Breathing

Walking Meditation: Mindfulness On the Move By ALICIA SPARKS

 

Walking Path Sign

I took my first meditation walka few weeks ago. I’ve since done some research aboutwalking meditation, and wow–there’s a ton of information out there!

My meditation walk was hosted by a licensed counselor who often offers group seminars and private sessions on mindfulness, so I feel confident I learned–definitely not everything–but a good solid foundation for planning my own mindfulness walks.

So, for simplicity’s sake–and to add to the wealth of information already available–I’ll focus on my own meditation walk.

 

Walking Meditation vs. Still Meditation

Probably, this goes without saying, but the main difference between walking meditation and still meditation is you’re not sitting still during walking meditation.

(Oh, and you’re eyes should be always are open!)

Walk at a comfortable, slow pace. Don’t rush–you’ve set this time aside for yourself. Intentionally step heel to toe, one foot at a time, paying attention to how the dirt, pavement, or gravel feels under your soles.

So, understand you won’t be sitting or lying still, but don’t be afraid that you won’t reap some of the same meditation and mindfulness benefits.

Understand Your Mindfulness Meditation Walk

Why are you taking a meditation walk? Why are you choosing to walk rather than sit or lie?

Maybe you want to sharpen your senses, or reconnect with your surroundings. Maybe there’s a specific issue in your life you want to meditate on and you feel moving rather than sitting still will help.

Prepare for Your Walking Meditation

As with any practice–yoga, meditation, running–there’s a little preparation involved before you get started.

Here are a few tips my mindfulness coach shared:

  • Dress appropriately. Wear comfortable walking shoes (or, for you beach bunnies, make sure the sand’s nice and soft!) and wear clothes cool or warm enough for the current temperatures.
  • Set aside enough time. Sure, “enough time” is relative, but walking is a bit different from sitting or lying still, so it’s okay to shoot for at least 30 minutes.
  • Choose your course. Choose a safe area, but feel free to choose among a variety of environments. You can be just as mindful in a park full of boisterous toddlers as you can on a quiet mountain path.
  • Plan your course *. Once you know where you’ll walk, where will you start? Where will you take a left, a right, or turn around to head home? Sure, you could wander, but we’re focusing on mindfulness here. Start out knowing where you’re headed and then focus on being mindful of that course.
  • Patience, not perfection. Whether it’s your first mindfulness walk or you’re a veteran at meditation walking, be prepared to get distracted–and be prepared to let those distractions pass on by. You might find yourself thinking about unrelated things–bills, your dishes, Sally’s dance recital. Once you become aware of those thoughts, don’t indulge them; just let them pass through. Do the same for any distracting environmental noises (beyond those senses of which you’re striving to be mindful).

* Remember all that “different information” I mentioned in the beginning? Well, here’s an example: Rather than choosing a proper “path,” some meditation walk instructions suggest finding a stretch of land, 30 or 40 feet long, and walking back and forth. Although this sounds beneficial in its own way, it wasn’t my experience this time.

Plan Your Mindfulness Walk

Aside from preparing for your walk–and knowing where you’ll walk–considering planning your mindfulness topics.

For example, my mindfulness walking class was a donation-based class to help raise money for an upcoming charity event, so our mindfulness coach divided our walk into three parts and instructed us to focus on something different during each section:

  • First Part: We focused on our breath. The goal was to shut out as much environmental elements as safely possible and pay attention to our breath. Were we breathing deeply? Was our breath shallow? Were we thinking too much about it, instead of letting it happen naturally? What could we do to relax ourselves and thus relax our breath?
  • Second Part: We focused on our five (or six, as my coach allowed for) senses. We smelled the air and listened to children’s laughter and occasional car horns. We felt the wind on our skin and watched the leaves blow in one direction or another. We even tasted the air, our last bite, our latest sip of water.
  • Third Part: During the third and final part of our mindfulness walk, we focused on our current purpose: the charity. Why was the cause important to us? What did we hope to achieve at the event? What were our own personal goals for bettering the situation?

Of course, you might mix up these parts, or take away or add a few. It’s entirely up to you. Your mindfulness walk must work for YOU.

Reflect On Your Meditation Walk

After your meditation walk, don’t immediately hop in your car or get started on dinner. Take some time to reflect on your meditation.

Did you learn anything? Did your mindfulness help you reach any realizations or conclusions?

Did you enjoy walking more than sitting, or was it just a different experience for you?

Was there anything you could “tweak” to make the experience more beneficial?

So, how about YOU, readers? Do you think you’ll try a mindful meditation walk this weekend? Or, have you already put a few meditation walk notches in your belt and have your own experiences to share with us?

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/your-mind/2013/10/walking-meditation-mindfulness-on-the-move/

Cindy Griffith-Bennett: Turn 5 Things You Do Every Day Into Meditation Moments

For most of us, a typical day begins when we get out of bed, wash, and then start our activities. At some point, we get a bite to eat, walk somewhere, and talk to someone. Often, by the end of the day we find ourselves stressed out and physically exhausted. It doesn’t have to be that way!

By turning everyday activities into meditation moments, you can bring more mindfulness, clarity, and peace into your day while energizing yourself and reducing stress. A study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition found: “Brief meditation training reduced fatigue, anxiety, and increased mindfulness. Moreover, brief mindfulness training significantly improved visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning.”

These brief mindfulness meditations don’t require sitting like a pretzel or sniffing incense, not that there is any thing wrong with a traditional meditation practice if you have the time. But if you are like me, life keeps getting in the way! Here are five opportunities to add meditation without taking time out of your hectic schedule.

  1. When you get up in the morning, you usually wash. Let’s use washing your face for our first meditation opportunity. Feel the temperature of the water on your hands. Focus on the temperature as you add a little soap. Notice how the suds feel on your hand. When a thought comes in, think of it as someone else’s phone ringing. You hear it, but you don’t have to answer it. Next, feel your soapy hands or the washcloth on your face. Focus on that sensation as you wash your face. Next, feel the rinse water on your face — how does it feel? Is it too cold? Too hot? Just right? If your mind wanders, there is no need to judge, just go back to focusing on the feeling of the water on your face. As you towel off, feel the sensation of the air on your face. It’s that simple, you just meditated!
  2. As you go about your day, you are most likely waiting in line or in traffic, so take a moment to breathe. Everyone has to breathe, and there is no way the person in front of you in the coffee line will know you are meditating! Sense the breath coming in and out of your nose or mouth. Don’t worry about thoughts; you know what to do, think of your thoughts as someone else’s cell phone ringing. Some people like to label their thoughts as “thought” and then let them go. The important thing is returning to sensing your breath coming in and out of your body. You will feel your shoulders relax and your patience returning.
  3. Now it is time to grab some lunch. We all eat, don’t we? Another mindfulness meditation can be done while eating. Take a small bite and really taste the food. What is the consistency? What are the different flavors? Can you tell if there is salt or pepper added? Do you like it? Try to eat a few bites without talking. You don’t have to spend the whole lunchtime on this, but even 30 seconds or a minute will have interesting results. For even more relaxation and satisfaction, try chewing each bite until it is totally done before you take a drink. You will most likely feel fuller, and psychologically you will feel more satisfied. I love to eat a Peppermint Pattie one tiny bite at a time. The cool mint and chocolate taste even better! I also take a moment to be grateful for the food, the food preparer and, in the case of the Peppermint Pattie, for the chocolate!
  4. It is always healthy to take a walk after you eat. But even if you don’t have time then, you will have to walk somewhere today, maybe from the kitchen to the living room or from your car to the house. Take this time to do a quick walking meditation. Feel your feet as they touch the ground and lift up. If you have thoughts, label them or decide to answer them later. You may walk a little funny at first. You probably haven’t paid attention to your feet in a while! We all have to walk somewhere, and this meditation can be used for short walks or long ones. It is important to pay attention to where you are going, but besides that, simply focus on the sensation of your feet as they touch and leave the ground. Once you get good at this, you can add focusing on your breath!
  5. Lastly, you will most likely speak to someone during your day. Before you speak, ask yourself, “Are my words kind, useful, necessary and true?” What a wonderful opportunity to empower others with our words! This may not sound like a meditation, yet this technique uses focused attention. You really need to pay attention to your thoughts for this one! You can also give yourself the gift of paying attention to how you speak to yourself. Are your words to yourself also kind, useful, necessary and true? Often we have such negative self-talk. This is a wonderful opportunity to empower yourself!

So you now have five different opportunities to add meditation into your day and start to reap the rewards! Not only can you reduce your stress, increase your mindfulness, strengthen cognitive ability, and energize your body, you can also empower yourself and others without stopping your busy day! It just takes washing, breathing, eating, walking and talking — all things you do every day anyway.

For more by Cindy Griffith-Bennett, click here.

via Cindy Griffith-Bennett: Turn 5 Things You Do Every Day Into Meditation Moments.

 

Meditation for the business soul | Dynamic Business – Small Business Advice – Forums | Dynamic Business Australia

Marina Yang | April 26, 2013

Meditation is about understanding yourself and where you fit into the world. What better practice for the working person?

The trials of navigating the muddy waters of workplace relationships whilst trying to improve your own productivity are lifted when you understand who you are, and where you are. Meditation can also improve your self-perception by boosting self-esteem and confidence.

The clarity of a mind used to meditation is the result of refining your ability to focus and move from one concept to another, and can therefore assist with problem-solving.

Some simple tips for meditation beginners:

1. Find and allocate time for meditation at least once a day.

Meditation is an accumulative process. A single sitting might make you feel at peace for a while, but continuous meditation can improve your general wellbeing. Find time during your day for meditation, and sustain it. Ideally, work should not be a source of stress- meditation can help you overcome anxieties associated with work by bolstering your mental state. Soon you will fall into a rhythm and enjoy being able to wake up feeling energised, and going to sleep feeling at peace.

2. Position

Assume a comfortable position in a quiet space without distractions. The lotus position is a classic, but any upright seated position is good. Try not to lean against anything or lie down to avoid becoming drowsy. In this position, try to stop thinking consciously and let your mind sink down into a more abstract place. Feel rather than think. Focus on the physical feeling of your body- the weight of your limbs, the sensation of the floor or chair beneath you, the movement of the air, and your own pulse.

A popular technique is to concentrate on the sensation of the toes on your left foot, then the rest of the foot, then the ankle. Keep progressing around the body, thinking about the feeling of each part of your body. End at the top of your skull.

This will help you become more comfortable in your own body and aware of how you position yourself. Is your mind fully engaged with each part of your physical body at all times? Are you entirely aware of how you move? Sometimes, unfocused people will blatantly but unconsciously drift off and this will show in their body language. Avoid this by improving your concentration skills and closely establishing the link between mind and body.

3. Breathing

Focussing on breathing is one of the most basic meditative exercises. Count your breaths and establish a rhythm. Count ‘one’ as you breathe in, then ‘two’ as you exhale. Feel the air flowing into your expanding lungs, then flowing back out.

Alternately, imagine your worries being ‘breathed out’ and that you are breathing in positivity. Some people like to visualise- your worries might appear as a dark mass, whilst the positivity in the world could be a bright, warm light.

It is also recommended that before you start meditating, you write down all of your problems and the things associated with them on a piece of paper, which helps with the process of sweeping the negativity from your mind.

This should help you form a more optimistic mindset and more confidence in yourself, whilst reducing stress levels. The problems cannot be erased, but you can gain a better understanding of what they are, where they originate from, and how you can approach them. Your business and work will be where you left them, but you can return them as a rejuvenated person with a fresh outlook.

via Meditation for the business soul | Dynamic Business – Small Business Advice – Forums | Dynamic Business Australia.

 

A Meditation For Promoting Peace Within Ourselves

Being at peace with ourselves in our life begins within. I teach my clients to become the expert of themselves and that everything they experience in the external world is a reflection of their internal world.

One of the techniques clients learn is to use mindfulness meditation to improve their relationship with their body and I have adapted a meditation that is simple to use and helpful in this process.

The adaption comes from the Buddhist mediation Metta Bhavana Meditation, which means “Loving Kindness Cultivation.”

The aim is to feel more appreciative of ourselves and helps the individual to feel more integrated and less prone to internal conflict. The basic psychological principle recognises that if we can’t feel good about ourselves, then we are less likely to be able to feel good about other people.

So a metta bhavana meditation session leads from concern with oneself, to a concern for others.

You begin with self reflection and the project this to others. It’s a process of using your imagination in a powerful and positive way that feels really good. It’s simple and can be done anywhere. I recently was visiting NYC for some book promotion work and did this on the trains to-and-from the city.

With a comfortable but dignified posture connect with your breath by noticing the inhale and exhale. Notice your thoughts coming and going. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath. The breath is an anchor for the present moment.

Reflect: What is it that other people like about you? What do you think you are good at? What achievements are you particularly pleased with? Hold these good qualities in your mind for a little while, and feel good about yourself. Every now and again repeat to yourself “may I be well, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering.”

Project: Imagine a friend. What is it that you like about your friend? What do you think they are good at in particular? What do you think they should be most pleased with? Hold these good qualities in your mind for a little while, and feel good about your friend. Every now and again in your mind’s eye say to them “may you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering.”

Reflect: Repeat to yourself “may I be well, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering.”

The cycle is to reflect onto oneself and then project onto others and repeat. Continue this pattern opening up to imagining an acquaintance or neutral person, then you can move to a stranger, then move to someone who would be difficult for you to feel or wish goodness towards.

Let it be OK that it may be difficult at first to wish well to someone you dislike! With practice you develop compassion for all while developing your self-compassion.

In my own practice, I have simplified the practice and I encourage my clients to adapt a practice that feels right to them. I like to imagine a beam of green light coming out of my chest which is the heart center chakra and this light extends out of me in every direction; first I start with it beaming out ahead of me as far as I can imagine into the horizon.

I use the shortened version of the mantra beginning with me, focusing on my breathing, being in my own space I repeat “may I be well, may I be happy” then with the light extending out to others, “may you be well, may you be happy” – repeating and extending in every direction – ahead, behind, side to side, above, below and all around.

It’s very relaxing and by the time I arrived from a hectic morning commute I was Zen.

Taking a few minutes out of your day to reflect and project loving kindness will cultivate a peacefulness within that can open you to experiencing more love in your life.

A good time to pave out a loving kindness for your day is first thing in the morning, while you are awakening in bed or in the shower. Be sure to include your immediate family in it as well. Notice how your interactions with others are improved.

via A Meditation For Promoting Peace Within Ourselves | Weightless.

 

B.R.E.A.T.H.E: The Neuroscience of Breathing Techniques TED talk

This is an extra long TED talk by Neuroscientist Alan Watkins talking about how to “Be Brilliant Every Single Day”.

In the second half he talks about how breathing techniques work physiologically.  He mentions that there are 12 different ways that the breath can be adjusted, but only talked about the most important three:

  1. Rhythmically
  2. Smoothly
  3. Location of the focus during the breath (in the center of the chest)

To remember this, Dr Watkins uses the acronym B.R.E.A.T.H.E:

  • Breathe
  • Regularly
  • Through the
  • Heart
  • Everyday

He also shows a graph which describes two variances of experience, one being the Sympathetic (flight/fight) neurological pattern and the Parasympathetic (rest/digest) pattern.  His explanation about how where we are on that trajectory is less important than the Negative (cortisol driven) emotional system vs. the Positive (DHEA driven) emotional system trajectory was quite fascinating.

He explains that we can use breathing techniques to bring us to the center of the Negative/Positive Emotional system, but that to be optimal we need to be able to regulate our emotional state and stay in the positive.  This makes sense to me as a meditation instructor because the breathing techniques are so often used in conjunction with deeper emotionally based meditation techniques such as METTA meditation, Tonglen and other methods of training ourselves to emote love and peace.

Download a free Meditation Track from Unwind your Mind here.

Tips for incorporating meditation into your daily life:

Fitting meditation into your daily life is a great challenge.  At first, it seems as though there is no possible time to meditate!  Seems ironic, doesn’t it?  As you find a few minutes here and there to fit meditation into your life, you will see that life is so much easier with a clear mind, that meditation makes space for itself.  Here are a few recommended places to start.

Train yourself to practice mindfulness while:

  • Waiting in traffic – try to notice how many breaths you complete while waiting for the light
  • Doing the dishes – notice the feeling of the water on your hands and the pace of your breath
  • During a commercial – practice using the mute button and notice the breath in and out
  • Taking a shower – hear and feel the rushing water, notice the steam rising
  • Sunset/Sunrise – pause for a breath and observe the change in the light and shadows
  • Walking outdoors – observe your breath, the sensations of the air on your skin and the fluidity of your movements
  • Standing in line – also a good place to practice the QiGong preparation standing form

(A friend of mine learned to always practice on the toilet, guaranteeing at least a few times a day of practice!)

Eventually, when you have enough practice, you will find that you are able to use the techniques in difficult situations:

  • In a meeting – practice being aware of all the different sounds in the room
  • During an argument – listen and feel for your heartbeat, notice its rhythm