Mindfulness For Reactivity, Putting It Into Practice!
Mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness, mindfulness gurus acknowledge the “wisdom of the present,” that is: no future event or past memory deserves as much attention as the moment at hand. Today in an effort to keep things practical, we’ll go over mindfulness exercises. After all, that’s what mindfulness is: a practice! As is the case with most ideas that enhance our well being- they’re worth nothing without practice.
Mindfulness Exercise: Body Scan Meditation
There are several variations of this meditative practice, and for good reason, it is deeply grounding. As I’ve mentioned, “The Mindfulness Solution” by Dr. Ronald Siegel is a great resource, and Siegel’s own variation of this exercise (and the one below) appear in the book. To take yourself through the Body Scan Meditation:
- Begin by laying down flat on your back or sitting straight up; your choice.
- As always begin with grounding, deep breaths and set your intention by following your breath for at least a minute or two.
- Begin focusing on one of your feet. Then the other. Notice how your feet feel against the ground. Move each of your toes.
- Slowly, work your way up each part of your body focusing on your ankles, your knees and your hips.
- Don’t rush or preoccupy yourself with how “well” you are doing. It defeats the purpose.
- Notice the different sensations as you scan your body. Are you hot? Cold? Achy?
- For any part of your body that experiences discomfort, breathe more deeply. Imagine the breath being “sent” to that part of your body.
- Focus last on your face. Relax your face. Relax your jaw and your jaw muscles. Relax your forehead and your eyes and your eyebrows. Imagine all of your teeth even relaxing! It’s incredible how much tension we hold in our face.
- Do a quick and final scan of your entire body, if you sense tension that’s crept up or tension that has not gone away say these words “relax deeper.”
- End your practice shifting your focus entirely to your breath again.
Mindfulness Exercise: Letting Go of your Thoughts
“Letting go of thoughts” is intended for folks who struggle with worry and anxiety. Worry lives in “what if” thoughts and active imaginations. This practice reminds us that “thoughts are just thoughts!” There is nothing truer than the present moment, so let go of the temptation to live in future anxieties. There’s nothing worthwhile there!
- As always, begin with your breath
- Start noticing your thoughts as they enter your mind. What are they?
- Common thoughts often include: “Am I done yet?” “What’s the point of this?” or “This is boring.”
- As these thoughts come into your mind, stay away from judgments like, “Don’t think that!” or “You’re not a good meditator!” or “Gosh, I hope no one sees me.”
- Bring into your focus instead (still breathing deeply in the background, of course!) a quiet, flowing stream. You sit on the riverbank.
- In this quiet, flowing stream is a line of tiny, toy sailboats. The kind young girls or boys might play with. They are sailing, one by one down the stream, out of your vision.
- “Send” or “place” each of your thoughts as they come into your consciousness onto one of these boats. Watch each of these thoughts disappear down the stream.
- Notice how all of your thoughts receive the same boat and the same send off. No thought is “bigger” or “stronger” than others. Additionally, the thoughts are never strong enough to alter the course of the stream. They just float on down.
- Notice the kinds of thoughts you continue to put on the toy boats. They might be thoughts about future plans, to-do lists, past hurts or worries about loved ones. Notice how each thought gets a boat, and they all float away.
- Say to yourself, “Thoughts are just thoughts.”
- Conclude the practice with a minute of deep breathing.
In addition to the basic breathing exercise described in my last post, try these as well. See what changes you notice in your thought patterns, interactions, and emotional experiences. Happy meditating!