Mindfulness is training ourselves to be here, learning and relearning to come back home to this moment. It’s that simple but somehow not that easy. Our life conditioning means that we get lost in our day-to-day lives and thought patterns. We more often than not forget the sense of being in the body. So in this practice of mindfulness, we’re simply inviting ourselves back. We all have the capacity to wake up. That’s what mindfulness is waking up to what’s here, right now, without judging or blaming and most importantly with a feeling of kindness and caring towards ourselves, no matter what.
Mindfulness is drawn from an ancient and beautiful Eastern tradition that offers a real solution to suffering which is completely relevant to today’s busy and stressful way of being and doing. There are many ways to practice cultivating our caring attention to the present moment. We can draw on both the formal and informal practices that offer a rich choice of simple and accessible tools to help bring us out of automatic pilot and thoughts and into the present moment and body.
What I love so much about this process of waking up is how effortlessly the formal practices (seated, body scans, mindful movement) flow into my daily life and have a ripple effect on the people around me. It’s as if something is switched on during my formal practice that stays with me throughout the day. The more I practice the more this feeling grows.
I resonate with the poet John O’Donohue’s quote ‘Our bodies know they belong; it is our minds that make our lives so homeless’. Most of us tend to be ‘on our way’ to somewhere else at a great speed with a sense of rushing and not having enough time. Trying to reach the next goal or finish line and just skimming the surface in our daily experiences, never being in this moment fully. The first foundation of our practice is to be awake to living in our bodies and to the world of sensations and experiences right here. During our day we can set ourselves little reminders to be aware of our bodies and the field of sensations that arise and fall away in every moment. Really being in our feet, feeling grounded and supported by the world we live in. Touching the earth/floor/ground with our hands. Experiencing the weight and balance of our body on our seat as we sit. Noticing our whole body as we walk, queue, check our emails, chat to friends and colleagues.
We use the more formal practices of the Body Scan, Walking Meditation, Mindful Yoga and Movement and also our sitting practice to connect more deeply with the body. Exploring and opening to every sensation and noticing our reactions to liking and disliking these feelings. Remembering to always have a friendly attitude towards ourselves and meeting ourselves as if we’re meeting someone that we love and care for.
I’m finding it really helpful to remember this attitude of kindness for the times that I struggle with my own practice. The mornings that I want to press the snooze button, roll over and go back to sleep. The moments when I’m not connected with my body and make less than positive decisions about how I nourish myself. The times when I find I’m reacting/over-reacting to events and people in a judging and not so kind way. This is when I draw on the teachings of mindfulness. I come back to my body, noticing sensations and the movement of the breath and allowing and accepting myself as I wake up to what’s here, right now, in this moment. By pausing and checking in, I more often than not make better choices but for the times I don’t, knowing that this is a process and that every moment brings learning and opportunities.
I’d like to share with you here and also on the audio clip a simple practice that helps me to reconnect with my body during my formal practice.
For the formal practice finding a warm, comfortable place. Somewhere you won’t be interrupted. It helps me to set the alarm before anyone else in the house is awake (apart from my cat). Finding a position where you can sit and be comfortable for a short time, either on a chair or on a cushion on the floor. Feeling that your spine is straight but relaxed. There is a steadiness and comfort around the posture, a sense of being grounded in the lower half of the body but at the same time a sense of freedom in the torso.
Arrive in your body fully. Close your eyes and let the attention go inwards. Have a sense of balance and let your body relax.
Setting the intention to practice, sensing what matters to you. Letting go of any expectations and willing to pause for a while.
Gather and collect attention. Inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. Take a few natural breaths.
Feeling the body from the inside out and dissolving, softening any areas of tension and tightness. Feeling the aliveness of the shoulders, arms and hands. Softening the belly, the hips, legs and allowing sensations moving down into the feet.
5. Breath as an anchor
Noticing the sensations of the breath, wherever you feel them the most vivid perhaps the most pleasant. Breath flowing in and flowing out. Maybe at the nostrils, back of the throat, maybe the rise and fall of the chest, the softness of the belly expanding and settling.
Relaxed attentiveness, receiving this moment of the breath. Aware of sensations and coming back to the breath as a homebase, an anchor
6. Wandering Mind
Natural for the mind to wander into the future or back to the past. When you notice the practice is very simple
Invite your attention back to the breath in the body, right here, relaxing with the breath.
7. Feeling the whole body as a field of sensations
Continue being aware of the breath but include an awareness of the whole body.
Become aware of the changing sensations in the body. Vibrations, tingling, heat, cool, places of tightness, loose and a sense of openness and flow. Not stopping anything, receiving and accepting this changing field of sensations.
In the last few moments of your practice relax a little more and soften. Receiving the in breath and releasing the out breath.
Bringing a mindful, caring presence to the whole body and resting here for as many moments as you wish.
Setting your intention
When we set the intention to practice daily, even for a short period, we begin to groove new pathways in the mind. The practice itself becomes a part of life, like brushing your teeth, a healthy habit. By paying attention in a kind and loving way we begin to wake up to the moment. Accepting whatever we find, allowing the sensations, thoughts and emotions to unfold we have a sense of coming home to the body and with that a wholeness of being. Waking up to our natural wisdom and compassion, our true nature, who we are.
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