"Mindfulness is...Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." --Jon Kabat-Zinn.
The ancient Buddhist practice of mindfulness is a way to help slow the mind and to reduce stress and anxiety. I recently attended a 3-hour Mindfulness workshop that was led by an experienced facilitator, Elaine Bergen. There were 20 participants, most from Pastoral Care and Health Care. Our morning started off with an "informal" mindfulness exercise where we took a new look at a raisin. We imagined we were from another world, and that we were taking a look at this raisin for the very first time. We used all our senses to examine this small, interesting, sweet-smelling and sweet-tasting object. We were even instructed to "listen" to it! (not all of us could "hear" it). Some people were laughing and giggling, and this was interesting to note because some people just couldn't get "into" the mindfulness experience as it was intended. I enjoyed the experience and one of the participants described the raisin as "beautiful".
The second experience was a 15-minute "Whole Body Awareness" meditation. We were instructed to sit comfortably, (eyes closed or not) and focus our attention on our body, starting at the tips of our toes, all the way to the top of our head. If thoughts came in (like trying to decide what to do about supper), we were instructed to bring our attention back to our body part. As our mindfulness shifted to different areas of our body, we soon became aware of our thoughts, and feelings about each body part. Some said they couldn't "feel" their nose, other's couldn't "feel" their ears. Others said they felt all the aches and pains and planned to make an appointment with their doctor or chiropractor.
The third experience was a 10-minute "Breathing" meditation. We were asked again to sit comfortably with both feet planted on the ground. We focussed on our breathing, both the inhale and the exhale. We were then told to zone in on the part of breathing that we were most acutely aware of. For me, it was the rise and fall of my chest as I inhaled. I imagined my lungs filling up with air. This was the easiest meditation for most. It is also easy to do as we always have our "breath" with us wherever we go.
The fourth exercise was a mini 3-minute "Whole Body" meditation, where we were to imagine ourselves like an hourglass. We focussed on our body from the outside to the inside and honed in on the tight space and breathed into that area. We then ended by being mindful of our "heart space" and opened up and breathed deeply into that space. This meditation went quickly.
The last meditation was one of "Loving Kindness" by way of Christopher Germer. We sat for 10 minutes, silently repeating the phrases, "May I be safe, May I be happy, May I be healthy, May I be at ease". We also repeated these same phrases with reference to our loved ones. This was very relaxing as well, and it left me with a sense of well-being.
Overall, I was very grateful for the variety of experiences in mindful meditation. Being present in the moment is very relaxing, and can help with slowing down life's hectic pace. Taking a slow, mindful, deep breath or two is really all you need to do sometimes to slow down (this is your cue to do it now!).
Cultivating Mindfulness and Suggestions for Daily Practice by Jon Kabat-Zinn from Oprah.com are great resources. Check out his website at http://www.jonkabat-zinn.com/.
Have a wonderful, mindful day!
~ Angela Gentile