Mindfulness amidst Chaos
I often get asked about mindfulness and meditation, and how one incorporates mindfulness amidst chaos of our everyday busy lives. First, a distinction between mindfulness and meditation. Meditation is the art of stillness and meditation, practiced diligently over years, and originating from Buddhist traditions. Mindfulness is the daily self-practice of stillness, amidst ones everyday chaotic, rushed lifestyle. While mindfulness lends to the practice of meditation, it is just one part of it. Look at mindfulness as a means to becoming aware of and in touch with one's inner stillness.
I have heard people say that it is hard to sit still, especially when we are motivated to move, to do, to be productive, to not idle. For some stillness of body and mind becomes a challenge, as they fight the urge to move, become distracted by sounds and the lengthy "to do" list they carry. Mindfulness does not take a large time commitment, but diligent practice is required. Ten minutes of your twenty-four hour day is not a huge ask, but it does require commitment. For those who struggle with being still, and keeping one's mind still, the following mindfulness activity may help. It provides enough stillness, and relaxation, while keeping ones mind focused and active on the mindfulness task at hand. It is just one mindfulness activity amidst a multitude of others.
An important note: This activity uses the tools of memory. imagery and the five senses, from early childhood, and should be attempted only if childhood does not hold any triggering memories, and feels like a safe time to return to in memory. Should doing any activity trigger past memories that cause discomfort or concern, it is important such activities be done with a licensed professional therapist, who will be able to support you. Do not do this mindfulness activity should the above statements hold true for you.
You are urged to consult with a counsellor, therapist, or psychologist prior to attempting any activity that you may feel will be a triggering experience for you.
"Sit in a place that provides some support to your back and where you can place your feet on the ground. Sitting back, softening your gaze (or closing your eyes), inhale deeply from your belly. Breathing in for a slow count of 5, holding your breath for a count of 3 and exhaling for a count 7. Breathing in 1..2..3..4..5 Holding 1..2..3 and Exhaling 1..2..3..4..5..6..7. Doing this three more times.
When ready, imagine that you are at the beginning of a short stairway, leading down. At the bottom of the stairway is a state of peace, calm, and quiet. Notice your body, and how you feel right now as you stand at the top of the stairway. Begin to descend down the stairway one step at a time, breathing in for a count of 5 and holding for a count of 3 and exhaling slowly for a count of 7. Picture yourself taking each step slowly, and as you descend feel your body begin to relax.
As you start to relax, think back to a childhood memory of a favorite food you enjoyed eating. Think only of the food: the texture, taste, aroma, size, color. Imagine yourself taking a bite of it.. what does it taste like? What texture does it have? What aromatic smell comes to mind? Spice? Sweet?
What feelings come up for you as you think of this favorite food? What does this food, the time you had it and the comfort it brought signify for you? As you feel the comfort of that memory, let us retrace our steps back to the stairway and up each step, one at a time. One step at a time, focusing on the comfort you carry with you, the calmness you feel. Inhaling for 5 and holding for 3 and exhaling for 7 .. feel the comfort and calm of that memory envelope your body and mind. As you open your eyes, refocus on your surroundings, notice the chair you are sitting in. Feel your feet on the ground, move your toes, stretch your arms and legs. Gently move your head and neck, noticing any stiffness or need to move and stretch. Notice what is around you ..
What do you hear? What can you see around you? What do you feel? The clothes touching your skin? The chair at your back? The sights and sounds of the space you are in?"
Note: this mindfulness activity uses the tool of memory, imagery and the five senses, in childhood. Understanding that for some, childhood was not a safe or pleasant time, this mindfulness activity is not suitable to all. It can only be done with the understanding that it may bring up unpleasant memories or trigger intense emotions one may not expect. Do not use this mindfulness activity should you feel these circumstances stated above maybe true for you. This activity is just one within a multitude of other mindfulness activities you can try. See below.