Recently I was able to attend a Mindfulness Training for Professionals which focused on transforming one’s life, work, and those whom one serves. The professor, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Certified Hypnotherapist and head instructor for Karatedo Doshinkan, offered us many ways of re-awakening to the moment through an array of practices found in different cultures and religions around the world. Those of us who registered and attend the two day seminar were from various cultural and social backgrounds, worked with different populations of both children and adults, in a variety of settings (school teachers, social workers, private practitioners), and had different experiences and exposure to mindfulness practices. Although we were different people, who came to the training for different reasons, we were able to find a technique or strategy which resonated with our personalities and needs in the moment.
This reminded me, no matter where we came from or who we perceive ourselves to be, we all share special characteristics which make us human. If we are able to tap into one of those characteristics, breathing or feeling bodily sensations, we can tap into the oneness which is in us all, that we are all here together with the same afflictions, difficulties, and needs.
Here I share some of the insight and strategies I received throughout the training. This is part one of a two part series. If you have another practice or strategy, please share it with everyone at the bottom of the post.
Mindful Awareness is a consciousness, recognition, or a realization that something is happening. Thich Nhat Hanh explains there are many types of mindfulness practices: mindfulness of eating, mindfulness of anger, mindfulness of breath. Using these definitions, one can imagine bringing a sense of mindfulness to each and every activity. As one may make their daily coffee, smelling first the grounds, noticing the stream as it brews, looking at the color, and taking a sip, one notices the different flavor combinations as it hits the tongue and roles down the throat.
Bringing this sense of mindfulness into one’s life has many benefits. Being present, not lost in thought, one can truly experience the life going on in this moment. Being completely immersed in the moment means not grasping for a different experience in the future. For example, one might be at lunch with friends and while eating they begin to discuss plans for the afternoon, different hikes, places to get coffee, and possibilities for dinner. While planning for the future, they miss out on the present, leading them to want more to eat than necessary, because they weren’t tasting each bite of food. This could be said for any activity: consumerism, conversations and connecting with others, eating. By practicing mindfulness the mind can come back into a present awareness more quickly and easily.
What are we doing while we’re practicing mindfulness? We aren’t doing anything at all. In fact, we are practicing non-doing, and instead simply being.
The concept of ‘doing’ versus ‘being’ is a struggle for many Americans because the way our society and social norms are constructed. By asking a simple question, “What did you do today?” one can quickly identify by which values they will be judged and praised. Two chapters from the Tao Te Ching come to mind.
Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
We join the spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.
We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.
The concept of doing is only one aspect of being. By living life only recognizing, or having an awareness of, doing one misses out on the precious moments of being. To fully tap into being one must practice coming back into awareness. One way of anchoring oneself in the present is using the three Rs strategy.
Rest in the breath
Return to the breath
Another mindfulness anchoring practice for re-focusing and awaking to this moment is belly breathing. This allows one to connect with the body, sensing the rise and fall of the abdomen. If one is trying this practice for the first time (or 20th), lying on the back is recommended.
During a belly breathing practice there are several changes happening in the body. The breathing is slowed, activating the parasympathetic nervous system which allows for restoring and healing the body. Because our brains and our guts are connected through the Vagus Nerve, which has 90% afferent nerves (meaning body to brain) and 10% efferent nerves (brain to body), by focusing on the belly and calming the body, the gut is able to send signals to the brain, allowing for a whole body physiological response allowing restoration and healing to occur. 90% of serotonin (happiness hormone) is also held in the gut. By regulating the breath while connecting to the belly, the Vagus nerve can more clearly send signals to the brain when supplies are low.
Using these two methods of re-awakening to the moment may increase one’s happiness and ease. Try these two over the next few days and notice what changes occur.
What’s coming in part two? Glad you asked!
Trauma, PTSD and mindfulness along with mindfulness practices for children and what role mindfulness can play in your relationships at home, work, and with your children.