We hear all this stuff about meditation and mindfulness being good for us and that all sounds nice but what does it really mean? What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is essentially the practice of becoming present in our body. We work to do this by intentionally focusing on our breath, our emotions, thoughts and sensations we have in our mind and in our body in the present moment.
The practice of mindfulness, even in very short intervals (5-10 minutes a day!) has shown to significantly reduce stress and may even help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Below are a few guided meditations that are a great place to start if you are interested in exploring how a focused attention to becoming present may benefit you.
The following audio recordings have been created and made available by Dr. Lois C. Howland, Associate Professor, Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, and Senior Teacher, Center for Mindfulness, UCSD.
Awareness of Breath Meditation (15 minutes)
This brief meditation provides an opportunity to develop the capacity to use the breath as an anchor to the present moment. Using the awareness of breath practice can be particularly helpful in slowing down the mind when it is experiencing negative thoughts, rumination, and mental distraction. The breath can be a portable and reliable friend when the mind is experiencing times of stress.
Mountain Meditation (15 minutes)
(Adapted from “Mountain Meditation” in Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.)
A guided visualization practice, the Mountain Meditation invites the imagery of a mountain to help connect awareness to the inherent strength and majesty that lies within each of us. The Mountain Meditation may be particularly helpful during times of personal challenge and self-doubt since this practice can help us reconnect with the deep inner resources from which we can draw strength.
Mindful Movement Practice (15-20 minutes)
In this brief mindful movement practice we invite the body to move in ways that are gentle and restorative. The intention in this practice is to experience the body moving with an attitude of friendliness and curiosity while inviting increasing relaxation. Mindful movement can be particularly useful when work or school demands begin to deplete the body.
Mindful Body Scan (45 minutes)
When we connect with the body in an intentional exploration, we become more centered in the direct experience of our life. The Body Scan Meditation is intended to bring openness and curiosity to the body just as it is in THIS moment while encouraging the practice of self-compassion and gratitude for the body… appreciating that, as Jon Kabat-Zinn suggests, “there is more right with us than wrong with us.”
Sitting Meditation (45 minutes)
In this longer sitting practice, we encourage increasing stillness of the body and the mind. During the practice of sitting meditation, the activity of the mind may become more noticeable. Bringing an attitude of “friendly curiosity” to what’s actually happening in the mindscape may encourage greater flexibility in thinking, insight, and recognition of unhelpful thought patterns that may be increasing stress.
Standing Yoga (50 minutes)
We begin this longer mindful movement practice in a standing position, and invite the body to mindfully move in ways that may provide both increased energy and relaxation. The intention of this practice is to encourage increasing awareness of and compassion toward the body as we move gently through a variety of simple poses.