Mindfulness Training Support is a resource for people who want to begin cultivating mindful awareness. Regular practice is the best way to develop an ongoing capacity for mindfulness. Set aside a little time to read the materials, do the exercises and practice the meditations using the recordings and follow along as best you can. Cultivating mindfulness is a process. And a worthwhile investment.
Mindfulness of the Body
The Body scan meditation is a systematic way of gradually getting in touch with the way your body feels to you in a given moment. It is generally done lying down, but may be just as effective done sitting up. While it may produce a state of relaxation, this is not the only benefit of the Body Scan and so it is best not to approach it with effort. In other words, don’t try too hard to relax, keep an open mind and see what happens. You’ll notice right away that unlike other relaxation exercises, there is no instruction to “relax your legs” or any other body part. The instruction is simply to see what sensations, if any, are currently present in your legs, and note them to yourself. This can include – no sensation.
By developing this kind of awareness of and accuracy about our own body, we will gradually be able to separate thoughts about our body (many times very inaccurate, like I am fat, out of shape, this pain is killing me…) from the actual experience of being in our body, simple sensations with out judgments or conclusions . The body scan is a time to experience what it feels like to just be in your own skin, to feel your aliveness with out any doing component . As Jon Kabat-Zinn says “It’s very hard to heal a body that you are not in.”
Research has shown that practicing the body scan regularly over a period of at least 8 weeks, reduces stress hormones, and therefore reduces blood pressure, improves sleep, helps the immune system and in general helps get us into a state of Balance.
When you begin to do it, the first thing that you may notice is the chatter of your mind. It doesn’t want to focus on the knees or fingers, it wants to think about all the other things you could or should be doing. The instruction is to simply notice that your mind has wandered off, and to gently bring it back to the body part we are on. By doing this over and over we develop better concentration and a stronger ability to stay in the present moment. Also by practicing simply feeling – without trying to change anything, we develop an ability to accept things as they are right now. Another thing that may arise during the body scan is pain, physical and or emotional. Usually our first impulse with pain is to move away from it as quickly as possible. Our approach here is different, we actually open to the sensations and explore them, “What does this thing I call pain actually feel like? Does it change or move as I observe it? This is a very brave thing to do, but it has great benefits. Try it and see what you find.
Another important benefit of the Body Scan and of being more in touch with the way our bodies feel is, there is vital information in our body. It will tell us when we are stressed so we can take care of ourselves; it will tell us when someone or something doesn’t feel right – if we will listen, so we can set good boundaries. Think about expressions like “Follow your heart.” Or “I had a gut feeling about it.” It can help greatly to listen to the language of the body and its feelings. We can use it as guide to live wisely and healthily.
Mindfulness of the body is an essential part of mindfulness training. Please Continue in Week-2 by doing the Body Scan meditation (Track 5) once each day.
If you want to add to this, you may try the 10 minute sitting Awareness of Breath Meditation.
The following audio tracks are from a CD of short guided meditations that are very helpful in supporting your cultivation of mindfulness practice.
Guided Mindfulness Meditation Recordings
When practicing with any of the meditations, please remember that there is no “special state” to achieve. And mind wandering and being impatient or distracted are totally normal experiences while doing these practices. When we notice this is happening we acknowledge the distraction and just return our attention to following the meditation recording without any Judgement – if possible. The judging is also natural It’s all part of the process. Just notice whatever is arising and return your attention to your chosen point of awareness when you notice your focus has wandered.
Working with Perception:
Perception is Nine tenths of the Law
Please take a few minutes to look at this picture. Do you see any recognizable image? Do you see more than one image? If so, how many different images are present for you?
Observe your thoughts and perceptions as you look at this image. When you are finished, consider and record anything you may have occurred to you about the “Role of Perception” plays out in your experiences of daily life. See if you can catch specific instances where “Perception” plays an important part in how you frame your experience.
Mindfulness of Everyday Activities
Pay intentional attention to small regular tasks around home and work. Making tea or coffee, cleaning, showering, cooking, eating without multi tasking or viewing / reading print or electronic media, interactions with others whether online or in person. Pick a few areas where you want to really focus your intentional attention. This helps us build more mindful habits. Let go of any judgement anytime you notice the attention has wandered. It’s not a contest!