Tag: mindfulness

Developing A Mindfulness Practice

Developing A Mindfulness Practice

Spa-imageUntil recent years, our western culture has been driven by thought processes that are nearly the antithesis of the practice of mindfulness.  Our generation, in particular, was taught at a very early age to think ahead, to plan, to set goals, and to learn from our mistakes. We believe that what we are doing today should, in some way, serve our future. And yet, we are far from being secure and at peace in our “old age”. Instead,  we are a generation plagued by stress related illness and disease. The light, however, is beginning to dawn on many, that maybe there is another way. The age old practice of mindfulness meditation is gaining in popularity.

Serious research into the scientifically measurable benefits of meditation has only been undertaken in the last ten years.  “In 2000, there were 70 studies published in peer-reviewed journals using the terms mindfulness, yoga, or meditation; in 2011 there were 560,” said David Vago, an associate psychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, as quoted in an article in the Boston Globe.  It is clear that there are benefits, but what remains to be learned is who benefits, how much of what type of meditation is required, and findings that can be used to tailor treatment. Although research is, at yet, inconclusive mindfulness and meditation are being used as part of therapeutic regimens to treat chronic pain, PTSD, stress, depression, addiction, high blood pressure, anxiety and other chronic illnesses.

201-x600-get-sited-meditationTAKE A STEP

If you have never practiced meditation or mindfulness, you’re in for a treat. First of all, it’s simple. Second, it’s easy. Third, it’s calming.  In other words, it’s easy to do and feels good.

Here are a few ways to begin:

1. Take a conscious breath. That’s it! Just breathe, in and out, but do it consciously. Focus your attention on the process of breathing. Close your eyes if you can and feel the breath coming in through your nose and filling your lungs; follow it into your chest and back out again. You can do this anywhere, any time. Just do it. Once a day is enough to start. Work your way up to five times a day, spread throughout the day.

2. Begin to slow yourself down and tune in to what is going on in the present moment. When you’re eating, take a breath before you take your first bite. Focus on the sensations in your mouth as you chew and swallow.

3. Take five minutes a day to do nothing. Just sit, breathe and let your thoughts come and go as they wish. When you are comfortable with five minutes, increase it to ten, then fifteen.

4. When you walk into a room, notice your surroundings. If it is a place you have been before, look for something new that you have not seen before.

5. When you are walking, feel the muscles in your legs, the sensations in your arms, your back, your feet. Tune into your body.

6. When you are driving, turn off the radio, hang up the phone and listen to the sounds of your car as it drives down the road. Hear the tires whirring, the fan blowing, and the rattles or creaks, or the quiet. Open the window and feel the air on your face.

7. When your phone rings, take a deep breath and listen to it ring a second time before answering it.

 

 

The Gift of Presence

The Gift of Presence

As a driver, I cut my teeth on the highways and byways of metropolitan New York. Fear of speed and traffic was not a part of my lexicon. A serious car accident, however, changed all that in a flash. My sense of security and control flew right out the shattered window with the glass that sliced my hand to the bone.

I recently attempted to take the highway to a doctor’s appointment that I always took and felt like I’d been through a war by the time I arrived. Adrenaline running through my body at hyper speed, heart pounding, hands shaking I found myself sitting in the parking log completely disassociated. I had no sense of where I was or what I was supposed to be doing. My body was numb and barely a part of me.

When faced with this daunting trip again, I decided I would take the back roads to my destination. It would be worth any extra time to maintain my peace of mind. What actually occurred was even better!

The “back roads” are actually among the most beautiful roads in this part of North Carolina as they meander through the wide open, rolling farm lands. It’s quiet, peaceful and filled with natural entertainment and a blast to drive in beautiful weather in a convertible! Bending and turning and singing my way into the quaint little artistic and bustling streets of a neighboring town, I reach my destination relaxed and even on some mornings invigorated!

Today, on my way home I noticed up ahead a stopped car and what looked to be birds crossing the road. When I came a little closer what I saw was a gaggle of geese traveling very calmly and without care from the corn field on the right to the corn field on the opposite side of the street, stopping traffic in both directions. (Traffic was me and the other guy already stopped!) They just made me laugh out loud! They were so nonplussed! Enjoying the moment and indifferent to any problems they may have been causing. They reminded me of a little group of old ladies,who are so often so totally present in themselves that they are indifferent to any stressed out goings on around them. Weighted firmly in their hips, round and rolling, these geese did not care that they had enormous wings that would quickly carry quickly out-of-the-way. They were enjoying their stroll and being together. It was all that mattered.

Wise old women often carry themselves in just such a way. No longer vexed by day-to-day scurrying about, they know what’s important. They know what matters. They know that now is the moment to savor and enjoy. There is no particular place to go that is any more important that what is. What a gift! The image of these geese crossing the road will forever be an image I carry in my mind of who I want to be when I’m a “dangerous old woman”!