Mind full or mindful?

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Kelly Spencer - Happy Healthy YOU

(A wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast)

When was the last time you did nothing? Ten minutes of nothing. NO texting, no Facebook, no eating, no TV, no talking, no reminiscing but just sitting and listening in the silence.

Ellen talks about it, Oprah lives by it, and Buddhist monks have literally been doing it for thousands of years. So what is all the fuss about meditation?

The first time I meditated I was a kid and my cousin David took us over to his friend’s house. We sat in his buddy’s basement, lit incense, sat cross-legged on the floor as he guided us through meditation. It felt weird.

A couple decades later I encountered meditation in my first yoga class. As an adult I was pretty sure it would feel so much different. It still felt weird. I had peaked one eye open to look around the yoga studio to find the other students with their eyes closed, sitting in stillness and quiet contemplation. So I closed my eyes and decided to fake it ‘til I make it.

What I have learned through the years is meditation (for me) is bringing awareness to the mind’s thoughts in the present moment. Noticing if the mind is full, worrisome or hectic and slowing it down to bring more mindfulness to the moment. I take inventory and ask myself: How do I feel? What have I been experiencing? After I notice what is going on in the moment, I allow the thoughts to float in and out and I focus on my breath, slow and steady.

When we are full with random thoughts and feelings with unawareness, we are left hostage to the thoughts in the mind. Meditation isn’t about controlling your thoughts but rather about finding ways to stop letting your thoughts control you.

What happens to us when we meditate? Mediation has several benefits including stress reduction, improved attention and focus, better memory and increased creativity and feelings of compassion. Scientific evidence supports findings of physiological changes in the brain on MRI scans. Meditation is linked to larger amounts of gray matter in the brain which can lead to more positive emotions, longer-lasting emotional stability and heightened focus during daily activities. The practice has also been shown to diminish age-related effects and reduce the decline of cognitive functioning and bring a calmer brainwave, according to many research reports.

Many successful folks and sports teams have implemented mediation into their lives with much success. Did you know the 2014 Super Bowl Champions, Seattle Seahawks had a regular mediation practice?

So where do you start? You can use a meditation App on your phone, or find a guided meditation, or do a mindful meditation where you focus on a particular topic such as contentment or abundance or attend a yoga or meditation class. Start with eyes open. Find a comfortable way to sit in your chair or on the floor. Try and sit still and as the outer being learns to still, the inner being will follow. Close the eyes and observe the sensations of where your body is resting and how. Notice sounds around the room, outside the room and even from yourself. Bring awareness to other senses: can you smell anything? Then bring attention back to the breath and surrender to the now, let go of all but this moment.

It’s all about acceptance of this moment. So when your mind wanders, gently remind yourself to bring it back to the words you hear on your App, or the teacher in your class, or the inhale and exhale of your breath. Each time your mind wanders, gently bring yourself to do this again and again. When I say gently, I mean without judgment to where you think you "should be" or "ought to be."

Some days are different than others. The key is to meet yourself where you are today, accepting with love and kindness and move from there. Instead of 'trying' to mediate (which is effort and control), try allowing yourself to meditate. Give yourself space to let it be, whatever it is. The quieter you learn to become, the more you can hear. If you are new (or seasoned), cut yourself some slack. I have been practicing meditation for 20 years and my mind still wanders! That’s why they call it a mediation practice.

Happy Meditating!

(If you would like to see an article on a specific topic, please email kelly@indigolounge.ca)

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