EY Mindfulness Lesson & Meditation Day 1
Definition of Mindfulness
Self-observation without judgment!
Present Moment Awareness with Full Acceptance
Awareness; Presence, focused attention on what is arising as it arises internally and externally. Inwardly noticing physical, emotional, & energetic sensations within the body. Outwardly noticing external senses, people, circumstances, and environments.
Acceptance; Allowing each moment to arise as it arises with an empty, open mind. Self-observation without judgment, neutral witness, non-reactive presence. Observation while letting go of all judgement and resistance.
The Goal of Mindfulness
To cultivate awareness and perspective on the inner workings of our own consciousness and identity. Making more conscious choices leading to a more conscious life. To ultimately bring us a more peaceful state of mind and higher quality of life. This would include peace, acceptance, contentment and happiness in all our relationships and all areas of our lives.
Benefits of Mindfulness
1. Reduce stress, anxiety, & depression
2. Finding more joy in daily life, Increase quality of life
3. Increased awareness through self-observation and witnessing the mind
4. More attentive to the self, others, and the environment
5. Helps to alleviate pain
6. Assist in improving relationships
7. Breaks destructive habits
8. Sparks Creativity, innovation and playfulness
Creating a space for acceptance & awareness of our own thoughts and emotions allows us to be present to uncomfortable emotions. When we notice our thoughts and emotions from a place of curiosity and compassion rather than judgment and self-criticism we create a greater sense of peace with our self. From this space of acceptance we can better cope with, gain control over, gain a sense of relief from and ultimately let go of difficult emotions like fear, insecurity, anxiety and depression.
Practicing mindful meditation triggers the relaxation response and the release of health building hormones in the body like serotonin. When we quiet the restless mind and calm the nervous system we gain a peaceful and secure body, mind & spirit. Research even suggests that mindfulness helps people to alleviate their inner critic, not take things personally, aligning to our truth, to our own heart wisdom rather than worry about what others think of us. Mindfulness naturally leads to self-acceptance and love for oneself exactly as we are. With self-love and self-acceptance we can more easily face life with an open mind & heart and move forward in life empowered along our journey of ongoing transformation and growth.
If we desire to grow and transform into higher more passionate expressions of ourselves, we will want to look at those ways of being that no longer serve us. We cannot change a behavior or negative thinking pattern until we are aware it exists. Mindfulness awakens awareness and if we are desiring to grow the first thing in transforming to higher more empowered versions of ourselves is to see where our blocks are. Awareness can open up a deeper awareness to our triggers, habits, insecurities, emotional wounds, limited thinking, & disempowered learned behaviors that no longer serve us. Once we can clearly see our blocks and limitations, we are in a position to heal and transform them.
Research on mindfulness shows that higher levels of mindfulness often leads to happier, healthier and more satisfying relationships. A happier, healthier you will benefit all our relationships… with our loved ones, friends, colleague’s, communities and organizations we are a part of. This includes our relationship with our own self through self-awareness. When we develop mindfulness as a lifestyle we become more present to ourself & others, more attentive to our own & others needs, we have more patience and compassion for ourself & others and we control our emotions in a mature, calm and logical fashion.
As we come together in community, practicing mindfulness together, we are able to create innovative and creative solutions to major global issues. Together we can create and implement models for a better world and humanity.
Mindfulness channels our concentration and attention into the present moment. Although mindfulness meditation is the most popular form of practicing mindfulness, it can be integrated into any daily activity such as eating, walking, working, even while engaged in conversation. To live mindfully is to live fully present in the now moment. As we awaken to the objective present moment, we let go of gripping thoughts of the past and future. Therefore, mindfulness allows us the freedom and space to let go of self- judgment and manage intense and challenging emotions so we can experience the joy of being fully alive.
Mindfulness is a choice to be alert, aware and neutral in present moment circumstances in our lives including inner thoughts, emotions, body sensations, what we are doing, what others are doing, where we are and the state of affairs in our external environment. Simply put, when we are mindful, we are fully present to all that is arising in our field of awareness, within the body and without, with non-judgement and non-reactivity.
When we are not mindful our mind becomes distracted away from the present moment and focuses on the past or future, moving into judgment, reactivity, avoidance and defensiveness. When we drift into distraction and away from mindfulness we disconnect from our spiritual and physical selves, we become engaged with obsessive thoughts, often negative thoughts that make us anxious and afraid. The good news is that at any moment we can return to mindfulness, return to present moment peace, witnessing with a neutral mind, full present moment awareness. We become empowered to choose watching what is arising in our minds, emotions, and environment with complete neutrality and peace of mind.
Every human being has the ability to become mindful at anytime of day or night and in any circumstance. There is nothing we need to learn, nothing we need to do, nothing we need to know… it is innate within everyone to return to presence, freely accessible within everyone, it comes down to being a simple choice. We can cultivate our ability to be more mindful in our lives with mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, and stillness practices. Even those who have never meditated can practice mindfulness by simply taking short mini mindful breaks throughout the day to be quiet and bask in stillness by focusing on our breath or other anchor and pausing in silence.
You can say mindfulness is a journey from distraction to presence… we don’t reach mindfulness in thoughts of the past or future, we reach mindfulness when we become deeply connected to the present moment through awareness of the physical body, energy sensations and emotions. We cannot reach full presence until we allow the whole being to witness from a space of full acceptance all that is arising in the present moment. Thoughts rooted in the Past & future are mental disturbances that occur in the head… present moment awareness is a whole being experience of the heart… no aspect of your being is excluded from your alert attention. When you remain addicted to living in your head, feeling as if you need to do something about your thoughts, you disconnect your consciousness from all the other aspects of your being. To bring your attention to where you are now, what you are doing now, how you are feeling now, what you are thinking now, what sensations are moving through your body now, what’s going on in your environment now… you involve the mind, body and soul.
Curiosity, unconditional love and spontaneous joy arise naturally when we let go of judgment and live in present moment acceptance of what is. We see, experience, and respond to life with a gentle peacefulness and contentment… we feel safe in our body and one with all that is.
Mindfulness is all inclusive, people of all belief systems can practice and benefit from the art of mindfulness. You may or may not be on a spiritual path to be mindful, there are no beliefs to follow or adopt, you may keep your present belief systems and you may find your belief systems evolve with practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is simple and mindfulness practices are easy to learn. The most optimal form of mindfulness is to maintain it as a lifestyle. When we bring our loving attentiveness and presence to all we do, say and think, as well as into all our relationships, our lives transform beyond what we can imagine.
Mindful is an evidence-based practice, there have been many studies showing the benefits of mindfulness practice such as greater health and well being, a deeper sense of happiness and contentment in life, and more fulfilling careers and relationships.
History of Mindfulness
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist and Hindu teachings, although a secular practice has evolved through the work and studies of Jon-Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn , a professor at the University of Massachusetts in the 1970’s studied mindfulness under Buddhist teachers such as Philip Kapleau and Thich Nhat Hanh. Buddhism offers a path to enlightenment… mindfulness is considered the first step in the journey of enlightenment. Buddhism has a term called “Sati” which includes being fully present to life, aware and attentive to the self. This term “Sati” comes from an ancient language Pali meaning “Mindfulness.”
Mindfulness has arisen in Western culture primarily due to Jon-Kabat-Zinn who brought mindfulness into mainstream clinical practices. Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program was launched in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts. Kabat-Zinn found that by being present to physical and emotional pain rather than avoiding it, the pain lessened. His work inspired many studies that document MBSR evidence-based programs showing great benefits in physical and mental health. The MBSR model has been adopted in schools, hospitals, prisons, recovery and wellness centers all over the globe. This model has been integrated into Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy among many others.
When we practice mindfulness, we’re practicing the art of creating space for ourselves—space to think, space to breathe, space between ourselves and our reactions.
Preparing for Mindfulness Practice
You don’t need anything special.
There are no special props needed to practice mindfulness, you can practice anywhere, at anytime, in your pj’s or work clothes. You don’t need a special cushion to sit on or fancy meditation room. All you need is some time set aside in your day and a comfortable spot to sit in… whether in nature, at work or in your home. You can meditate in a park, your office, breakroom, bedroom, kitchen, family room or in your back yard.
Thoughts may arise
Often people begin mindfulness practices believing the goal is to have no thoughts at all and if they have thoughts during their practice that they have somehow failed. This is not true. Practice bringing your attention fully to the thoughts and emotions that are arising. Allow every thought that arises to exist without judging it or ascribing any meaning to it. Sit with an alert conscious awareness to that which is arising now.
One way to quickly redirect a wandering mind is to state to yourself “Thinking” then bring your awareness to the breath, a mantra, present moment sensations or other anchor.
Another important concept that can help with a mind that wanders into the past or the future is to create a sense of distance from your thoughts, reminding yourself that you and your thoughts are separate… you are not your thoughts, you don’t own your thoughts, you exist separate from your thoughts. Often we have simply entered into a “thought sphere” or picked up on other’s thoughts or collective community thoughts. Realizing we exist separate from out thoughts, that thoughts are not yours or you, takes away energy from negative thoughts, allows you to not personalize thoughts or feel bad for having particular thoughts so you can simply and quickly let them go and return to mindful presence.
Your mind may stray from the present
We are not sure why the human mind strays from the present, why the mind seeks to be anywhere but here now. However, this is a phenomenon all human beings share, although most human beings are unconscious to the amount of time the mind strays into the past and future and disconnects from the body and present moment. Once we begin mindfulness practice’s we begin to become aware of our lack of present moment awareness, this alone is awareness. While practicing being mindful of the present moment your mind will wander… maybe you will think about your to do list, or an upset that happened in the past, or a worry about something in the future, you will find many thoughts arise. By being aware of this you can be compassionate with yourself and lovingly guide your mind back into the present moment.
The more often and regular you practice mindfulness, the less unconscious you are and the more grounded you become in the here and now.
Judgments may arise
Our intention is to witness the present moment with no judgement, however judgments may arise as we watch our minds. Judgments about our own selves, judgments about others, judgements about almost everything and anything. When judgements arise we immediately enter into love and acceptance and return to timeless presence. We never make ourselves wrong, we respond with loving kindness and gently redirect our attention to our anchor and what is arising in the present moment.
Mindfully witnessing the thoughts, feelings and sensations that arise in the present moment with no judgment allows us to transform our lives through empowered choice. We can powerfully let go of that which no longer serves, let go of judgments of self and others that don’t align with our highest and greatest good. Allow our present moment consciousness to let go of the past and future so we can live our lives fully here and now. This naturally creates space for life, vitality and joy beyond what we can imagine.
Return Again to the Present
When we lose our concentration on our anchor and become aware that thoughts and emotions have returned, no worries… our awareness that we have been unaware is the gift of returning us to awareness. Return again to focusing the attention to our anchor and continue to be fully present to all that is arising. When our mind is focusing our attention on the moment and our anchor we can trust the process. No thought or sensation is wrong or bad nor is it right or good… they are simply what is arising to be felt and noticed and healed through presence.
Mindfulness is truly a practice of ongoingly returning to the present moment, whether through the breath, repeating a mantra, noticing body sensations, or simply being consciously aware of what you are doing and what is arising in the moment. When you recognize that you have entered into the past or the future or any form of thought disturbance it is a sign you have become aware, it is part of the process of becoming more mindful in your life. The moment you recognize[GE1] you have slipped into the unconsciousness of past or future, your awareness allows you the empowered choice to return again to presence.
Don’t set expectations
Mindfulness is simple and occurs naturally when our mind is present. Practicing mindfulness meditation over time will help you gain more and more stillness and peace of mind, however there is no particular experience we are trying to attain. In order to not be disappointed or feel you have done your practice wrong you need to be open and without any expectations for your practice. Please don’t set expectations for any special state, whether flat, with emotional intensity or blissful communion with the Universe. Any of those and more may occur… however the intention is simply to be present to whatever arises now with complete acceptance.
How to Practice Mindfulness
There are several ways to practice mindfulness, we will be discussing three ways today. Ecstatic Yoga mindfulness practices below are aligned with 3-8 of Patanjali’s 8 fold path; Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhayana, Samadhi.
AM & PM Mindfulness Practice
Mini Mindfulness Practice
AM & PM Mindfulness Practices
When you first begin to wake up in the morning and just before you fall asleep in the evening are powerful times to practice mindfulness. Below is a short meditation you can practice both morning and evening to set the intention for living a mindful and present life.
This is the formula we will be using to begin all our mindfulness practices, am and pm, reminders, mini and full hour meditations.
Limb 3, Asana; Body awareness
Bask in the ecstatic awareness of your physical body, stretch your entire body so that you feel your muscles and relax. Repeat three times to fully ground your attention into your body.
Limb 4, Breath Awareness
Bask in your breath
Limb 5, External Sensation Withdrawal & Inner Sensation Awareness
Bask in sensations and energy within the body, become aware of your heart beating within your chest. Bask in pratyahara… sensations, vibrations, pulsations, warmth, cool, energy flow and movements within the body.
Step 6, Dharana, Concentration
Bask in relaxed focus. Choose an anchor to keep your mind focused on. It can be focusing on the body, breath, sensation, a word or mantra, or image.
Step 7, Dyana, meditation
Bask in awareness. Releasing the anchor, allow the mind to enter into an uninterrupted flow of meditation.
Step 8, Samahi, bliss
Bask in the bliss. Pure awareness, heightened consciousness, alert, fully present in the now moment in peaceful surrender.
To be practiced Anytime throughout the day when it pops into your mind to be mindful, and especially, always when you are feeling a sense of conflict whether mild or intense.
Mindful reminders are to do anytime, anywhere, with anyone or alone. They take no time or special actions like sitting. They can be done as often throughout the day as you wish. When you feel yourself disturbed or in conflict of any form or type it is especially a good time to practice a mindful reminder.
As you go about your day you may not have time to sit for even 1 minute… in this case anytime throughout your busy day you can simply give yourself a mindful reminder. Simply say to yourself “Mindful” or “Present” or repeat to yourself what you are doing “Talking to my friend” “Driving the car.” Also, a great mindful reminder is simply to repeat to yourself “Breathe” and practice a few deeper, slower mindful breaths regardless of what you are doing.
Mini Mindfulness Break
To be practiced Intermittently throughout the Day Evening
A very powerful way to practice mindfulness is to take several short breaks throughout the day to stop and practice mindfulness. You can practice a short mindfulness break at any place and at anytime throughout the day. You can create a space for a mindfulness break almost anywhere whether in nature, at home, work, school… after getting into or parking a car, or just when you arrive home, on a couch, outdoor patio, underneath a tree. You do not want to be driving, or doing anything that would need your attention during your mini meditation. It is very important to be focused solely on the meditation.
Steps to Mini Mindfulness Meditation 5-15 minutes
1.Sit or kneel in a comfortable position
2.Bask in asana, pranayama, pratyahara,
3.Dharana; Bring your focused attention to your anchor… breath, mantra, sensation.
4.When your mind wanders kindly return your attention back to your anchor.
5.Seal your meditation with surrendering into meditation and Samadhi.
Mindfulness 15- 60 Minute Meditation
Mindfulness meditation uses the same steps as mini above, with some minor differences.
1.Time: A full mindfulness meditation is longer than the mini meditations, a full meditation will be from 15 minutes to an hour. We will be practicing a 15 minute meditation today. It is helpful when you begin a practice to choose the same time each day to practice your mindfulness meditation; for example in the morning first thing after waking up, or during a lunch break.
Sitting Location: While in the mini meditation you can sit anywhere, however with a full meditation you will want to find a place that can be quiet and comfortable to sit for an extended time. You may even want to choose a meditation spot in your home or space that is dedicated for your meditations. It can be on your living room couch, however you may want to choose a time when the living room is quiet and peaceful. It is best to sit or kneel verses laying down, sitting invites more attentiveness and laying down you may fall asleep.
Sitting Suggestions: If you are sitting in a chair you will want to have your feet connected to the ground below you or crossed legs while sitting on a chair. You can sit on the ground, floor, a cushion crossed legs and comfortable or sit in easy or a lotus position, kneeling is an option as well. Choose a position that is comfortable for you to hold for an extended amount of time. Sit upright allowing for the natural curvature of your spine to sway, rock and move gently. Relax your shoulders down and back and allow your head to sit comfortably with the ability to comfortably sway and gently move. You may close your eyes or just lower the eyelids to your comfort level. Relax your arms alongside your body. Hands can be in your lap, resting by your sides or resting on your knees. You may use a hand mudra if you wish.
Choose Your Anchor Ahead: Your breath, one word or very short mantra, an image in your mind’s eye, or you can anchor your attention onto a chakra or body part or sensation. Make sure your anchor gives you a positive feeling and provides positive associations. Notice all the suggested anchors are freely given and always available within us as a choice… the breath, a mantra, images are always there and freely available at all times.
After meditation the mind is calm and clear, the best time to journal. Have your journal and pen by your side so you have the opportunity to journal after meditation if you wish to do so.
Let’s practice together a 30 minute mindfulness meditation breath.
Find a comfortable and quiet seat. Straighten your spine, relax your shoulders down and back. If seated in a chair, ground both feet onto the earth. Lower your eyelids or close your eyes.
Bask in the Body, Asana
Begin to notice your physical body, feel where your body is connected to the earth or touching your chair and acknowledge your grounding and the earth supporting your body and physical presence. Bask in the physical sensations of the body, feel the legs, the arms, every muscle and toe.
Make any last adjustments to your body so you can sit comfortably for meditation.
Bask in the Breath, Pranayama
Bring your awareness to your breath, feel the air as it passes through the nostrils… both the cooler air on the inhale and the warmer air on the exhale.
Bask in Inner Sensations, Pratyahara
Notice the sensations within your body… you may feel the pulsation of your heart beating inside your chest or energy moving or flowing through your arms, hands or fingertips. Whatever sensations arise simply notice and bask in the sea of ecstatic sensation. Witness all the sensations within your body with an empty open mind. Ground yourself and your body in the here and now, relax your body and mind.
Bring your single focused concentration to the breath; Dyarana
Bring your awareness to your breath, allowing a natural and gentle elongation of the breath. Relax your body and mind even deeper.
Follow the sensations of the breath feeling the sensations within your nostrils as you inhale and exhale. Feeling a deeper and deeper state of relaxation come over your whole being with every breath.
Fully present to the sacred activity of simply breathing
If you notice your attention wander from the breath into thoughts, kindly and gently bring the focus of your attention back to the breath.
Continue to keep your attention focused on your breath and the sensations of the inhale and exhale.
Simply watch the breath.
If your mind wanders, simply and kindly come back to your breath. Make no judgments about the contents of the thoughts, simply come back to the breath.
Be present to the breath
If you get distracted with a thought, avoid judging yourself or the contents of the thoughts, simply and gently bring your attention back again to the breath.
All your attention on the breath.
Nice natural deep breaths flowing gracefully and with ease.
Fully engaged in the breath
Releasing the concentration on the breath and allow the mind to enter into a natural state of meditation, allow the mind to flow with heightened awareness, bask in silent stillness, rest in peace.
Allow the flow of meditative awareness to naturally bring you into pure awareness, expanded consciousness, silent stillness, bliss… everything no thing, everywhere, nowhere.
I love and appreciate myself for being alive, for being a child of the Universe.
I am enough and I am loved exactly as I am
There is nothing I need do to be worthy, it is my birthrite
I am an unlimited being, filled with love and light
Anything is possible that is motivated by love
My true nature is unending love
Gently coming back, basking in the peace, feeling gratitude for the practice, begin to move the body gently, wiggle the fingers and toes, sway the body gently. Stretch the body out. When you are ready open your eyes and journal any thoughts or ideas that are present.