Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How To Practice Mindfulness: Breathing Meditation.

How was last week's practice? Were you able to remain fully present while doing your every day activities? I have to say I did better. I tried to be more aware. Sometimes I did, sometimes I forgot, but whenever I remained present I felt much more at ease. How did it work for you?

For today's weekly post on mindfulness techniques I thought we could practice a short breathing technique. It's also called meditation. Before you run out the door, I'll explain. Meditation is not a religion, nor is it part of a zen/mystic, new-era-thing.  It's simply a way of training the mind. The same way you train your body if you workout. 

Why would you want to train your mind? In the words of Matthieu Riccard (scientist and Buddhist monk * ) "the mind is a restless monkey". It's always producing thoughts and consequently bringing up emotions. Sometimes, these emotions, become too much to handle and we end up feeling stressed, anxious, with sleeping problems, uncontrollable anger, jealousy or even sadness. 

Meditating can be as simple as breathing mindfully. What I like about Matthieu Riccard's view of mindfulness is that he adds a critical component: cultivating loving kindness, compassion, altruism, or the wish for others to do well and flourish, simply because it's a win-win situation for all. He explains the difference between simple mindfulness and mindfulness with loving kindness and compassion, here. A sniper can be mindful too, you know? (!!)

How to breathe mindfully or meditate?

1. Sit comfortably. No need for advanced Yogi positions. 

2. Close your eyes if you want. Otherwise, relax your gaze. Become aware of the coming and going of the breath. How it feels. Pay attention to your stomach, your lungs, your nostrils. Is your jaw clinching? 

3. Thoughts will come. Become aware of the thought, of the fact that you are being distracted by it, and let it go. Don't elaborate. Let thoughts pass by, like butterflies visiting flowers in the garden. Let thoughts go. 

4. Return your awareness to your breathing.  

Here's a great UCLA five minute guided breathing meditation. Enjoy, and let me know how it goes! Until next week's post on how to practice mindfulness!

P.S. How to practice mindfulness: Body Scan Meditation

* Due to my background in Professional Counseling, my interest in mindfulness occurred as a consequence of trying to explain and simplify the components of well-being so that I could write clearly about them. By doing so, I came across the work of Matthieu Riccard, who has made (and is making) such an impactful contribution to the psychology of well-being.
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