Having reviewed what mindfulness is (Part 1) and how it benefits people in business (Part 2), it’s time to try some introductory mindfulness exercises. At the end of the article you’ll find suggestions for further learning resources.
First, here are four important “operating instructions” that will help you to get the most value out of your mindfulness exercises:
1) Aim to keep an open mind and curious attitude. If the exercises feel weird or uncomfortable or boring, that doesn’t mean that you’re doing them wrong. It just means you’re doing something unfamiliar. See if you can simply observe your feelings (and any accompanying urges to act), rather than trying to make them go away.
2) Remember that the point of these exercises is not to feel wonderful. The point is to train your attention and to notice experiences and perceptions in an aware, non-judgmental way.
3) Expect uninvited thoughts to creep in during exercises. You can be focusing on your breath one minute, only to have your attention hijacked by a bunch of “mind chatter” the next. The trick is to catch these moments when they happen and then to gently shift your focus back to the present moment. In doing so, you are being mindful and are strengthening your attentional control.
4) As with all new skills, the more you practice, the easier they become. With just a few minutes of mindfulness a day you’ll soon gain greater perspective on your thoughts and more control over your attention. Practice one of these three exercises at least once a day; you’ll start to notice positive changes within the first week or two.
Sit in a chair and adopt a straight but comfortable position, with feet flat on the ground. Place hands on thighs, palm downwards. Draw your attention onto your breath. Take a deep, slow breath in, noticing the shifts and sensations in your body as you do so. Then let out a longer, slower breath. If you can, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, maintaining a steady rhythm.
Purposefully track the pathway of your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Pay attention to the physical sensations that let you know you are breathing.
As you keep breathing, notice any moments when your attention wanders or when your mind rebels against the exercise. Keep gently guiding your attention back to the breath.
Start by doing this for a minute or two at a time and gradually increase the length of time to suit your needs.
Whether you are sitting, lying or standing, this exercise will allow you to release tension from your body.
The first step is to detect tension in your body. You can do this by mentally scanning your body from your head down to your feet. Notice areas that feel achy, tense or strained. For instance, you may notice:
Focus your attention on the area where you’re most tense. Draw in a deep breath and imagine that your breath is flowing into that area of your body. Feel yourself expanding out around the tension, making room for it. As you exhale, let your muscles relax and tension flow out of you. You might find it helpful to visualize your breath carrying the tension away. Alternatively, you can mentally repeat a mantra such as, “Letting it go” or “I release”. Do this a few times and then, if you want, go on to repeat this exercise for different body areas.
This exercise is all about setting judgments aside and developing the skill of open, curious observation.
Choose a piece of music that you’ve never heard before. It might be a random Youtube pick, or you might turn a radio dial until something catches your ear. Before it has even begun playing you might catch yourself judging the genre, title or artist name. Be aware of these judgments but don’t get caught up in them. Think of them as a bit of background noise that you can hear, but can choose not to focus on.
As the music plays, close your eyes and open your ears. Allow yourself to explore the soundscape. Notice the tone, rhythm and flow of the song. Notice different instruments and the way their sounds shift and merge with others. Notice how the music affects you physically and emotionally. Remember, the point of the exercise isn’t about enjoyment – it’s about being present, aware and non-judgmental.
Interested in continuing mindfulness practice?
We recommend that you try out two online options:
We also recommend a great website called www.mindful.org It has a good range of information about the whys and hows of mindfulness. This page is an excellent place to start: https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/
And, of course, we recommend that you contact the friendly folks at Mindset to learn more about what Mindfulness practice could do for your business. Contact us HERE.