Fairlie and I are offering a Yoga & Mindfulness holiday in Spain this year, and I can't wait to experience some her Mindfulness teaching. To get us all started, she has put together these five very easy tips....
Mindfulness is now associated with many health and well being benefits ranging from less depression or anxiety, fewer negative thoughts, quicker recovery from bad moods, more stable self esteem, more satisfying relationships, to greater emotional intelligence, reduced blood pressure, increased vitality, a better immune system, better focus and a more creative output.
Who wouldn’t want some of that?
But it is a practice – you can’t buy it over the counter or wish for it or even imagine that if you read about it, it will rub off in some way. You have to practise. So where to start?
Mindfulness can be practised in meditation when you set time aside to specifically train yourself in Mindfulness or it can also be called on momentarily throughout the day.
Here are some tips on how to start.
Step 1: Intention
It’s easy to decide you’d like to practise but then the doubts kick in, the old habits take over, like distracting yourself with emails and Facebook, or telling yourself you don’t have time, often most of us don’t even recognise this is our pattern. Being clear about our intention helps when we need to motivate ourselves.
Take whatever time you need right now to create a phrase that you can call on when you need to fuel your resolution. Maybe consider which benefits of Mindfulness appeal to you. Sit quietly and allow a phrase or a statement to arise that can remind you of your intention. As you say your phrase notice what you are feeling in your body. Notice the positive feelings that it evokes, does anything stir in you? Whenever you say that phrase, rather than just repeating empty words, let the phrase bring back all those positive feelings. When I did this my phrase was “I intend to be passionate about being mindful”. For me the word passionate summoned up the energy to practise and the delight I knew I would feel if I did it.
Step 2: Attention
At its simplest “Mindfulness is being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different.” (James Baraz)
Are you aware of how much of your time you spend in the past, the future or the present? Try these little exercises over the next few days or hours.
First notice how often your mind goes to the past. Count how many times you find yourself rehashing the past, either rewriting old conversations with what you wish you had said or remembering with nostalgia a time now long gone.
Then do the same the next day or hour, counting how many times your mind goes to the future. How much time do you spend planning or day dreaming?
Finally take the time to be mindful of where you are and what you are doing and feeling just at this moment. Notice how that makes you feel. Does it make you feel different? Does it calm you down? Does it give you a different perspective on whatever you were engaged in? Does it feel good? Does it fuel your intention?
Step 3: Mindfulness Moment
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally.” John Kabat Zinn
Find the time in your day to practice some Mindfulness moments. Here are some suggestions for when you could fit it in.
Step 4: STOP
“Mindfulness is paying attention to present moment experiences with open curiosity and a willingness to be with what is.” Diana Winston
When you practice Mindfulness you are not trying to change who you are but to become more fully present with your experiences so that you get to know yourself better.
One way you can do this is by practising STOP throughout your day.
Stop what you’re doing, close your eyes if possible.
Take a breath
Proceed – carry on whatever you were doing.
(From Diana Winston)
Step 5: Mindfulness Meditation
If you’d like to start a Mindfulness meditation practice start small (aim for say 5 minutes to begin with) and choose a time when you know you’re not going to be interrupted.
Most people choose an anchor like awareness of their breath when they begin meditation. The aim is to just stay aware of your breath arriving and leaving. You’ll soon find that in no time at all you’ve been swept away from the present moment and your mind has flown off into a story from the past or about the future. Don’t judge yourself harshly if that happens, it’s how humans behave and is quite normal. The mind easily slips into thoughts about past or present. Just feel good about yourself for having noticed and bring your attention back to the breath, arriving and leaving.
It can help to label the thoughts and sensations that arise – thinking or planning or worrying or heat or sounds of birds, or sadness … and then drop whatever it is and come back to your awareness of the breath. In time you start to feel more like a witness of the thoughts, feelings, sensations than fully involved in them and it’s easier to let them go and come back to the breath.
It’s a good idea to have an alarm to tell you when you’ve completed the 5 minutes so you’re not tempted to keep checking the time. Don’t be in a hurry to increase the length of time. Just be ultra observant, without judgement on whatever comes up for you.
Congratulations you are now a Mindfulness Meditator!
There’ll be lots more teaching and tips on our Yoga and Mindfulness Holiday in Almeria, Spain 16th – 23rd June. A real treat for your body, mind and spirit and a unique opportunity to learn about Mindfulness. With yoga and Mindfulness every day, you will replenish and rejuvenate, and leave a more peaceful being.