3. How did I start my Mindful Journey?

In my teenage years I was lucky enough to be in a school that believed in meditation as an option for school sport. Curiosity won and I signed up for the few classes that were brought in from an external organisation. During these sessions I learnt how to relax and refocus. I learned that somehow the floor can disappear when one is relaxed and calm.

A few years ago I was struggling with a huge workload in a work environment ravaged by restructure and major building works. I started to show classic signs of stress (including an inability to sit still, a racing heart, an inability to finish sentences or thoughts). I was anxious and depressed and had found it hard to sleep due to a racing mind., I had extreme exhaustion, frequently burst into tears, chewed my nails, experienced fogginess and constantly worried about the future.

My Mum bought me Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Professor Mark Williams. This started my inquiry into what Mindfulness was, how it could be applied and what the science had to say. On several occasions I started the meditations but never got through them or I would just forget or find an excuse not to practice the meditation protocols. The exercises were supposed to help re-wire my brain – but FORGET IT. I had to admit to being a great procrastinator and non-completer. I had become the worst student EVER. I had to admit I had little motivation to do things on my own.

When going on this journey I had to be honest with myself about my limitations and I realised I needed human interaction to get the best out of myself. I wasn’t working well on my own, finding a million reasons not to do things.

I finally found an instructor who ran small course groups. I turned up nervously but completed the course. I had found a group of equally confused, loving, compassionate and funny people all trying to cope with life’s challenges being thrown at us (you know: work, family, partners, studying, etc). BEST THING EVER. For me, having the support of a trainer, enjoying the discussions, practicing exercises and completing a meditation helped me to develop and cultivate my mindfulness practices.

Time To Have A Go!

There are many TECHNIQUES to practice mindfulness. Here is a sensory sensations exercise.

The sensory sensations exercise asks you to take the time to notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches. As you complete sensory sensations take time to name each one – ‘sight’, ‘sound’, ‘smell’, ‘taste’, or ‘touch’. Do this without judgment and let them go.

Choose a location that will allow you a minimum of 15 minutes to just be within its space (e.g. such as in your garden or in the bath). Now take a few breaths to bring awareness to your breathing and to help calm yourself. As you sit, stand or lie within this space take the time to notice all the sights around you (e.g. the colour of the garden walls, the trees, paving, decking, grass). Then move to all the sounds you can hear (closing your eyes may help) and just listen. You may hear birds singing or calling, cars driving past or wind rustling the leaves. With each sound you hear, deepen your breathing and relax. Using your sense of smell take time to identify the scents around you (e.g. your perfume or deodorant, freshly cut grass, the perfumes of flowers, etc). Continue this identification for your sense of touch (e.g. the weight of your clothing on your skin, the flow of a breeze across your face, the feel of grass or paving on your feet, how your shoes or chair move with you, any pressure points, etc).

2: Mindfulness Meditation and Practice

Mindfulness can be life changing once you get into a routine. It is wonderful when you find a time for regular mindful practice that suits you. Getting started with a routine can be hard, though, amongst the day to day distractions of our busy lives. For many people, the best times are early in the morning, in a break at lunchtime or in the evening just before sleep.

If you are struggling to complete your daily mindfulness practice you can:

  • See if you prefer being mindful with a friend or in a group. A like-minded friend can help to maintain your motivation. Nowadays, that friend could be on the other side of the world on a computer screen.
  • Use an aid such as an audio book or a meditation on YouTube. For example, some YouTube videos use a dot that grows and shrinks in time with your mindful breathing.
  • For many people, being part of a regular group can help with motivation week to week. Find a local group or instructor such as my own MeetUp group in Hawthorn, Melbourne. Find someone whose approach feels right for you and don’t be afraid to walk away if the group doesn’t meet your needs. Groups are sometimes advertised in the local paper or there may be local supported community groups. A good group can also give you emotional support and you can share ideas for practice and have fun too!
  • Create your own ‘care’ schedule and stick with it. This might mean being flexible within your working, family, caring and friendship schedules. You can always find 10 minutes in the day to spend on yourself even if it means locking yourself in the smallest room!

Your mindful practice is a journey. Try to be mindful each day and STAY WITH IT. You may sometimes miss a day or two of mindfulness exercises and, if this happens, it isn’t a disaster, it’s just life. One core principle is practicing ACCEPTANCE. This acceptance involves being kind and forgiving towards yourself. So, if you miss a meditation or a mindful exercise, just make an effort to get back into the routine again the next day. Remember, you can always find a few minutes each day. The best thing is, the more regularly you practice mindfulness, the easier it is to keep your routine going.

There are many TECHNIQUES to practice mindfulness. Here is a body sensation mindfulness exercise.

  • Body sensations. Take time to notice your body’s subtle sensations (such as an itch, a pressure point or tingling) without judgement and let them pass. Notice each part of your body starting from your head through your torso to your toes.

My Mindful Mondays group starts on Monday 18 February at the SWell Centre in Hawthorn, Melbourne. Find me on MeetUp at https://www.meetup.com/en-AU/Mindfulness-with-Kate/. More from this blog next month!