丑A Year of Living Mindfully: Week 20. Embracing your inner weirdo丑

What things do you avoid because you have become attached to a particular label or idea that you have about yourself?

I always label myself as shy and awkward. I get nervous infront of large crowds and I stutter when I am under pressure. 

These labels and ideas can become part of who you are- how others see you and how you view yourself. This can prevent you from growing, from shedding out-of-date dislikes, habits, and behavior.

Exercise:

What is on your list of things to avoid? Choose something from the list and try experiencing it as if it for the first time. 

Giving presentations to large crowds and any other form of public speaking. 

Explore it with as many of your senses as possible. Pay attention to any resistance that arises in the form of thoughts, memories, emotions, and bodily sensations. Tease out your experience. What do you notice? This not about forcing yourself to like it- you stil may not- but rather to see it with fresh eyes. 

Thoughts:

 Everyone is staring at me and judging me. Why am I so awkward and cringey. 

Memories:

 I stuttered handing over in that meeting. I forgot the words of a prayer on my confirmation. I always go roaring red in the face and can’t make eye contact. 

Emotions: 

Embarrassment, anxiety, nervous, apprehensive, overwhelmed. 

Bodily sensations: 

Tightness in chest, short of breath, nauseous in belly. 

This weeks exercise was about viewing the label or view you have of yourself in a different light. I decided to go the extra mile and face the label head on. On Wednesday I had to speak infront of an audience and tell them about myself and my single life. I done a lot of yoga and meditation in the weeks leading up to this event to keep me grounded. I done a million and one deep belly breaths beforehand and decided not to say out loud that I was nervous, even though I was. I didn’t want to feed into my emotions but I did acknowledge them to myself. Sometimes I find if you tell a friend you feel nervous, they feed into the emotion with you. “Don’t worry, no need to nervous, it’s ok, it is a scary experience……” They just help you overthink the whole “I feel nervous”, instead of just acknowledging the emotion and letting it pass. I try not to zone in on my emotions because I don’t want to magnify it and bring it to a head. It works for me anyway. 

This event was something I had never done before and naturally I felt apprehensive about the whole thing. I tried to stay away from coffee as this can heighten my anxiety levels. I organised and planned everything in advance i.e. Hair and make up. I made sure I was ready a few hours early so I wasn’t running around making myself sick with anxiety. I ensured I done everything at a slow pace and done my belly breaths all throughout the day. I know from past experiences that I tend to speak faster when I feel anxious. Therefore, I decided to focus on speaking slower and taking breaths throughout my sentences. 

Right before I walked on stage, I felt very overwhelmed by all the bright lights and I could feel anxiety raising just a little. I got to the top of the steps, walked towards the stool, sat down, had a giany belly breath and instantly I felt at ease. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone in the audience and just pretended I was a lot more confidence than I was. IT WORKED. Of course there were times when I got a bit awkward. A few years ago I would have given myself a hard time of this and spoke very negatively towards myself during and after the awkwardness. The whole event went great and I didn’t stutter once. I was as calm as I have ever been. 

I did also put some more ground work in. I find researching new ways of viewing myself and getting tips for building self esteem very useful. I found a video on YouTube and watched it while I was waiting around before the event:

https://youtu.be/0Tk82hEHNnY

It spoke about the Deutsch scholar and philosopher Erasmus and his view on humans. He believed that everyone, no matter how important or learned they might be, is a fool. He even viewed himself as a knit-wit. He described himself as shy, awkward, makes bad decisions, lets things fall at fancy dinners, says the wrong thing at the wrong time. It helped normalise these traits. 

“Being weird and awkward doesn’t make us unfit for society, it makes us just like the greatest scholar of the Northern European renaissance.”

The video also spoke about Pieter Bruegel, who painted the picture ‘The Deutsch Proverbs’. The painting shows many different parts of the human being. He wanted to send out the message that “We are all deranged”. 

“The key to greater confidence is not to reassure ourselves of our own dignity. It is to grow with peace of the inevitable nature of our ridiculousness. We are idiots now. We were idiots in the past and we will be idiots again in the future.”

I remember I spoke to my friends about the event a few days before and I explained I was worried that they would make me out to be weird and stupid. One of my friends responded “Julia, it will be you who will make yourself out to be a weirdo because you are a weirdo. I don’t think you need help with showing the audience that you are one”. This strangely made me feel at ease. It really didn’t matter if I was made out to be a bit foolish or weird. Naturally as a human being, I am weird and foolish. This experience will not make me more or a less a fool. Being weird and foolish is the norm. Each and every one of us is a complete fool. This gave me greater confidence that day. 

Message: Self acceptance is key. Accept your weirdness and accept the fact that no one is prim and proper and everyone makes mistakes and acts absolutely ridiculous sometimes. 

Reflection: This weeks exercise has helped me immensely. The event was obviously a bonus but my god I have learned so much about myself. The label I had of myself as “shy” and “awkward” has completely lifted and I now see myself as a weird, confident, complete freak and I absolutely love it! 

J x


A Year of Living Mindfully: Week 19. Being Present in Mind and Body

BEING PRESENT IN MIND AND BODY

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Technology has taken over basic human interactions. Instead of admiring a sunset with a loved one, we take a picture of it and upload it to Instagram. We watch movies with friends and spend half the movie with our heads in our phones updating our news feeds. When we are somewhere else mentally, we might as well not be present physically. When we are not present with someone, they may feel neglected and ignored. 

At Christmas time, my phone got robbed and I was forced to use an old block of a phone with a grey screen and a memory that could hold 20 messages in my inbox at a time. But it had internet access….. NOT. I spent 3 weeks without internet access on my phone. If I needed to check emails, I logged onto my laptop and done it the old fashioned way. I spent a lot of time in my own head. I learned a lot about myself during those 3 weeks. I realized how much I “thought” I needed my phone and how much time others spent on theirs.

One evening my best friend came to visit and we sat down to watch a movie. She stared at her phone for the first 30 minutes. I could feel my blood boil. I asked politely for her to put her phone away as I thought it was rude of her. She laughed it off and continued watching some random Snapchat story on her phone. I didn’t understand why she even bothered to come visit and watch a movie if she was going to sit on the couch on her own for most of the night. I never felt so alone. That was me before my phone got robbed. It made me realize how many amazing opportunities or memories I had missed because I was on my phone or I was busy taking a picture of the memory. From that night on, I always tried to make more of a conscious effort to put my phone down when others were talking or when I had allocated a time to do an activity with someone.

This weeks exercise wanted me to stay present with friends, family and colleagues with these simple steps: 

  • Turn off your phone and put it out of sight. Having it on the table next to you gives a message that something may take precedence over your time with this person.
  • Notice where your mind goes. Every time you are aware of it drifting off, bring it back in the same way as you do when you meditate.
  • Notice whether any particular emotions are arising- perhaps restlessness or the wish to be somewhere else. Whatever comes up, acknowledge it, tune into the body, and explore any sensations that accompany it.
  • Practice Listening Mindfully (Week 10’s exercise).
  • Reflect on how being present with someone both physically and mentally affects the encounter and the relationship. What do you notice?

Reflection:

The same friend came over again the other night and I purposely left my phone upstairs. We didn’t watch a movie, we just sat there and chatted and it was amazing. We laughed loads and spent genuine time together. At one point I had to go grab my phone so we could double check a date for the next time we were planning to spend time together. We just sat there an listened to each other. I was nice not having any distractions for a while and I felt grateful that I had someone who wanted to sit there and be present with me. I was worthy of their time and they were worthy of mine.

Work colleagues on the other hand, I just cannot stay present with. It is much harder to stay present and actively listen when you and the other person and worlds apart and you have genuinely no interest. That’s kinda mean but that’s what goes through my head. I do try stay present as often as a I can but my mind drifts off and I get easily distracted or reach for my phone. I must try this exercise with a work colleague and report back. It is hard though when you’re working a 13 hour night shift and the same person is speaking to you the entire night. How can someone hold concentration for that long? ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………………….

Goal: 

Must try stay present at work. Stop being rude and staring at my phone in the company of others.

 

J x



 

蚊 Year of Living Mindfully: Week 18

訊HE POWER OF ATTENTION

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In school I was always given out to for day dreaming and not paying attention in class. These days my friends call me Dory from ‘Finding Nemo’ because I have the attention span of a fish most of the time. I have also been called a magpie because I get easily distracted “Oh look something shiny”. When we are bored or disinterested in something, we tend to zone out and retreat to our thoughts about the activity or something completely different. When we feel sad, we are more likely to switch on negative thinking, which then compounds the low mood, and so on.

This weeks exercise wanted us to choose an activity we habitually zone out of and start paying attention to it.. For example a chore you have to do around the house. I chose cleaning the dishes (we don’t have a dishwasher).

Begin to ask yourself the following questions about the task:

What emotions are present? (acknowledge how you are feeling)

I feel dread. I feel exhausted. I feel frustrated. I feel lazy.

What story are you telling yourself about the task? (Notice any connections between the story and emotions) Acknowledge whatever is arising (even if you think you “shouldn’t be having” such thoughts). 

My mam will probably go mad if she sees a sink full of dishes when she comes home from work.  Why did no one wash their own dishes as they used them? This is going to take forever. I am always the one who ends up cleaning up after everyone. This is such an effort.

Pay attention to your breath and any sensory experience that arises: smell, taste, sight, sound. Use the sense to bring you back to the present moment when your mind begins to wander off. 

I can smell fairy washing up liquid. The water feels warm against my skin. I can hear hear the water coming from the tap and the noise of the dishes hitting off each other. I can see the dirt being removed. I can feel the sponge in my hand.

Investigate whether there is another way to relate to the task. Perhaps think about who benefits from this activity. Try to see what you can do as an act of love or affection for someone you care about.

My Mam will really appreciate seeing a clear sink when she comes home from work. It saves her having to do it herself when she comes home after 11pm tonight. It will give her one less task to do before bed.

We don’t have to enjoy what we are doing, but we can choose to relate differently to it.

Reflection:

By relating to the task in a different way, it made the experience more positive. Now instead of moaning about washing the dishes, I now see it as an act of kindness for my Mam for when she gets home from work. Give it a go yourself and see if you can begin to relate differently to a task you find difficult.

J x

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A Year of Living Mindfully: Week 15

Noticing the Narrative

Meditation teaches us how to observe our thoughts from a different angle. During meditation practice we also start to notice the same old stories that come up time and time again. These may be things like “I am not good enough”, “I need to get a new job”, “Why am I still single?”- the list goes on. 

Whatever story we tell ourselves will be influenced by our frame of mind. If we feel a bit down in ourselves the story will be negative, whereas if we feel happy then the story will have a more positive story line. This fact alone tells us we can’t take our thoughts as facts. This weeks exercise asked for us to pay attention to the stories we tell ourselves by using the following guidelines:

  1. Notice how your mood influences your interpretation of an experience.

  2. Become aware of your posture, paying particular attention to your jaw (is it relaxed or clenched?) and your hands. How are your shoulders? Notice expressions: are you frowning?

  3. Tune into your body and become aware of any sensations that are arising in response to the story (and then notice if new thoughts arise about those sensations). Of course, there may be none.

  4. When you become aware of a recurring thought, it can be helpful to bring some lighthearted humour to naming it: For example, thinking “ANXIOUS ANNIE IS HERE AGAIN!” will help you to distance yourself from your anxiety.

  5. Are you feeding a particular story, maybe playing sad songs when the story is negative and encouraging feelings of sadness to manifest? We may not be able to control our thoughts but we can control how we respond to them.

  6. Notice the feeling tone of your thoughts as these can be helpful indications of your current state of mind.

Exploring the body and physical manifestations of the thought and/or emotion can be a helpful  to disengage from the “doing” mind. We can also use the breath as a way of shifting our attention away from a particular focus. We do this all the time when we meditate, but we can do it when we are doing about our daily life, as well.

Personal Reflection:

  1. I felt a bit stressed out and my mood was a bit all over the place. I was texting my friend and they replied to a message with a very short response. I interpreted that as “maybe they’re angry with me?”, “why are they being so short?”.  I started to jump to conclusions and make up a scenario in my head.
  2. My posture at the time: I was frowning.
  3. I started to feel anxious and my breath got a little faster.
  4. “JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS IS HERE AGAIN”
  5. By not asking my friend if anything was wrong I was feeding into my story and giving myself more time to make the story even bigger. I responded by sending even more messages as I was starting to become even more anxious. With every message sent and no reply received, I was feeding into my story. If I had changed my response and asked if anything was wrong then waited for a reply, I would not have become as anxious.
  6. The next time this scenario arose I waited for a response from my friend and focused on my breath until they responded. There was nothing wrong with them in the end. They were busy driving and could not reply in big essays.
  7. The feeling tone of my thoughts were anxious. This reflected how I was feeling all day. I was a bit stressed out with college work and it definitely showed in the story i developed inside my head.

What story is headlining within your head this week?

 

J x

A Year of Living Mindfully: Week 12

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Appreciating the Good

They say we can ‘redress’ our natural bias towards negativity by focusing on the pleasant and positiveexperiences. Because there is no survival benefit to enjoying pleasant experiences, they usually happen momentarily and are gone.

Mindfulness is all about being able to bring that small experience into awareness for as little as 60 seconds in order to save it in our long term memory. (Have we all seen ‘Inside Out’ the children’s movie?). These small pleasant experiences are usually appreciated and made more aware of by the young. In the movie ‘Inside Out’ they explain how aware children are of small happy moments and how such small things can impact on a child’s development. These happy moments are stored in their long term memory until bigger emotions take their place. This could be as simplistic as when the first time their Mother made them laugh or the first time they tried to eat jelly. The feeling of happiness children experience usually sits with them a lot longer than in adults. As we grow older these experiences go unnoticed because adults are usually preoccupied with more ‘important’ things in life like how they are going to pay the bills or who’s turn it is to take the bins out. The minute happiness occurs in an adult they have already jumped onto a new feeling or a new thought. Children are the most mindful of us all.

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BANKING THE GOOD

Sometimes people are surprised at they way a seemingly insignificant experience creates a strong sense of pleasure, which they experience again when they reflect on it- an added bonus. Our natural negative bias means we usually forget a transitory pleasant experience- the warm sun on our face, the scent of a flower, the smile that lights up a child’s face when they see us- but if we pay attention to the experience, noticing its different elements, we “bank” it in our long-term memory and life starts to feel richer and more fulfilling.

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This weeks exercise wanted us to make an intention to be more aware of those fleeting moments of pleasure. Do it every day for a week (or more). At the end of the week reflect on any new discoveries or insights.

What was the experience?

What thoughts occurred to you?

What felt sensations did you notice in the body?

What emotions were you aware of?

What are you experiencing now as you answer these questions?

This week I reflected on several positive experiences, one of which was particularly positive. Now its not every day or week I do this but as its coming close to Christmas I felt a bit emotional and giving. During the week I was shopping in Marks and Spencer’s and when you spend over 75 euro you get a free gift (a box with wine, Christmas pudding, biscuits, sweets etc.). I was delighted and immediately imaginedmyself and my best friend sitting on the couch having a nibble and a glass of wine. I was bombarded with shopping bags that day. I walked by sooooo many homeless people sat on the cold ground looking miserable. I decided F**k this I have enough treats at home, I’ll give this gift box to the next homeless person I see. So that’s what I done. And Wow. I have never seen someones eyes light up as much as this man’s did. “Thank you so much, you don’t realize how much I appreciate this. Seriously, Thank you”. My god I certainly would not have appreciated it as much as he did. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude (I had a little cry, as usual. I am an emotional being). I felt so happy that I had made someone look and feel the way he did.His happiness with the gift lasted a lot longer than mine would have. He sat there staring at it with joy, whereas I would have had the whole thing eaten at that stage. I reflected on how much I take for granted in life and how I need to start appreciating the little things more.It was a positive experience that will certainly be entering my long-term memory. Even reflecting back again writing this, all the same emotions I felt that day come flowing back. I received great happiness and pleasure from this small act of kindness. I also reflected on other small moments of pleasure throughout the week but this was one that stuck out for me.

What small moments of pleasure can you remember from the week past?

J x

劈 Year of Living Mindfully: Week 10


LISTENING MINDFULLY 

We listen to respond rather than listen to understand.

When we communicate with others, a large part of our time is spent in our heads, rehearsing what we want to say, rather than paying attention to what is actually being said. We often miss important information and only concentrate on what we are going to reply. A big part of good communication is listening. Sometimes when someone is telling a story, they just want to be listened to. Personally, I can feel under pressure sometimes to reply or respond when someone is speaking. Over the years I have learned that being comfortable in silence and just listening can be just as effective. Our minds often drift away when we are listening to long stories. This weeks exercise gave pointers of how to be present whilst listening. 

  • Stay present. When you find your mind wandering off, bring it back to the present, just like in meditation. 
  • Let the speaker finish before you speak. Don’t interrupt. 
  • Listening is much more than just hearing words with your ears. Be mindful of the speakers body language and facial cues, their tone of voice.
  • If you become aware of yourself rehearsing what to say next. Acknowledge this and stop it. Let it go. 
  • You may get an urge to fix or make things better when listening to someone’s problems or stories. You don’t have to give the person advice. Most of the time they just simply want a listening ear. 
  • Notice if there is a ‘me too’. I always do this. I used to think it was kind to emphasise and let the other person know they weren’t alone because it had happened me too. Sometimes it can be helpful. But sometimes you are just waiting to jump into the conversation instead of listening. 

Listening VS Hearing 

Listening is intentional and active. As opposed to hearing, which is the passive receiving of sound vibrations passing through the ear. We can choose to listen- or not. 

 As you become more aware of mindful listening, try widening your awareness to include experiences happening within the body. Notice any felt sensations happening when you are hearing. You may feel a sense of calmness and relaxation when listening to someone speak. Or you may feel your face frown and your belly contract. What emotions come about when you are hearing. A story someone tells you might make you angry or sad. Notice these emotions. The book advises to view these emotions as a passing state: “anger is here” rather than “i am angry”. 

 When we listen mindfully we are able to view the person speaking as a whole. Delve deeper into the history underlying the words that are being spoken. You might notice pain in the persons story and can response empathically. 

 This isn’t an easy practice. I’m known for jumping into conversations and being uneasy until I can jump in again. I find it hard to remain silent and can easily drift off into a day dream if a story is long and boring. The main thing to remember was is, it may sound long and boring to you but it is important to the speaker and they are you telling you it for a reason. Listen to the reason behind the story. Be gentle with yourself when you forget this practice and interrupt the person speaking. It takes time. Be aware of yourself doing this. The more you acknowledge it, the more chance of it becoming a reactive response. 

How do you feel when someone actively listens to you? 

How do you feel when someone interrupts you? 

休睪 Year of Living Mindfully: Week 9 鳶

SOUNDS 

Sounds are like thoughts: we can’t control them, they come and go, some are stronger than others, and some can have a strong physical and emotional impact on us. 

Certain sounds can create negative or positive reactions within us, particularly if we are stressed or feeling a bit down. When I’m studying or trying to plan out something at last minute, loud noises or crowds of people speaking can really stress me when out and cause me to become anxious. To avoid this I usually put earphones in with relaxation music on really low to block out any negative noises. 

This weeks exercise teaches us how to be with sounds and thus provides training for being with our thoughts. It asked for us to pay attention to all sounds. How our body reacts to sounds. How our bodies pick up sounds like a radar. How the sound can manifest throughout the body in physical sensations. (Heart beats faster, your body jumps). How we judge a sound. The story we create when we hear a sound. (Oh that sounds like the neighbours are arguing nextdoor). Pay attention to your mood following each sound and how this affects your interpretation and thus your thoughts. A good example of this is when you are lying in bed before you fall asleep. You hear a noise and your thoughts jump to a conclusion that someone may be coming up the stairs. You begin to panick. Your heart beats faster. You feel frightened. This exercise asks to acknowledge the story brought about by the sound and let it go by bringing your attention back to receiving the sound as a collection of notes at a particular pitch. 

We can also use music or sounds to lift our moods and bring about happy or sad memories. I have certain playlists on my phone that I listen to depending on what mood I want to be in or what mood I am in already. I’m the worst for playing sad songs  when I’m in a depressed mood. Bring on tears and make myself even more depressed. This exercise asks you to nip that in the bud the second you notice it and change the tune!!

Pay attention to the small sounds that are easily missed like the birds or the neighbours cutting their grass. This is all part of being mindful. Building our awareness to everything in the world, step by step. 

WHAT DO WE DO WITH NOISE THAT IS DRIVING US MAD?

When the sounds you hear are unbearable and you find it hard to tune in to them, what do you do then? The instruction remains the same. Acknowledge the story the sound creates, the emotions it brings about, the thoughts that arise, how it manifests throughout the body. Use your breath here to anchor yourself when your thoughts and story tries to bring you away. The ‘breathing through your feet on the floor’ exercise works perfectly here! Always bring yourself back to your breath and any felt sensations throughout the body. The noise you are hearing is not personal. It is just a collection of notes and vibrations passing through the ear. 

By resisting the negative noise we create negative reactions which become automated responses. With this exercise we want to simply explore a different way of relating to a noise. Build awareness. Let go of resisting the noise and instead embrace it and move towards it. 

Self awareness is key! 
J X 

滕塔翠 Year of Living Mindfully: Week 8 滕塔

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…….

SEVEN……..ELEVEN 

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!

MINDFUL MOVEMENT

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:


J X
 

墜ear of Living Mindfully: Week 7

EXPLORING FELT SENSATIONS

Being aware of sensations in our body is a major part of mindfulness yet we all seem to be very disconnected from our bodies. This exercise taught me how to simply be curious of any felt sensations without any intention or consequence.

When we feel different emotions we feel different sensations throughout out body. Sensations we feel when we are angry are different to those we feel when we are content and happy. Often we don’t have words to describe these sensations. The book provided some suggestions of sensations in a word cloud which I have attached below.When we experience these feelings and sensations we may have a sense of judgement associated with them. For example when feeling sad you may experience sensations of numbness, confinement, heaviness. This experience may be associated with a judgement of ‘You are weak for feeling sad’. Be aware of the judgement or thought associated with these feelings and sensations.

The main aim of this exercise is to recognise sensations in the body but to also be aware that these sensations are linked to our thoughts and emotions too. This will help build your self awareness. We may be aware of our thoughts, emotions or sensations at first. Whatever triggers your awareness, zone in on that. Remain curious but do not analyse the  experience. Take a step back and observe. Unpack the experience and break it down. Be aware and acknowledge that each experience is made up of many different sensations, thoughts and emotions. This will help you from getting caught up in what is going on.

This is quite hard to do especially in feelings of great pain and anger but the main aim of mindfulness practice is to not analyse the experience but just be aware of it and live in that moment and experience. Practice will enable you to bring this into an automated response.

The book also provided a simple exercise to help guide you:

J X 

A Year of Living Mindfully: Week 4

SAVOURING OUR EXPERIENCE

Attention informs our experience and helps us notice exactly what is going on. Our experiences become more vivid as we pay attention to them.

 This exercise teaches us how to prepare and eat food mindfully. This is definitely something I needed help with. I get food amnesia. My plate is empty and I don’t even remember eating it half the time. As for what it tastes like? Its never in my mouth long enough to even know.

Preparing your food

 Ok, so I was a bit reluctant with this bit. ‘Explore the process of food preparation with all of your senses’. Ommmm I am cutting a pepper. It wants you to pay attention to the knife chopping into the vegetable using all your senses. Smell the aromas of the vegetable. The sound of the pan sizzling waiting for the pepper to be cut. The smell of the oil burning. I suppose we all know this is happening when we prepare food but we don’t acknowledge it unless we hear the pot over boil or the food burning on the pan. This bit bored me to be honest. I felt like an insane hippy. Maybe others will enjoy this step.

Eating Mindfully

Explore eating in silence. No phone, no laptop, no t.v, no radio. Engage all your senses on that one action.

Look around the room and notice any sounds or smells. I heard birds and the next door neighbour slamming their door. Lovely.

How do you feel before you eat? I felt hungry. I felt excited to eat.

How do you feel after you eat? I felt full. I felt sad it was all gone.

How this experience differ from my usual eating regime? I felt calmer. I was aware of what I was eating and the pace of which I ate it.

How did they food you ate effect your mood later on? I ate a light breakfast so I felt energised and happier (I’m always happy after Iv eaten).

 How our food is presented to us makes us pay more or less attention to it. Colours, textures, smells. Colourful plates allow us to pay more attention to it. A white plate of mash potatoes is not going to trigger any senses and you probably wont pay much attention to it either. By making our plates more colourful and appetising we encourage healthier eating. How we feel after certain food informs us of our future food choices.

 Start off with drinking your morning cup of tea mindfully. Cuddle your cup. Feel the hot steam rise towards your face.Feel the warmth of the mug. Taste it. Smell it. Feel it in your mouth. Be in the moment. No distractions. Explore how your mind wanders to the past or future. acknowledge your thoughts. Bring it back to the present moment. Reflect on how you feel afterwards. Try start off by doing this for 5 minutes each day. You deserve to have at least 5 minutes when you don’t worry or stress about work or home life.

J x