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 is a way of paying attention on a moment to moment basis to what is happening within us and around us – in a non judgmental way. So why should we do this?
Staying informed You probably try to stay informed of the latest news developments. Checking conditions of the traffic and weather before traveling is natural. You probably have spam filters on your email. A firewall and anti virus software on your computer. Hopefully you install regular up-dates to keep the Apps current on all of your devices. And you pay attention to your credit card and bank statements to make sure things are accurate. So why wouldn’t you pay the same kind of attention to what’s going on with all the ways that life and how we interact and experience the world impacts you in your mind and body?
Research shows that there is a very strong correlation between mental and physiological states. We feel what we think and we think what we feel. Experiment for yourself by imagining a situation and then tuning in to see what it feels like. Chances are if it’s a good imaginary scenario you will feel good. If it’s a negative scenario you feel bad. When we experience “Stress” we are actually experiencing our body’s natural defense mechanism the “Fight of Flight” response. Great if you are in real physical danger, you can respond with great energy and strength. Bad if you are not in danger, just over loaded with to do lists, deadlines, stuck in traffic, or creating worst case scenarios in your imagination. Our appraisal of what’s happening has real world consequences for our brain and body chemistry and our overall experience of any given situation. We use Mindfulness to be in tune with, and objectively aware of all the factors that contribute to our experience so we can discern what’s really happening.
Mindfulness is a skill of awareness which can be cultivated through regular use of simple mindfulness meditations and exercises. Mindfulness has been shown through extensive studies to help with emotional regulation and our capacity to be more non judgmentally aware. So we are more resilient, less easily thrown out of balance, and have the ability to bounce back more rapidly when we re-appraise our situation objectively. Mindfulness is a skill. It takes some time to develop. But the rewards in terms of focus, awareness, stress reduction, executive function and quality of life experience are well worth the investment. Try working regularly with the short exercises and see what happens.
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 when you notice your focus has wandered.
Audio Tracks: Research has shown that 30 minutes of mindfulness meditation daily over 8 weeks can produce positive measurable changes in the brain. This page has both longer and shorter versions of a couple of meditations we will be working with. The shorter versions are available at the bottom of the page. Use whichever works for your available time.
Home Practice Meditations:
Body Scan Meditation: The Body Scan meditation is the first main meditation exercise we work with in our mindfulness training. This meditation can be done in a seated or lying down position. Regardless of what comes up in this meditation, mind wandering, boredom, irritation, pleasant feelings or discomfort, see if you can be aware of what you are experiencing in a non judgemental way . There is no right or proper way to experience what you are experiencing.
Working with challenges:
The Nine Dots Exercise
Please take some time to complete the following puzzle.
To begin, draw a copy of the nine evenly spaced dots on a piece of paper.
Next, without lifting the pen or pencil off the paper, connect all nine dots using only four straight lines.
Observe your thoughts, sensations and emotions as you work to solve the puzzle. When you are finished, consider and record anything you may have learned during the exercise.
The word “yoga” means “yoke” in Sanskrit, and implies a harnessing together and a unifying of body and mind. Yoga is a form of meditation, and when done regularly, is an excellent mind/body discipline for people who wish to move towards greater levels of health. Hatha yoga consists of postures done mindfully and with awareness of breathing. They are easily learned and have dramatic effects if practiced regularly. The ones we are doing are extremely gentle. Regular practice will increase your musculoskeletal flexibility, strength, and balance, as well as help you to enter states of deep relaxation and awareness. Many people experience a greater serenity about life in general, improved circulation, a firmer, trimmer figure, and less illness as a result.
In practicing yoga, you are advised to practice in the same way that you do when meditating, namely maintaining moment to moment awareness, and not striving to get somewhere, just allowing yourself to be as you are, and letting go of any judging of yourself. Move slowly and consciously. Mindful yoga involves exploring your limits but not pushing beyond them. Instead, you play with dwelling at the boundary and breath. This requires honoring your body and the messages it gives you about when to stop and when to avoid doing a posture because of your particular condition.
Mindfulness Meditation and Awareness
Awareness is not the same as thought. It lies beyond thinking although it makes use of thinking, honoring its value and its power. Awareness is more like a vessel which can hold and contain our thinking, helping us to see and know our thoughts as thoughts rather than getting caught up in them as reality.
The thinking mind can at times be severely fragmented. In fact it almost always is. This is the nature of thought. Awareness is the pot which cradles all the fragments, just as the soup holds all the chopped up carrots, peas, onions, etc. and allows them to cook into one whole, the soup itself. Awareness itself does the cooking as long as it is sustained. You just let the fragments stir while you hold them in awareness. Whatever comes up in the mind or body goes into the pot, becomes part of the soup. – Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD
Awareness of Breath Mindfulness Meditation – 45 Minute Audio Track:
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!
SHORTER AUDIO TRACKS:
The following audio tracks are from a CD of short guided meditations that are very helpful in supporting your cultivation of mindfulness practice.
Track 1 is an introduction to sitting meditation instructions and it may be helpful to listen to this track a few times until you become familiar with the instructions. After that you can just go directly to the sitting meditations on track 2, – 10 minute sitting meditation. If you want to do a longer meditation just allow the track to continue into track 3. Track 2 & 3 are designed to work together to create a 30 minute guided meditation. Alternatively you can play track 3 on it’s own. Track 4 is and introduction to the Body Scan meditation: Mindfulness of the body is an essential component of developing mindfulness practice. This meditation is a great tool to help you develop a more non judgemental awareness of bodily sensations, thoughts and emotions. Which in turn can help reduce stress. Once you are familiar with the guidelines on track 4 you can go straight to working with track 5 – The Body Scan meditation.