“I’m too busy”, “I don’t have the time”, “I’ve got to get this done”, “I wish I could just slow down and relax, but I can’t”, “I don’t know whether I’m coming or going”, “I’m up to my eyeballs in work/study/family commitments”.
These are all things I hear uttered frequently, from people I know well, from snippets of conversation snatched from strangers, and from my own lips more often than I’d like. It’s a shame that these words are more common in our daily dialogues than, for example, “I feel wonderfully calm,” or “I’m content with what I’m doing right now,” or “I’m happy I took the time to relax, I feel so much better”. However, the point of this post is to draw our attention to common habits which may have a negative impact on our sense of wellbeing, and turn that attention into something positive.
A basic principle of mindfulness meditation is: Pay Attention. By pausing and resting our attention on what is happening right now, we can start to cultivate a stronger sense of how we think and act throughout the day, how thoughts and actions impact our behaviour, and make small but potent changes where needed. In a nutshell, we can cultivate a little bit of our very own calm amidst the constant buzz of life.
Here is a simple practice for you to try absolutely anywhere…
– at home, at work, in a shop, at a bus stop, in your car (perhaps not while driving!). It could take you 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 50 minutes. It’s up to you. No excuses – do it right now, after you’re read the following suggestions:
Identify how you feel physically.
Adopt a comfortable position wherever you are – sitting, standing or lying down. Closing your eyes helps to limit visual distractions. Become aware of your posture and how you are holding yourself. Identify how you feel physically. Use these questions as prompts:
- What parts of your body are in contact with the ground/chair/bed?
- Where do you feel you are, physically, in relation to the space around you?
- Do you feel open or closed in?
- Do you feel light or heavy?
- Do you feel connected or disconnected?
- Is there any tension anywhere in your body? Where?
- Do you feel physically good or not.
Don’t try to analyse the answers to these questions, just state the answers simply in your mind until you feel more physically aware of you body, then move on to the next step.
Become aware of your emotional state.
- Do you feel energised? Tired? Wired? Settled? Jittery? Anxious? Excited? Indifferent? Content? Wanting? Angry? Envious? Admiration? Love? Hopeful? Unsure?
- Bring to mind the names of emotions that you can identify with in this moment.
Again, don’t get too wrapped up in your emotions; observe them as if you were an outsider, noting down any feelings you are experiencing at this moment, just as a record.
This is all you need to do now. Give your full attention to the process of breathing in and breathing out. Inhale, exhale, repeat. Feel the air travel in through your nose, down your windpipe, to the base of your belly and back again.
If you find your mind wandering off in all directions (as it inevitably does), don’t worry about it. As the old saying goes, Mind is like Monkey. It’s nature is to jump all over the place. It needs constant training and a single focus to be tamed. This will take time.
For now, bring it back to the task at hand – the breath – by counting. You can even form the breath and the counting into a silent statement if it helps: “I’m breathing in 1, I’m breathing out 1, I’m breathing in 2, I’m breathing out 2…” Counting up, there is no limit. Continue until a sense of calm starts to develop and grow from within you.
By incorporating this practice into your day, you are giving yourself the time you need to reconnect with who you are and what is going on at any given moment. By cultivating an awareness of the present moment, you are creating space within your life for the only thing we really have: now.
- ECKHART TOLLE, The Power of Now
- JON KABAT-ZINN, Wherever You Go, There You Are
- ELAIN FOREMAN & CLAIRE POLLARD, Introducing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): A Practical Guide