Mindfulness Matters

we have to give ourselves

moments of silence

times of stillness...

-canvas voice 

Have you ever caught yourself completely lost in thought? You know, those moments when your entire body is on autopilot and your mind is wondering in la la land? Well that’s not too far off from where we often function day by day. Scientists estimate that we have about 50,000-70,000 thoughts within a 24 hour time period. It's no wonder we have difficulty living in the moment. Although it’s quite impossible to make all of those thoughts go away, with meditation we can practice detaching from those thoughts, allowing us to focus our attention on what’s happening NOW!   

I have to say there have been times in my life when I was very resistant to sitting mediation. There were times I loved it too but was distracted, drown out by thoughts or I would start to fall asleep. I’ve never had a very consistent practice of meditation, it simply came down to some days I would do it and some days I wouldn’t. But about two weeks ago I had the wonderful pleasure of sitting a private meditation with Kathryn Nicolai. Her dedication to mindfulness and living in the moment is truly inspiring. She meditates daily, shares that practice of meditation through an open sit at Ethos 3 times a week for free (thursday, friday and saturday at noon) and teaches mindfulness workshops. During our small session together Kathryn graciously shared some of her tips, exercises and knowledge about mindfulness. It was wonderful and now, slowly, I’m making the commitment to honor myself with silence everyday. At first it was 10-15 minutes in bed. Yes in bed. You can’t get mindfulness wrong. But it has shifted to 15 minutes on a chair cushion in our enclosed patio. I use the Insight Timer app as Kathryn suggests below. It’s easy to grab my phone and sneak out while the kids are still in bed. I have found that even this small act of daily awareness not only starts my morning out better but helps to spark little moments of mindfulness throughout the day. 

Can you commit? Let us know your daily practice whether you've been doing it for years or are planning on just beginning now. Below you'll find some of Kathryn's great information to help you along the way.  

 

(picture courtesy of local artist Tod Biskner)

Tips for mindfulness practice at home:

  • Create a space that’s just for your practice, make it inviting and quiet. Move all screens and distractions out of your space. Get a good cushion. (Ethos sells some great buckwheat Zafu cushions)
  • Try a few different times of day to find out what works for you. Early morning works well for most people but anytime is a good time for mindfulness. 
  • Start with short meditations, say 5 minutes or so for the first week, add a few minutes each week until you can sit 15-20 minutes. (It takes 12-15 minutes to trigger the relaxation response) 
  • Be patient, developing a habit takes time. Give yourself months, not weeks or days to cement the practice into your routines.  
  • Use an alarm to end your practice so you are not tempted to look at a clock. Insight Timer is a nice app for this. You can set it for any amount of time and use a bell to signal the end of your sit.  
  • Find small moments to bring mindfulness into your day at other times, like when you are brushing your hair, having a shower or unloading the dishwasher. Notice everything you can about how your body is moving, the sights and smells and sounds of that particular moment. The more you look for places to bring more mindfulness into your life, the more you will find them.  

Exercises for becoming more mindful:

Use your senses

  • Practice mindfulness through active listening, observation or even smelling. Try listening to an unknown piece of instrumental music and allowing your mind to simply follow along with the notes. When you’re cooking or in a restaurant, take 60 seconds to notice the various smells and aromas. While sitting in traffic, actively look, take in every visual detail you can see.

Count to 10

  • Try keeping your attention in the present moment for the length of a ten count. Say the number aloud in your head and if your mind wanders before you finish, begin again. Then try saying the alphabet in the same mindful manner. 

Notes and cues

 Leave yourself notes in your car, on your fridge or bathroom mirror or anywhere your eyes will frequently land on them. Write simple messages that remind you to be in the moment like…  “Breathe” “Be here now” “Pay attention” “Slow down” Pick out some regular circumstances that will become your mindfulness cues. Maybe the ding of an email alert, your dog's bark or the sound of your shower turning on. Whenever you here them, remind yourself  to be present, practice a moment of non-doing and choicelessly observe.  

Physical benefits include:

  • elevated immune system function
  • less frequency and duration of illnesses 
  • improved management of pain
  • decreased heart rate and blood pressure
  • improved sleep and digestion
  • increased energy
  • changes in gene expression 

Mental benefits include:

  • improved brain function, intelligence and memory
  • improved decision-making ability

Emotional benefits include:

  • improved management of stress
  • less irritability, anxiety and depression
  • improved interpersonal relationships
  • increased resilience to change