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Introduction

Welcome to my Mindfulness Meditation Blog

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Hi there,

I have been a practising complementary therapist for 14 years now (it doesn’t seem that long!). What has become obvious during my years of practice is that you can’t separate the body and mind. They are an integrated whole, and to maintain your health you must take care of both.

The term ‘mindfulness’ has now entered everyday language and conversation, with a good deal of positive coverage in the press lately. I have started this blog to help people understand what is meant by the term ‘mindfulness’, what are its origins, and what is meant by mindfulness meditation.

My future blogs will aim to clarify what mindfulness meditation involves, how it can help you engage with and enjoy your life more, regardless of life’s inevitable ups and downs, update you with the latest research, and give you handy self-help tips and information.

I hope you enjoy my blogs, and that they lead you to join an ever increasing number who have discovered the benefits of mindfulness meditation for themselves.

Warm wishes,

Sally Tomkins

Head to Toe Healing

Walking Meditation

Sometimes, we feel so agitated or restless that we find it virtually impossible to settle into a still meditation. This is where a moving meditation can help, and the easiest form this takes is walking.

All you do in a walking meditation is walk and focus on the sensation of walking. You are not trying to get anywhere, so you walk in circles or up and down a line. Ideally this should be somewhere you will not be disturbed; for instance a private room, hall, yard or garden. Walking is generally a pleasant and relaxing experience for both mind and body it is an excellent way to release stress or restless energy.

Begin by focusing on your legs, feet or your whole body. It isn’t the walking speed that matters so much as focusing fully on the activity. Some people need to walk slowly to focus inwards, some find this difficult as they lose their balance and start to wobble.  Find the pace that feels relaxed and right to you.

If your mind wanders from the focus, notice where it has gone, then without self judgement bring it back to the walking.

Begin by standing straight, head up with a relaxed neck and shoulders, feet about shoulder width apart, to form a stable, firm base.

Become aware of your balance, how your body shifts slightly back and forth, from side to side. Normally this happens automatically. Become aware of these minor movements.

Then take your awareness to the soles of your feet, roll gently back and forth to emphasise the sensation of your feet against the ground.

Focus on a point in front of you.

Rolling forward, push off with your right foot and s-l-o-w-l-y take a step.

For a couple of seconds, feel how your leg moves through the air. Then the sensation of your heel touching the ground.

Now push off with your left leg. Feel how your right leg muscles are balancing your body as your left leg travels through the air and touches the ground.

Take five slow, fluid steps like this, then stop and turn around. Now walk back to your starting point, close to normal speed this time. This time you may find that you relied more on sight and less on feeling your balance and your senses. By slowing down the pace, we tend to become aware of other, lesser-used senses.

Now continue to walk back and forth, or in a circular direction, at an easy, flowing pace.

Allow your gaze to relax so you are aware of your peripheral vision. Do not look around or focus on anything in particular. Sink your breath into your belly and ‘feel the ground’.

Simply observe any sensations or feelings. Whenever you become aware of any thoughts or sensations, remain mindful and detached and let the sensations go. When a new thought or sensation comes, let that one go. Allow the perpetual, impermanent cycle of thoughts and feelings to come and go, just as the changing sensations in your body come and go as you walk.

 

 

Dealing with Painful Memories/Thoughts

Often when we desperately in need of the mental and emotional break meditation can provide, we may find it almost impossible to practice. When dealing with painful memories from the past, or distressing thoughts, often due to ‘over thinking’ a situation, we get stuck in a destructive mental ‘loop’, making the situation we find ourselves in appear far worse then it actually is.

The following are a few tips to help you meditate through this.

  • In this situation, regard your thoughts as just thoughts, and don’t react to their content and emotional charge.
  • Remember, we don’t do anything about anxious feelings except to become aware of them and desist from judging them and condemning ourselves.
  • In this way, cultivating moment-to-moment non-judgemental awareness systematically teaches your mind to develop calmness and equanimity within or beneath any anxious feelings that might be present.
  • As you experience even brief moments of comfort, relaxation and clarity, you may notice during formal meditation and at other times that you do not feel anxious all the time. You discover that it is impermanent, a temporary mental state, just like boredom or happiness.
  •  If you find you cannot switch off anxiety, and then be mindful of that anxiety. Turn your attention to what your body is feeling, what effects that anxiety or mental anguish is having on your body. Mentally note all sensations in an explorative, accepting and kind way.

Practical Obstacles to Practice

Continuing on the them of ‘Obstacles to Practice’, here are some tips for if you tend to fall asleep during your practice.

If you have difficultly staying awake then try keeping your eyes open and looking down the bridge of your nose or fixed on a point in front of you.
Sometimes if you move onto your side if lying down you are less prone to falling asleep.

Make an intention “I am going to meditate, I’m not going to fall asleep”.
Make time for your practice when you are not going to be tired, find the best time for you and stick to it. Usually getting up a bit earlier in the morning, when your mind is fresh and relatively uncluttered, can work well. We can be more prone to make excuses as to why we can’t fit our meditation in as the day progresses.

If you do fall asleep, allow tiredness to take over, sleep, then wake up and go back to your meditation. Don’t reproach yourself for falling asleep.
Sometimes we just need the rest! Keeping the room slightly cooler is also helpful.

After eating our bodies will naturally divert energy to our digestive system, and we are more prone to tiredness. So practice before eating.

Starting with some gentle exercise will not only wake our bodies up but also make us less prone to the distraction of stiffness and discomfort during our meditation session.

Dealing with ‘Background Chatter’

Dealing with background chatter is probably the most difficult aspect of any kind of meditation practice. This is especially true if you are feeling distressed for any reason.

When this happens, realise your mind has wandered, note what you were thinking when your mind wandered, then gently, without self-judgement or criticism, bring your mind back to the focus of your meditation. If you are practising a guided meditation, just continue from where the CD or tutor has got to.

When you loose concentration, just persevere. When you lose your concentration and find yourself being led by background mental chatter, just go back to 1 if counting the breath, resume focussing on the object of your meditation or tune back in to your guided meditation. DO NOT CHIDE OR JUDGE YOURSELF FOR THIS. We are hard wired to think backwards and forwards, and it takes practice and perseverance to stay in the present for any time.

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

What is meant by Mindfulness Meditation?

Well first, let’s break this down. There is a lot of misconception over the term ‘Meditation’.

When I first ask my clients what they understand by the term they often say something along the lines of ’emptying the mind’, or ‘relaxation’. It is actually impossible to empty the mind – at least whilst you are alive and conscious. Human beings are hard wired to either dwell on past events or worry about the future, and often try to predict what will happen by recalling the outcome of similar events that occurred in the past. And this can be useful in certain situations; for instance recalling that when you touched fire it burnt you and hurt, or avoiding a costly scam when you have been tricked in the past. But there are many situations where this is not useful, or may develop into irrational anxiety in the present.

When you meditate, you don’t empty the mind, but choose one thing that you will focus your attention on, and keep it there. This can be done lying down, seated, standing, or whilst walking. The posture is irrelevant, but the important thing is that the mind is totally focussed on that one thing. It can be a ‘structured’ meditation, ie a body scan, your breath, a picture, or chanting. Or it can be an ‘unstructured’ meditation, with a more open, investigative approach, ie asking a question such as ‘who am I?’.

Mindfulness is concentrating on what you are doing whilst you are doing it, in other words, being ‘in the present’. It sounds easy, but this is usually quite a challenge. Our minds have a natural tendency to wander. An example of this is driving to a well-travelled destination and on arrival not being able to recall any detail of the journey.

Combining the two elements, Mindfulness Meditation is training the mind with concentration, to stay where we want to put it. When our mind does wander, we recognise this and gently, without self-criticism, bring it back to the focus of our meditation. The more we practice this, the more we can stay in the present moment, and not constantly replay what happened in the past or live in fear of may happen in the future. We start to become actually present in our own lives, and therefore can live life more fully and enjoyably.