I always tell my clients right off the bat – “don’t have any expectations from your experience”. When it comes to mindfulness, allowing the experience to flow naturally, without trying to change, control or judge is the key to keep in mind. Mindfulness is the ability to just be with what is – without judgment, without control, and without expectation. When we try and over think our experience, or when we begin to tell our self “I think I am doing it wrong, I should not be thinking this … my mind should be quiet …” that is when we begin to get that mind running faster. The easiest way to understand the mindfulness journey is to really just be an observer of the experience. When we observe, we are simply just doing that – we are noticing without being attached. Just imagine observing clouds as they drift by, we simply just notice and allow ourselves to flow with what is without trying to alter the shape, or speed of the movement. We are allowing ourselves to just be in the moment. Similarly, when we meditate, thoughts and feelings will flow. All we do in this process is observe, and become aware of what is coming up for us without any judgement of effort to control it.
The most important tool we must use during our meditation is our breath. Our breath helps to ground us in the present moment, and whenever we begin to feel like the experience is “getting out of control” so to speak because our monkey mind is trying to take over, we should purposefully and intentionally bring our attention back to our breath. Often times, people will inhale deeply, hold it for a few moments and then exhale deeply. With the exhale, one can imagine themselves releasing what they no longer wish to hold on to. As we release, we observe our body, noticing it as it begins to relax gradually through the release of our out breath.
In this moment, I invite you to take a seat in a comfortable chair or you can also sit on the ground. You can choose to either have your feet flat on the ground if you are in a chair, or you can cross your legs if you are on the floor. Feel free to use a cushion or sit against a wall to make you as comfortable as possible. Begin to take a few centering breaths and when you are ready, slowly begin to close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. As you do so, notice how your body gradually begins to feel more relaxed. Set the intention to bring yourself into a deep sense of relaxation. You may choose to complete 10 breath cycles (a deep inhale which you can hold for a few moments and then slowly exhale). See if you can do 10 of these breath cycles.
Upon completion of your 10 breath cycles, slowly open your eyes and answer the following questions:
- Were you able to complete 10 breath cycles without any distractions?
- Did you feel your body start to relax more over time?
- Did you notice any sensations in your body? (tightness, tingling, warmth, numbness, coolness or any others?)
- Did you make any other observations that caught your attention?
The more times you practice this simple 10 breath cycle exercise, you will slowly begin to observe that you are able to complete the counting with fewer distractions, and eventually none. You can also try to add more breath cycles in intervals of 5 the more you practice and get better and quieting your mind and remaining more relaxed and focused during your session. Good luck!