Mindful Awareness

Mindfulness is about being aware of what is going on for you, your thoughts, your emotions and physical feelings at this present moment, just as they are. So you take a break from thoughts and feelings of regret for the past or the anxious or depressed thoughts and feelings for the future and from judging yourself too.

By doing this you are not exhausting yourself in fighting yourself to block your thoughts or distract yourself from your emotions or the physical sensations that come from these. Rather, you become aware of them. We would normally try the opposite to this, struggling with ourselves and end up feeling no better. We think and think, going round in circles, trying to fix things or trying to block our thoughts, often feeling entangled by emotions and we fear becoming out of control - why can't I sleep or stop thinking about it over and over again!

Let us start. You are made up of your thoughts, but you are more that your thoughts, you are also your emotions, and you are more than your emotions, you are your physical feelings too. And yet you know you are more than all these, you are your awareness of all of them, your ability to stand back from them and become aware of them. Through Mindfulness, you become aware, mindful of each of them and by doing so, you empower yourself and stop becoming entangled in your thoughts and feelings.

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The Three Step Meditation

This lasts about three minutes. Do it as best you can, not judging yourself as having done it right or wrong. This is about what is going on for you at this moment, now when you cannot get that concern out of your head or in the night and you cannot sleep or just when you want a break from things spinning round in your mind.

  • Step 1 - What are your thoughts at this moment? Start the meditation by recognising your thoughts. What is actually going through your mind as you do this step? Your thoughts may not be pleasant thoughts or ones you want but notice what are they. Now you have recognised them, label them as "Just thoughts, thinking, thinking". You now acknowledge them just as the electrical and chemical activity in your brain that they are and not absolute reality and all of you. You are more than your thoughts, you are your emotions and physical feelings too.

    What are your emotions and where do you feel them? Become aware of them, even if you cannot give them a name. Do you feel them in your stomach or your chest or in the muscles in your face? Be curious and feel them just as they are, no fighting or avoiding or blocking just being really curious. What is the feeling, even if you cannot give it a precise name, what shape is the feeling? How large is it? Does it have a texture?

    Now when you are ready, become aware of your other physical feelings. Where are you feeling tense and where relaxed? Pause and consider these for a moment, you cannot get this step wrong, it is just fine the way you did it, so if it takes longer or your mind drifted off...that is okay too.

    Maintain this awareness for a minute or so.

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  • Step 2 - Become aware of your breathing Now become aware of your breathing. You can notice it in your nose as the stream of cool air you are breathing in and the warmer air flowing out. You can feel it as the sensation in your chest as it rises and falls or you can feel it in your lower abdomen as your skin tightens as you breathe in and loosens as you breathe out. Feel the breath all the way in and all the way out and notice the spaces between breaths. You are not trying to breathe differently but if you notice you are, well that's okay too.

    It is natural for your mind to drift off into thoughts, so do not get frustrated or upset or think you have failed. Do not judge yourself, just acknowledge you were thinking and label it "Just thoughts, thinking, thinking" and come back to being aware of your breathing. It doesn't matter how many times your mind wanders off, each time just come back to awareness of your breathing. Maintain this awareness for about a minute too.

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  • Step 3 - Move to wider awareness This step is moving your awareness, attention, from your breathing to your whole body, from your toes and fingers up to the top of your head on your skin and inside you too. This is not about changing things, it is about noticing them just as they are at this moment. Your mind may wander off into thoughts and that is okay, so just bring it back to noticing the feelings in the whole of your body, top to toe labelling the thoughts as "just thoughts" and come back to being aware of the actual physical sensations in your body as best you can and being curious about them. Maintain this awareness for about a minute too.

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  • What is the Idea Behind This?
    We all unconsciously train ourselves to react to threats in the future or concerns from the past which leave us anxious. We can become trapped in repetitive thoughts and patterns of thinking and with these come the same old ways of feeling and way of reacting. Mindfulness, awareness of the present disrupts and eventually breaks these patterns. You need to practice mindfulness meditation for it to gain effectiveness. You discover that Mindful Meditation gradually takes you away from the usual anxious and depressed thoughts.

    It took you time and effort to learn your current way of reacting. It will take time and practice to get a new habit. Do not judge yourself for getting it wrong, just continue doing it, maybe the above exercise, each day at a regular time and whenever you need it.

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    A Meditation For When Trouble Strikes You
    Here is a short exercise for when you next feel anxious or down. Concentrate on the physical sensation you are experiencing. Describe it to yourself, where you are feeling it, what it feels like, its shape, size, texture whatever, really feel it. Now try to imagine, as you breathe in, that you are breathing into the part (or parts) of your body you feel the sensation in. Breathe in through your nose, the breath then flowing into the part you experience the sensation. Then breathe out of that part of your body and out through your nose. Do this and as your mind drifts into thoughts, just return to concentrating on your breathing. Do it for a minute or so. Try it out as often as you like.

    A Quick Meditation For You
    Imagine you are in a tricky situation, a job interview maybe or a meeting with your boss or or you are feeling a bit tense. Just feel a breath becoming aware of your abdomen swelling as you notice the breath, following it all the way in and the pause before you breathe out, following it all the way out. Notice the skin of your abdomen contracting. Maybe you can do a few breaths or only manage one, see how this goes. To feel the benefit, develop the habit so it becomes instinctive and natural for you. Do it as best you can, being kind to yourself and non judgemental.

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    Helping it Work
    The more you do the meditations in good times and bad, the more Mindfulness becomes a natural reaction, replacing the previous unconsciously acquired anxious and depressed thoughts and physical consequences. You may come to look forward to doing the meditations.