Being mindful and practicing mindfulness exercises can be a great challenge. Yet if we can develop our skills in being mindful it can be one of the most significant and positive steps we can take toward establishing and living in a calm and peaceful state. It is not necessary to have expensive training or therapy, you can be mindful right now.
Take a moment. Concentrate on your breath, follow your breath into your body. Can you feel the air as it comes into and goes out of your body? Can you feel your chest and stomach expanding and contracting as you breath in and out?
If for a moment you keep your thoughts focused on your breath, if for a moment you can feel the air as it comes into and goes out of your body, if for a moment you are fully aware of what your body is doing (chest and stomach expanding as the air flows in, chest and stomach contracting when the air goes out), then you are being mindful. Congratulations, easy isn’t it. The trick is to maintain this present moment awareness when your body, thoughts and emotions all want to race in different directions. Generally to the detriment of your health and peace of mind.
Being mindful is about being fully present, aware and awake moment by moment. Paying attention with mindful contemplation to each experience and situation without resistance, without judgement, without analyzing and without reacting. Moment to moment awareness is being fully awake in this moment right now.
As we resist the reality of death, of grief and of our new and unwelcome current situation we also resist being mindful. We believe that being present in the moment of our grief will only bring us more pain. Consequently we resist even more, which of course deepens our pain.
At the same time we can admire the calm and presence of great spiritual leaders such as Buddha and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. However, we do not believe that we also can travel through turbulent times in a calmer state.
Being mindful and practicing mindfulness exercises do not necessarily align us with a particular religion, culture or belief system. We are just being mindful and taking a calmer path for us and consequently for others.
Our pain is fueled by our judgments and resistance to what has happened in the past and what we fear may happen in the future. By being mindful, practicing mindful breathing, mindfulness exercises and mindful meditation we can help to find calm and peace when we are faced with our grief. We are also learning a valuable life skill that will provide a major positive influence on our lives in general.
Being mindful is being aware and fully awake in this moment right now. We can develop awareness by paying attention with mindful contemplation to each experience and situation without resistance, without judgment, without analyzing and without reacting. A moment to moment awareness can help us to become grounded in the present.
Yes, I know it sounds rather simplistic. Just start with one moment, event, activity at a time. Start looking for the beauty, the peace, the love and the support in each moment. You may be acutely aware of the grief of losing someone you loved. Do you miss their companionship and their love? If so start looking for moments of companionship and love in the present time. Notice and cherish these moments. You do not need to establish a new relationship with someone else, just notice in what other ways you give and receive companionship and love. Start with yourself, your home, friends, family, environment. Nature and pets can play a significant role in our healing and present time awareness and mindfulness.
MINDFULNESS EXERCISE: Developing Awareness
Find a quiet place and a quiet moment. Now, listen to and feel your heart beat, listen to and feel your breath as it comes into and goes out of your body. Stay very still in the moment, cherish this moment. Scan your body as though from the inside. Follow your blood as it pumps through your body, observe, just observe. Do not analyse or judge what is happening, do not talk yourself through it. Just stay still in the moment and observe.
What happened to your awareness? Did your mind drift off somewhere? Did you start to fidget or look at the clock? Did you resist the stillness? Or did something distract you? It does not matter, just be aware of what happened and visit your still calm moment again from time to time.
Try this mindfulness exercise of awareness whenever you can. Schedule it into your day if you have to (perhaps first thing in the morning and again last thing before bed). Grow your practice of awareness and eventually you will find that you will automatically start feeling more grounded, more calm, more aware and more mindful.
Obstacles to Awareness and Being Mindful
It is generally emotional obstacles that make us feel stuck. If we feel stuck then we are stuck, no matter how easy the situation may seem to others. Emotional obstacles or obstacles to awareness have been identified as: anger, pride, desire, jealousy and ignorance.
Grief provides us with the environment to get stuck on seemingly overwhelming and endless emotional obstacles.
We will never eliminate all these negative obstacles. In fact, to be human is to experience these emotional states from time to time. What we can do is to consciously be aware of our emotions and the situations they appear to stem from. What meaning do we give these emotions and how do we react to them. With mindfulness exercises we can begin to release our resistance, minimize our emotional obstacles and calm our lives.
MINDFULNESS EXERCISE: Awareness & Resistance
Give yourself some space and time out from others when you try this exercise.
- Instead of resisting your emotions watch for a negative emotion to come up or think of something that has been upsetting you. Being mindful of possible triggers that sets off your grief or emotions of anger.
- Look at this and really 'dive into it'. Think of other times you have felt this way, feel the full force of your emotion.
- Fantasise about what you would like to do. Perhaps you would like to scream or hit something. No, you are not actually going to do it, just think about it as if you are doing it.
- As you continue to focus all your energies on this irritation or issue you are beginning to release your negativity and your emotional obstacles.
You will find that after a while you will actually be straining to maintain your original momentum and level of emotions. The emotions will dim all by themselves. No need to resist.
NOTE Please seek professional help if you feel that your grief is completely debilitating. Only attempt these exercises when you have some personal reserves
We grow up making sense of the world by judging people and things as good or bad, right or wrong. We then hold onto our judgments and resist change, often to our own detriment. Any event or situation can be seen as right or good for some people, yet the same situation or event can be seen as wrong or bad by others. We will also experience situations and events that at the time they appear to be bad or wrong, yet within the next week or perhaps the next year we can view this same situation as being good or right for us.
Acceptance is acknowledging a situation just as it is. Not as good or bad, right or wrong. It just IS. By learning acceptance we can free ourselves from much of the emotional roller coaster.
To be non-judgmental and accepting, although it can be challenging to cultivate, is really the easy path through life. By releasing our judgments, emotional negativity and resistance we are free to accept and surrender to the present moment. Acceptance and surrender do not mean that we have given in or failed, or that we cannot change the situation. Acceptance and being mindful of a situation will give us the clarity to see the situation for what it is. It then becomes more manageable for us to see the reality of the situation, to make considered decisions and to take appropriate action if needed.
MINDFULNESS EXERCISE: Mindful Breathing
- Sit in a comfortable position that will allow you to maintain concentration (a sturdy chair with a straight back). Hands resting comfortably in your lap, head straight
- Close your eyes
- Focus on the area of skin on your top lip just under your nostrils
- Feel the air passing over this area with each breath in and each breath out
- Breath into your stomach, let it fill up like a balloon or as a baby breathes. Let your stomach soften and deflate as you breath out
- Follow your breath and let it happen naturally, gently, slowly, completely
- With each breath out relax and let go of tension and resistance. Relax into the moment
- Maintain focus on the air passing over your lip into and out of your nostrils. If your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath
- To start with it may help to breath in - count one and count two as you breath out. Breath in and count one, breath out and count two.
- Feel the energy of the universe heal your heart and your grief with each breath
- Your focus and attention stay with each and every breath. Do not think about breathing, just feel the breath as it enters the nose, fills the lungs, nurtures the body and returns to the atmosphere
- Continue for 10 to 15 minutes
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