Earlier this month I joined a meditation group for a 9-week practice. This is my first intentional foray into meditation as a mindfulness practice. I’ve been curious about meditation since I was a teenager when my uncle and aunt, who lived with us for awhile, meditated daily. My hope is that with mindfulness I might truly impact my ability to manage stress and reduce my hypertension to the point that I can stop taking medication.
While I’ve not practiced meditation, I have been experimenting with various forms of mindfulness for many years now, without really knowing it or having given it that label.
To me mindfulness is slowing the mind down enough to tune into my inner experience and to connect with my heart energy. This usually means stepping away from activities that require my mental attention, like work.
For example, I’ve been running since I was 13 and many times I’ve entered ‘the zone’ where I am disconnected from the busy-ness of my mind and tuned into a deeper experience of myself and life. This is probably the most significant habit that has enabled me to be in touch with my emotional experience of life from an early age.
I think of mindful practices as things that support me in letting go and getting out of my mind so that I can show up more fully when I need to engage my mind….things that enable me to feel so that I have a richer experience of thinking. I find that to practice mindfulness requires that I be intentional about and committed to creating ‘ME time’, time where I am still and focus on reflecting or focusing on what’s going on or important to me. Mindfulness might take the form of a short #mindfulminute or be a block of dedicated time as long as 15 or 30 minutes or even an hour, or maybe even some sort of day retreat. Some of the ways I ‘practice’ during these times include:
- Reading inspirational books. I started this habit thanks to my friend Celeste when back in November of 2007 she sent me a copy of Meditations from the Mat. Other books that I’ve found awaken my heart include Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, as well as the Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo.
- Journaling and free-form writing. This helps me define what I am feeling and understand my emotional experience of the world. In this time, I consistently realize the power of a single word to create energetic shifts. For me, words have led to phrases to poems – and they often serve to lift me from a place of darkness to a place of greater light. (I’ve captured the essence of many journaling sessions in my Mostly My Heart Sings and Leading with Intention blogs.)
- Practicing yoga. In the weekly class I attend with Theresa in Iowa City, we end with a 15 minute a guided practice in shavasana that results in a powerful decompression and renewed sense of life.
- Making time to be with friends. My friends who are coaches – like Blair, Maureen, Stacy, Christina, Jennifer P, Therese, Diana – are especially valuable in this way as they are skilled at holding a space for going beyond the transactional to a special place of deep connection that wakes me up and enlivens me.
- Spending ‘down time’ with my husband. This happens mostly when we are walking or sitting together on our deck, where often in silence side-by-side we contemplate life, relish memories we’ve made together, share gratitude for the abundantly delicious life we’ve created for ourselves, or dream about what we want to experience as we move forward into possibility together.
How do you define mindfulness? How do you practice being mindful? What does mindfulness allow in your life?
* I took this photo near Cala Boix, Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain.
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