I take a deep breath as I walk a few steps, trying to walk slowly while thinking, Breathing in, I have arrived. On breathing out, I continue: Breathing out, I am home. I see my surroundings and wonder if my altered pace is noticeable, as I try to focus only on my breath and the moment I’m living in.
For the first time, I’m truly focusing on bringing mindfulness into my life. The fears, the anxieties, and the worries I experience daily all stem from ruminating about my past and how it may negatively impact my future. If I’m in the moment, these can’t stop me.
But for each time I practice being mindful, I have several moments where I turn away from my forming habit. Of course, having just started, this is to be expected. I already realize the benefits a few changes to my life have been making, and I intend to keep at them and see what else these habits have to teach me.
Specifically, two types of mindfulness have been helping me: learning to return to the moment, and performing a body-scan meditation every night.
Returning to the Moment
Whenever I think of it, I try to return to the moment. I try to repeat: Breathing in, I have arrived; Breathing out, I am home. I love these lines because I can repeat them in any situation, whether I’m sitting still or moving.
It’s amazing the calm you can feel when you’re fully present in a moment. The fact that you’re alive to experience it is amazing in and of itself – and if it’s a beautiful moment, like being outside witnessing a sunrise, being fully “in it” makes it more so.
If I’m stressed from over-thinking something, being present is immensely relaxing. Slowly, I’ve been seeing that the majority of the time something is bothering me, it is because I’m ruminating needlessly over it!
Either a) There’s something I can do, but am not doing it for X, Y, or Z reason, or b) I’m anxious over the outcome of something, even though there is nothing I can do. In both scenarios, being present brings out the truth that there’s nothing to worry about. Either there’s something to be done, or there isn’t!
Challenges in Returning to the Present
As I’m very newly into the idea of living in the present moment always (as opposed to just while I’m meditating, for example), I’m seeing many challenges crop up.
- Breathing. For some reason, whenever I hear the advice to focus on my breathing, it becomes a challenge. I begin to feel my throat tense, and I wonder if I’m over-thinking this basic activity. My best guess so far is that I ignore the other advice of, “don’t force your breathing to change, just notice it,” as I tend to try and breath deeply when I focus on it. Going forward, I will have to do my best to keep it as natural as possible while I observe it.
- Walking. While trying to walk mindfully, I am at odds with my naturally quick pace. Many times, people have commented that I walk quickly, and even when I try to slow down I feel that I’m going “too fast.” I then begin to think too much about my pace, which distracts me from my breath, which then pulls me from the moment altogether. I’ll continue to try and slow my pace as best I can, but I may just feel self-conscience in the fast-paced environments I walk through.
- Unpleasant moments. When I try to be present for a moment where there is something going on that I don’t quite like, I am not always able to move past my anxieties. I see my fear, and instead of sitting with it and figuring out what’s really going on, I slam the door on it and run away. I’m not sure what else to do with this one besides to just keep going at it, and hope I can slowly build a tolerance for and understanding of the things that frighten me so badly.
- Neutral moments. I’m also still learning to truly appreciate any moment, so even a neutral moment gives me trouble at times. Often, these moments invite nervous thinking, simply because there’s nothing else at my attention. I think as I learn to appreciate each moment for what it is, this will dissipate.
Total Relaxation: Body-scan Meditation
While this seems quite different from the act of mindfulness itself, I have found that this activity has already begun helping me feel better about myself.
Essentially, a body-scan involves relaxing and focusing on the different parts of your body in turn, consciously releasing the tension in that area and thanking it. You might start with your head/eyes/ears, work down to your neck, your shoulders, your upper arms, elbows, lower arms, wrists, hands, fingers, then return to your heart/chest, back, lungs, stomach…making your way down eventually to your toes.
This focused relaxation and gratitude really helps me appreciate myself and my body. I’m not entirely sure of the reason why this is, but my guess is it’s hard not to love the person in the very body that you’re being grateful for. I do this at night in bed as I’m going to sleep, and I’ve found it’s a great way to calm down and relax into sleep.
For me, these exercises of returning to the moment and doing a body-scan each night have really made a difference. I’ve been sleeping better which is great by itself, and I’m also learning to relax into each moment. As a chronic worrier, I could not be happier with the results! I recommend trying out these practices, as they really take no time out of your day and the benefits could be worth the bit of effort it takes!
Will you guys give either of these exercises a try? Do you utilize any other techniques of mindfulness? Share your thoughts in the comments below!