There is a growing body of research for the practice of mindfulness and the use of meditation to enhance overall well-being and health. You have probably heard of mindfulness, but how much do we really understand or practice this day to day?
Mindfulness is the action of paying attention to what is happening in the present moment without overly reacting, analyzing, or judging. Most of our distress lives in this "past or future thinking". When we slow down enough to recognize the present moment, there is a calming effect. We can recognize in the present moment that we are safe; that we are enough; and, that we have time to make the next right action.
John Kabot-Zinn is an author and leading educator on mindfulness in American mainstream. He developed the program Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and lectures on mindfulness around the country. In a recent lecture I watched, Kabot-Zinn showed the calligraphy for the word mindfulness (shown here on the blog). He points out the character is composed of two ideograms. The top symbol means “presence” and the bottom symbol means “heart”. So, he points out that a true understanding of mindfulness is that it is “presence of heart”. I love this definition! We are practicing mindfulness to have a presence of our heart. When we are mindful, we are able to distance ourselves from the running narrative in our head of past and future worries. When we are mindful, we are able to detach from judgements or attachment to outcomes. When we are mindful, we are aligned with the energy of the heart.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness including mindful eating, mindful walking – basically doing any daily task with a “presence of heart” and an intention to connect the present moment. Meditation is the formal practice of just paying attention in a systematic way, which can increase our ability to maintain mindfulness in everyday life. Meditation can as simple as sitting still for a couple minutes and focusing on the sensation of your breath.
An easy way to get comfortable and acquainted with meditation is through the use of apps. Below I have included a list by age of some of my favorite meditation apps and programs. There are many other options out there, so you can also do some exploring for yourself. You are never too young or old to get started with meditation. So, grab your phone, tablet, or computer and try one of these out today!
I made a post last week about “Chakra Rights” and hosted a “Chakra Balancing Flow” in early January. I thought a blog post for those people not as familiar with the chakras may be helpful.
First, the chakras are a system of psychological energy centers that run from the bottom of the spine to the crown of the head. Understanding these centers brings a deeper understanding of how our mind and body are connected. Each chakra has corresponding areas of the body that it influences, and maps physiologically very well in the body with the autonomic nervous system (part of the nervous system that controls non-conscious bodily functions like breathing, heartbeat, and digestion). We also gain insight and influence to our chakra system by having a conscious awareness about the way we interact with the world around us – the way we see ourselves and others in the world; the way we communicate; the quality and patterns of our relationships; our motivation and passion for challenges; our ability to create; and, our feelings of safety and connection. There is a wealth of knowledge and exploration that can go into each chakra, but today I wanted to share the chakras with you by speaking to the “Chakra Rights”.
Yogi Bhajan was a yogi and spiritual teacher who brought Kundalini yoga to the west. He is quoted with saying, “I am sharing these teachings to create a science of the Total Self…It is the birthright of every human being to be healthy, happy, and holy.” I love this quote, because it really speaks to the fact that we are not broken or “messed up”. We are created and wired to be happy and healthy – we are whole. It is with life experiences, unhelpful thought patterns, and patterns of unhealthy behavior that brings a feeling of disconnection, illness, and unhappiness. Each chakra offers a map to explore patterns and experiences that take us farther away from our birthright to be “happy and healthy”.
Here they are briefly:
1. Root – To Be Here and To Have
This information is just dipping your toe into the water of the chakra system. If you are interested in learning more immediately, there are many books that can be of help. Maybe try out Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith. I think just contemplating the different chakras and our right to be “healthy, happy, and holy” is a great place to start. If we can embrace this as a truth, we can start to separate ourselves from the thoughts or external experiences that falsely send the message of being broken or wrong. Then with compassion and understanding we can make decisions in our own behaviors that bring us balance.
The Therapist Blog
Musings from the other side of the couch