So its been two weeks since my last blog post. I was away in Rome for a few days and just had some general life stuff going on. I kind of felt under pressure to post something or schedule something to be posted whilst I was away but then I thought NO. Feeling under pressure and having tight time frames is the complete opposite of what mindfulness is all about. I decided to read the introduction of the book ‘A Year of Living Mindfully’ again, which states:
There will be times you forget to do your mindfulness practice, or perhaps you won’t follow the week-by-week format rigidly. Both these are okay. You are here to explore for yourself how mindfulness might become a part of your life, and so the best attitude you can take is one of health skepticism. If you view the process as an experiment, you will have no expectation of a particular outcome but will remain open to whatever arises. Most importantly, cultivate an attitude of kindness and flexibility toward yourself. You can only do your best within the constraints of your daily life, so be gently on yourself when things go awry.
Aaaaaand breath. Now, here’s Week 8 with absolutely no regrets or guilty feelings for being two weeks late…….
This simple practice is a breathing exercise usually used with children. Basically it asks you to breath in a certain way. You inhale for the count of seven and exhale for the count of eleven. Give it a go!
I found this a bit difficult at first as I felt under pressure to reach the final number. The book also says it can be difficult for those who usually breath quite shallow. I didn’t think this was very mindful struggling to reach a number. But the book also says you can build it up over time. Again, practice makes perfect and practice makes it a routine or automated response.
After a while of practicing this while on the train to work, on my lunch break, waiting for something to download on my laptop, I found it quite calming. Everyday life can be very fast and all GO GO GO. Rushing to get to work. Constantly checking your watch. Meeting deadlines. This practice takes up exactly 18 seconds of your day. There is ALWAYS time to calm yourself!
Usually we move from A to B with a particular purpose in mind. It may be to lose weight through exercise, to run for the bus. Mindful movement allows us to let go of striving towards something and to just settle in the moment. Now this doesn’t mean its promoting endless wandering with no end point. It simply means having a ‘beginners mind’ allowing us to become open to more opportunities and experiences. Basically this means ‘I know you’ve walked to the shop this exact same way a million times over but lets do it in a more mindful way’. Become more aware, acknowledge knew experiences, feelings, senses, thoughts, you know all the mindful buzz words I’v been bragging on about in my past posts. This week gave us a simple exercise to use whilst walking. It can also be applied to other things like exercising, running, yoga, Thai Chi (I’m actually joining Thai Chi next week).
Like every mindful practice, it experiments with the breath. The breath is always the main focus. How is your relationship with your breath? Are you holding it? Is it strained? Does it feel calm or panicky? Does it have an edge to it? I know from experience that when I am anxious and I zone in on my breath whilst I walk, I can become over aware of it and start to hyperventilate or think others can hear me breathing heavily (paranoid anxious times). This exercise wants you to focus in on how tense your inhale can be and how soothing your exhale can be. It encourages doing it barefoot if preferred, inside or outside your house. All you need is a short distance. So it can easily be done in your living room or bedroom. The book recommends waking around in a circle but I dunno how others would perceive that? (not very mindful I know, Wheres my non-judgmental approach?).
Sooooo here’s the exercise: