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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mindfulness challenge

I've recently started practicing yoga on a regular basis, and the benefits have been great! I feel so much more centered, relaxed, open-minded, thoughtful, and clear-headed since starting. So, instead of just making it about keeping my physical body fit, I've decided to also continue to dive deeper into the mindfulness realm and to begin to incorporate more of medication into my daily practice.

Mindfulness is -
"awareness without judgment of what is, via direct and immediate experience. Meeting each moment as it presents itself." 

Like a new, untrained puppy, our mind can become easily distracted. As your working with your puppy, you might tell him/her to sit. But, more than likely, they tend not to listen at first. Instead, they run to chew on the leg of a chair or start knocking a toy around, or even jump into your lap. You may get frustrated at times your pup, but its always helpful to remember that they just don't how to listen and focus yet, so it's up to you to train them to do so. 

Like the puppy analogy, our untrained minds easily become distracted. In addition, our minds tend to go through life on an automatic-pilot drive. It definitely has its advantages. By doing things without too much thought, we'r able to do like five things at once. Society today tends to be so focused on being productive, that we try to do things quickly. Also, it helps us to avoid feelings that we want to avoid, such as anger, frustration, sadness, loneliness. 

However, by living life this way, we tend to let the moments pass us. Therefore, mindfulness is all about slowing it mentally down, and really focusing on your moment-to-moment interactions. We do this by training our minds (i.e. puppy story) to only focus on the here-and-now. It's definitely not something that comes easily and has to be something you commit to work on a little each day. 

I am beginning my journey into mindfulness by practicing meditation. 

Today was my first attempt to actually putting it into action. I sat on the couch and got into a comfortable position, legs crossed, arms resting on my lap, and back and head leaning back. I hadn't seen anywhere where you actually have to sit straight up, but after today's session, I could see how it could help you not to fall asleep in the process. 

I set my phone alarm to go off in 20 minutes. The articles I've been reading say 20 minutes is an ideal length of time to set aside for yourself in the beginning. Since I wanted to hear the alarm go off, I left my phone volume on. However, as you'll see, I'll have to find another way to time myself. 

I closed my eyes and started to breath. Something I've recently learned about the practice is not to put too much pressure on yourself to breath a certain way. Yes, you should focus on your breathing, but jus focus on it. Take it into account and listen to yourself breath in and out. Eventually, it should level out on its own. A BIG theme is not to judge anything about what your doing in this process. If your mind starts to wander, don't get upset at yourself for it. Just like the breathing, make note of whatever thought/feeling your mind wandered to, and try to gently bring yourself back to the present. 

Some of the tricks to help you come back mentioned in some articles are: 

Count your breathing. As your breathing in, count (one, one, one, one) and as your breathing out, count (two, two, two) and so on. 

Try to think about how long you've been sitting for. For example, as your mind starts to wander, think, "hmm...I think I've been sitting here for about five minutes now" or "I was meditating until I hear the sound of the air-conditioner shutting off." Then, gently bring your mind back to the feelings in your body and your moment-to-moment sensations. 

This first time went pretty well, although I think I made myself too comfortable, so I was afraid I was going to fall asleep. Also, my boyfriend called at minute 15. I definitely found myself thinking about: things I had to get done, how I wanted to start a blog entry on this subject and what I was going to put, how much longer I had 'till my laundry was done, BUT like I mentioned above, I tried not to feel frustrated at myself for it. Instead I acknowledged the thoughts and feelings that came along with them (anxiousness, excitement) and reminded myself to focus on my breathing and body. 

I can't wait to try it again!

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