Relaxation and Mindfulness
When I introduce mindfulness to my clients, some are concerned that meditation or mindfulness necessitates adopting a particular religion or spiritual path or belief. This is not the case. Mindfulness, at it's simplest, means intentionally paying attention to what is moment by moment. Another way of saying this is engaging in moment by moment observation of your internal experience with curiosity and without judgment. The practice of meditation is just one of the many ways to cultivate a mindful relationship with your experience and an attitude of friendliness towards yourself.
Practicing mindfulness in meditation or intentional relaxation promotes:
Lowered anxiety levels
Improved emotional regulation
Experience of being calm and internally still
Experience of feeling connected
Higher brain functioning
Increased immune function
Lowered blood pressure
Lowered heart rate
Increased attention and focus
Increased clarity in thinking and perception
Additionally, practicing mindfulness helps you strengthen the observing self--the part of you that can pause long enough to reflect and respond intentionally rather than reacting in an unconscious or unintentional way. This ability can make a huge difference in people's lives because it gives them more choice in their actions and behaviors.
The following is an excerpt from a wonderful book entitled
"Small Bites: Mindfulness For Everyday Use" by Annabelle Zinser:
"When you sit down to meditate and actively focus your mind on the present moment, you develop an open awareness of the movement of your breath, position of your body, the noises around you, and your feelings and thoughts. You don't reject anything, your mind doesn't cling to anything, and you don't long for anything, except for what is happening in the present moment.
Another method of focusing the mind is to contemplate a single object. It might be your breathing, a guided meditation phrase, or an image of (something sacred to you). By focusing on a single object, your thoughts, plans, worries, and difficulties can fade away in a moment. For example, when you focus on the movement of your breath, you begin to notice which phases of your in-breath and out-breath escaped your attention. You might then give special attention to these phases so that your observation of the whole length of your breath improves. The goal is for you and your breath to sit together until there is only breath.
To do this takes practice.
Each moment you sit, you guide your wandering mind back to your chosen object again and again.
Aware of my breath, I feel my abdomen rising and falling. Aware of my breath....oh I musn't forget to put Bettina's flier into the display case....
Aware of my breath, I feel my body relax... oh, I have to remember to call the electrician to fix the doorbell.
Each time you (notice you have become distracted, simply) guide your mind back to your breath. Each time you come back, it creates more space and peace in body and mind. Simply notice where your mind is dwelling and guide it gently back to your breath. It's important to realize that wandering from one thought to the next is a natural function of the mind. If you get upset or judge yourself for having thoughts during the meditation session the inner peace that you long for will always elude you."
This last point is extremely important. What you practice gets stronger. If you are constantly annoyed with yourself for losing focus during your meditation practice, you will strengthen your impatience and agitation with yourself. But if you practice acceptance, gentleness, and patience with yourself, these qualities will get stronger and become more second nature.
Below are links to some of my favorite guided relaxation, visualization and mindfulness videos on YouTube. Enjoy!:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation Training
(uploaded on Youtube by Mark Connelly)
12 Minute Loving Kindness Meditation
10 Minute Guided Mindfulness Meditation
Breath-Mountain Sitting by Jon Kabat-Zin
The Correct Way To Breath For Stress Reduction
by Dr. Belisa Vranich