I have talked about taking a holistic approach to health before, and that involves focusing on not only what we eat, but how we feel as well. It means taking time each day to check in with ourselves and to be mindful. But what does that really mean?
I'm so excited today to pass over the blog to an interesting new guest author. Jess Veltman is trained as a Mindfulness Educator, and she is currently working towards her 200 hour yoga teacher training. She is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to meditation and mindfulness, and is passionate about educating the next generation about the importance of these practices. That's enough from me... take it away, Jess!
I encourage you before reading on to just stop for a brief moment, close your eyes if you are comfortable with doing so, take a deep inhale through your nose, hold it for a count to one, and then slowly exhale out through your mouth.
Did you do it? Great! Not comfortable with doing that or are you just feeling way too curious to pause? Great! Read on and then give it a go after... but seriously, give it a try sometime today!
Mindfulness is simply being aware, of the present moment, exactly as it is. Non-judgementally. We all experience emotions, we all have feelings, we all have moments of joy and anger and excitement and sadness. Practicing mindfulness, in a more formal way, teaches us that we have a moment in between a stimulus (ie. the emotion or feeling) and our reaction or response. More-so, mindfulness can be seen as that moment in between.
"How do I start this formal practice you speak of?" It's actually quite simple. I encourage everyone to try to just sit for a minute or 2 every day. Can you think of anything else you do in your day that takes just a couple minutes but you wouldn't dream of not doing? (ie. Brushing your teeth, making or buying your morning cup of warm happiness, scrolling some kind of internet something, reading a chunk of your latest book or an article, texting or calling someone you love.)
"But I can't stop my thoughts". That's okay. Take the pressure off yourself to adhere to something that's not genuinely you. Taking a moment or TWO to literally stop and breathe is a great way to take the pressure off. You're doing it right now as you read these words, after all. Maybe you want to buy or create a special cushion or create a sacred space in your home to retreat to...if that's what you want, do it! But you do not have to go out of your way to create something; a chair in your kitchen or bedroom, the toilet seat with the lid closed, a couch cushion on the floor, the corner of your bed, sitting in your car or on the bus. These are all great spaces to mindfully sit. Just try your best to breathe through any of the distractions going on around or inside of you. Keep at it the next day, and the day following. But if you forget or skip a day, don't stress. Just find a place to sit and just breathe.
Just a quick note to conclude for now...there are a couple of buzz words that are being tossed around like crazy these days. I'd really like to share my version of the distinct difference between them. Meditation in its traditional sense is a seated and grounded posture, and can be seen as either the absence of thoughts or a direct focus or concentration on a particular subject. I personally love it; I have been practicing for nearly a year, some days go by where I don't sit on my seat but trust me when I tell you, I can tell when I have missed a day or few. My husband will be the first to vouch for that. Our cat will be second :) Mindfulness, as stated above, is being aware of the present moment, whatever that moment is, non judgementally, and taking the time to pause and focus on your breath. Thoughts may come and go, and that's okay. Maybe there won't be any thoughts at all, and that's okay too. And I can almost guarantee that every mindful sit will be different every time. AND THAT'S OKAY. I practice mindfulness daily as well, in a multitude of ways. I'd love to connect and chat more about your experience, so send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember to JUST BREATHE.