking about positive intentions (see next). If new do thoughts arrive, see what they are!
Before coming back to your day – set an intention:
What do I want to focus on this day? For example, acceptance of where you are in life (or alternately, determination to change); gratefulness; forgiveness; accomplishing a specific thing that day; giving yourself credit; working on one goal; or anything that you need to intend!
The intention can be as simple as – i’m going to be in the moment, focus on doing things as well as I can; or, i’m going to finish one important thing on my list, or I’m going to take care of myself today – the options are endless and up to you.
We can easily get stuck in sad or negative thoughts and feelings, these are common thoughts to have, but don’t ”muck around in the wound.” Once you realize you are doing this, let these thoughts and feelings roll on by and return your deliberate thoughts to your breath, visualizations, intentions, and any new thoughts or directions.
You might even take a few minutes to write down your experience and any new thoughts in a journal after you finish mini-tating.
Setting an intention can also be done at the start of your mini-tation, which may set a tone for thoughts or images you receive and may even help a response or resolution to a problem come to you. Either way, breathe and focus on your intention at least breifly prior to opening your eyes and moving into active life. You’ll find that over time, you do fulfill your intentions.
Spend about 15 minutes as possible each time you mini-tate…if you can only manage to start with 5 minutes – do it. Next time try for 7 minutes, 10, etc. But even if you stop in the middle of a stressful day and do this for 5 minutes – studies have shown that people’s bodies respond by becoming more calm and their minds by working better.
If you have trouble, it gets easier the more you do it. I believe you will find that you come to look forward to MINI-TATING! It’s for YOU!
Changes are noticeable, immediately and over time, including improved health, greater daily living success, and better relationships. Even if you do this once in a while, it can help to an extent. For best results, like creating any other worthwhile and lasting change, you actually have to DO the excercise with some consistency – even after you are feeling better.
Are you worth 15 minutes of quiet time 3 or 4 times a week, or even daily? If you don’t think so, perhaps you’d better MINI-TATE on that!