Favorite Mindfulness Practices
BaSIC Meditation PRACTICE
This meditation exercise is an excellent introduction to all other meditation techniques:
Sit or lie comfortably.
Close your eyes.
Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
Maintain this meditation practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.
Sense centered Meditation:
Sit straight but not too straight, spine relaxed but erect with dignity rather than rigid like a soldier. Shoulders are slightly pulled back opening the chest, hands are resting in the lap, neck and jaw are relaxed, eyes are open or gently closed.
Find a breath that’s intentionally deep - through the nose and into the belly.
Engage with your sense of touch starting with the tips of your toes and going all the way to the tips of your fingers and the top of your head. Also note the conglomeration of sensations all coming together to inform the question: “How do you feel?”
Note your sense of hearing, staying curious to the sounds around you, listening with rapt attention as if it were a symphony of some sort. Using the sounds to bring you closer to right here and now rather than distracting you from it.
Notice your sense of smell, or if there is a lack of smell – what does “no smell” smell like?
Notice your sense of taste – if there is a lack of taste, what does “no taste” taste like?
Notice the images color, texture, light, and shape in regards to what you see - giving whatever it is you see a soft gaze as if you were watching clouds take shape in the sky. You may also try engaging with a multitude of senses. Simply notice whatever there is to notice and come back to the breath, the posture, and/or the senses as many times as you need to come back.
Try to eat your meal or an item in your meal in the following phases:
Holding, Seeing, and Touching: Examine it as if you were an alien and had never seen such a thing before. What do its features look like? How does it fit in your hand? How do the ridges feel on the pads of your fingers?
Smelling: Hold the piece of food to your nose and smell its aroma. Really get a sense of it. Does the smell arouse your senses? Does your mouth or stomach react?
Placing: Place the piece of food on your tongue. Just hold it there. Examine food with your mouth, without chewing. How are you reacting? How does this food feel?
Tasting: Place the food between your teeth and bite. Notice the adjustments and placements your mouth and tongue take in order to take a bite. When you bite, notice the texture. Note the flavors as they release. Pause after a few bites and experience the flavor and texture in your mouth. Continue chewing and noticing. Does the taste change?
Swallowing: Note the intention to ingest and the position your mouth takes. Finally, swallow the food.
Using walking as a means to be mindful is a profoundly portable exercise! Here are the steps. Credit goes to Barry Boyce. For more (and a great handout go to https://www.mindful.org/walk-this-way/
- Stand up straight, with your back upright but not stiff. Feel your feet touching the ground and let your weight distribute evenly.
- Curl the thumb of your right hand in and wrap your fingers around it. Place it just above your belly button. Wrap your right hand around it, resting your right thumb in the crevice formed between your left thumb and index finger. This creates balance and gives your hands something to do.
- Drop the gaze slightly, this helps you maintain focus.
- Step out with your left foot. Feel it swing, feel the heel hit the ground, now the ball, now the toes.
- Feel the same as the right foot comes forward.
- Walk at a steady pace, slightly slower than in daily life - but not a funeral. When your attention wanders, bring it back to the sensations in your feet touching the ground.
- WARNINGS: Do not try while crossing the street and try not to look like a zombie.
Finger breathing is another version of breath counting. Hold one hand in front of you, palm facing towards you. With the index finger of your other hand, trace up the outside length of your thumb while you breathe in, pausing at the top of your thumb and then trace it down the other side while you breathe out. That’s one breath. Trace up the side of the next finger while you breathe in, pause at the top, and then trace down the other side of that finger while you breathe out. That’s two breaths. Keep going, tracing along each finger as you count each breath. When you get the end of the last finger, come back up that finger and do it in reverse. This practice gives you something visual to focus on and something kinesthetic to do with your hands as well as focusing on counting and your breathing. It’s very useful when there is a lot going around you and it’s hard to just close your eyes and focus inwards. It’s also a very easy technique to teach teenagers and kids.
Five Senses Exercise:
A quick and simple exercise to get you out of uncomfortable feelings and into the here and now: 1. Close your eyes and relax for 30 seconds. 2. Open your eyes and silently identify five things you can see around you. 3. Silently identify four things you can feel or touch. 4. Identify three things you can hear. 5. Identify two things you can smell. 6. Identify what you can taste right now.
An ancient Tibetan breathing technique that has been proven to dramatically increase oxygen in the blood and calm you down. Breathe in for a count of 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds, breath out to a count of 4 seconds, hold with no breath for 4 seconds.
Long and smooth, in through the nose and slowly out through the mouth with an audible sound.
One of the best ways to calm yourself down is to anchor yourself by directing your attention to the lower half of your body. Begin by focusing on your feet and how they feel inside your socks or shoes and against the ground. Expand your attention to include the sensations first in your lower legs and then in your upper legs – do they feel heavy or light? Warm or cool? Tingly or numb? Now include the sensations of your breathing, really relaxing as you breathe out. This is a great way of anchoring yourself and you can do it any time, with your eyes open or closed, while sitting or even while walking around. Anchor yourself. Then breathe.
Where are your feet?:
A simple question to ask when you need to feel anchored or grounded is simply: "Where are your feet?" If you’re thinking about your feet it takes you out of your head.
Keep a Journal:
Taking some time for self-reflection is a really good way to stay in tune with who we are (i.e. where we’re going, what we want, what we don’t want, how do we really feel, what’s going right, what’s not working, etc.). Ask yourself hard questions.
5 Questions to Help You Wake Up:
Easily one of my most impactful interventions. Credit goes to Ezra Bayda. Meditate on and journal these questions: “1. What is going on right now? 2. How could this be my path/Where is the opportunity for growth? 3. What is my most believed thought? 4. What is this? 5. Can I let this experience just be?” For more go to: https://www.lionsroar.com/5-questions-that-help-us-wake-up-july-2010/
Acronym to help you: stop, observe, breathe, expand/evaluate, respond.
Acronym to help you stop and ask yourself: “Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? Any of those conditions often lead to less than optimal decisions.
This may be a no-brainer, but believe it or not - this is an intervention. Sometimes the most mindful thing is to walk away from the situation and get some fresh air.
Close Your Eyes:
If you can’t walk away, close your eyes and go inward for a moment. You might look a little strange, but most people will respect this mindful pause.
Remember to slow down and enjoy. Use all your senses to relish the experience at hand.
As a reminder to yourself every once in a while ask yourself "Am I being overly self-conscious?" Every once in a while try letting your guard down, let go of metal boundaries, let loose, and let you be you.
Find that activity that brings you into an uninhibited, engaged, fully embodied, “flow” state. Choose an activity you love and set the perfect level of challenge for yourself.
Practice the art of accepting and letting go of the struggle to change the things we can’t. You don’t have to like it, or stop trying to impact change.
Know that you don’t know everything about anything. Trying having a “beginner’s mind” to life. There is always something to learn in any given situation. This beginners mind will cultivate engagement and curiosity.
Name What’s Causing You Stress:
Sometimes giving a name to the thing bothering you is a good place to start. Tell a friend if you can. If not a friend, write it down in your journal.
Place your left hand on your heart for a few moments and notice how it feels. Then place your right hand on your heart and notice how it feels. Choose the hand that you think feels the most nourishing and now place that one on your heart again. You may need to try them both out again. With the other hand, support the hand on your heart by holding it at the wrist and curling the fingers around so they feel the pulse of the heart hand. Breath and enjoy this for as long as you like.
Grateful Pain Exercise:
When you are feeling overwhelmed or in pain emotionally, you might try this exercise… Find the places in the body that are most prominent and/or hurting right now. Place your hand on the place(s) that you feel the most prominently. Now hold that and say thank you to your body for the work it’s doing to process your emotion. Maybe it needs a color, perhaps some light, perhaps there is a positive statement you could say to this feeling. Stay there as long as you like and continue to send these positive elements. Remember to keep breathing. Repeat in other areas as needed.
Thank You Precious Teacher:
One of the simplest and best interventions to all areas of difficulty. Pretend that whatever difficulty you are facing - the person or situation that makes you most angry, pushes your buttons, or irritates you on any given day - and reframe it as the most perfect teacher. When you are faced with the worst - you might simply say "Thank you precious teacher." This opens us to learning rather than reacting, it brings about curiosity and creative engagement with life. Actually consider - what if this person or event is a mirror showing you exactly what you need to work with in order to be happy? In my experience, reality has a way of showing us where we’re stuck – and challenging us where we think we’ve grown. Look to your body first, see if there is a feeling that has something to teach you. Pro Tip - Look to the discomfort and move toward it with your attention - that is often the location of the lesson at hand. The best teachings involve a safe amount of stress.
mindful Exercise and Stretching:
Arguably the ultimate mindfulness exercise. This is could be a whole article in itself. Whether your into exercise as a means to an end or something you sincerely enjoy - studies have shown that bringing your awareness and attention to the breath and sensations in the body can actually optimize your workout for muscle gain! Taking care of our body with stretching, strength training, and cardiovascular endeavors will foster our ability to be mindful, energized, and grounded. Budgeting time for these activities can be tricky sometimes - but the investment pays off tenfold. If a full trip to the gym or a yoga class isn't possible, try finding ways to sneak short burst of exercise into your day such as squats, walking, running, touching your toes and reaching for the sky... etc...
I hope you enjoyed this list of mindfulness practices. Do you have one that I missed? Let me know the fruits of using these practices or any other thoughts you have in the comments below!