20 May 2013

Mindfulness Monday

So, I did talk about Mindfulness a little bit during the A to Z Challenge, but I'm going to go in a little more detail today.

Mindfulness is, simply put, paying attention in a particular way. You're paying attention with intention, in the here-and-now, and without judgements. It's practical and it helps us notice what we're thinking, how we're feeling, or anything else that we might not normally clue into in our day to day lives. It sounds easy, right? It is. It's just that it's such a different way for our minds to process, that it takes practice to get the hang of it. Usually, we're too busy lamenting trouble in the past or borrowing trouble in the future to really be mindful.

Here's another way to explain it: the antithesis of mindfulness is automatic pilot. You know what I'm talking about - when you get to your destination and realize you weren't really paying attention to where you were going and have somehow 'lost' that trip. You do a task that is so routine to you, that you're doing eight hundred other things at the same time. Well, mindfulness says stop. Focus on the one activity with the whole of your being.

One of the examples in a handout I'll give residents involves washing the dishes. THIS is how it could be a mindful activity, according to Carol Vivyan: "Washing up or another routine activity can become a routine (practice of) mindful activity for us. We might notice the temperature of the water and how it feels on the skin, the texture of the bubbles on the skin, and yes, we might hear the bubbles as they softly pop. The sounds of the water as we take out and put dishes into the water. The smoothness of the plates, and the texture of the sponge. Just noticing what we might not normally notice."

Here is a simple grounding exercise that is mindful, in that it forces you to focus on the sensations of right now:
- What do you hear? Is the AC on? Can you hear your neighbor’s tv? Is there a dog barking? Is it quiet?
- What do you see? Is it light in the room? Is it dark? Are there posters or pictures hanging on the walls? What kind of furniture is in the room?
- What do you smell? Can you smell food? Is there perfume or another fragrance?
- What do you feel? Are you sitting? Are you standing? Are your clothes soft? Is the chair you’re sitting in comfortable? Are you cool? Warm?
- What do you taste? Can you taste your toothpaste? Did lunch leave an aftertaste in your mouth? Do you not taste anything at the moment?

Focus on your senses for several minutes until you begin to feel more calm and relaxed.

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