As for many of us, I had become attuned to my ‘auto pilot’ also referred to as set pattern response based on my personal past experiences with my family, friends, peers, work colleagues and my students. Learning about mindfulness helped me to enhance (well in some instances relearn completely) how to be flexible and adaptable to situations. This relearning allowed my brain to be re-trained with better or new responses to situations and thus come off my ‘auto pilot’.
Through acknowledging that I had fallen into a repetitive pattern and that I needed help I was able to take my first steps in exploring and cultivating a new working base for myself.
Mindfulness has allowed me to change the way I react and interact with external influences and more importantly in my relationship with myself. I learnt to identify my common self-critical or self-blaming thoughts thus creating greater patience, kindness, acceptance, and compassion towards myself and others (even my students!).
I have found that completing my daily mindfulness routine (sometimes this is only 10 minutes) I am enjoying greater fulfilment in my daily life as I am more present in the activities I am doing, such as my gardening. The biggest change is I am not ruminating or having as many negative thoughts and my anxiety levels have dropped substantially as well. Just over a year ago my blood tests showed I had high levels of cortisol and high cholesterol levels. These two indicators are associated with being in a prolonged state of flight, fright and freeze – or anxiety and stress – over a prolonged period of time. This year I have shown a marked drop in these.
Time to have a GO!
Here is one of the key Mindfulness exercises that you can have a GO with.
The Basic Mindfulness Meditation (FOCUS)
To commence get yourself in a comfy position (e.g. sitting on a straight-backed chair, lying on the floor, sitting cross legged) that will keep you awake or alert. You can do this with eyes open or closed.
Focus on your breathing. Don’t change the rate of breath or depth but do notice sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out. Notice if your belly is rising and falling with each intake of breath and each exhale.
Once you have narrowed your concentration to focus just on your breath, begin to widen your focus and become aware of: sounds, sensations and your thoughts.
Embrace and consider each sound, thought or sensation without judging it. If you notice your mind wandering (you know making to do lists, ticking off shopping or chores still to do etc) draw your focus back to your breathing. Re-try expanding your awareness again to incorporate sounds, sensations and thoughts.
Complete the meditation by refocusing on your breathing. By creating a daily practice, even at 10 minutes a day, is more impactful than once a week. Why? This allows you to re-train your brain to store new memories of responses to situations we have practised thus creating a new response system. We become less reactive/reactionary.