Welcome to “spiritual insights.” As some of you know, it is my current mission in life to share the practice of mindfulness with anyone willing to try it. If it weren’t for my mindfulness practice, by now my teenagers would have wrecked me, my husband would have had me retreating under the covers for the day, my professional life would have turned me into an anxious worried mess, and my peaks and valleys would continually exhaust me beyond survival. Since this is not the world I inhabit, I can argue that mindfulness is THE one thing making all the difference.
Practicing mindfulness has helped me get calm, find peace and feel centered. Especially at those times when the little things get to be too much, like when I am stressing about being LATE, or having a heated discussion with my high school sophomore.
According to the science, I am not alone. More than 30 years of research shows that mindfulness can reduce stress, increase a sense of well-being, create neuroplasticity, improve focus and memory, improve attention, increase cognitive flexibility, improve resiliency, support less emotional reactivity, improve immune system functioning and decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression (and/or alleviate both entirely). So…ready to give it a try?
The most commonly used formal definition of mindfulness comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). “Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
My own definition of mindfulness is being present and aware with kindness and compassion. It is about being in the here and now. It is also about bringing awareness so that I shift my energy. I create a brief pause where I can RESPOND with intention rather than REACT to something (this is big!). Simple, right? Yes, but not necessarily easy or comfortable.
Through this series of “spiritual insights,” I will define and describe some of the concepts, styles and practices around mindfulness, with the hope that one or more will resonate with you. Fortunately, there are many types, styles and practices of mindfulness, so it can be accessible to anyone who is interested. Sounds too good to be true …. but it IS true.
Meditation is just one way to practice mindfulness, and there are many forms of meditation. One of the most common methods is to focus on the BREATH. (Included below are links to recorded practices.)
Here are some tips I have found helpful when practicing a breathing meditation:
Be curious – Notice qualities of your breath, like its location, depth, length, sensation. Notice the inhale, the pause at the top of the inhale, the exhale and the pause at the bottom of the exhale. Think of your thoughts as RESTING in each part of your breath.
Use a mantra (a word or phrase repeated internally) – something like “inhale” or “I am breathing in” as you inhale and “exhale” or “I am breathing out” as you exhale. Another simple mantra that I use is “let” on the inhale and “go” on the exhale. And, finally, “hum” on the inhale and “sa” on the exhale (hum sa is Sanskrit, roughly translated as “I am that”).
Be kind to yourself – Remember that every time you notice your mind thinking and/or getting distracted by your thoughts, you are practicing mindfulness. THAT IS THE PRACTICE: notice, be kind to yourself, let it be, let go and return your attention to your breath.
I frequently use the following mindfulness breath practices. Try one:
Take ten deep breaths when you are in the car at a red light or stop sign or when you are in line waiting. Allow yourself to pay attention to your breath. That’s it.
Take one or two deep breaths when listening to someone. Make eye contact and pay attention to your breath rather than to what you will say next/how you will respond.
Three times a day, STOP and take three deep breaths. Notice where you feel the breath: belly, lungs, chest, nose?
Guided Practices: Breath as an Anchor soundcloud.com/mindfulmagazine/breathing-meditation
Three-Minute Breathing Space
Articles: How to Settle the Mind by Chade-Meng Tan www.mindful.org/how-to-settle-the-mind/
Additional Resources: Mindful Awareness Research Center: marc.ucla.edu/ Mindful Magazine: www.mindful.org/magazine/ Left Brain Buddha: leftbrainbuddha.com/ Zen Habits: zenhabits.net/archives/ Greater Good: greatergood.berkeley.edu/ Elephant Journal: www.elephantjournal.com/ Unstuck: www.unstuck.com/ Daily Om: dailyom.com/
Clia Tierney, MA
The owner of Asante Wellness Coaching, Clia Tierney helps women move past "stuck" into possibility. She coaches people to overcome obstacles and obtain clarity about their goals. Through the process, personal transformation takes place, resulting in greater well-being, life balance and fulfillment.
Clia's professional background and life experiences as a teacher, educational therapist, yogi, wife, mother of teenagers, daughter and sister have fueled her passion for helping women of all ages identify and reduce their stress and struggle so that they can discover their purpose and confidently move forward.
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