Mindfulness for Health
Hey guys, this week I'll be letting Kate take the reigns. She's been back in England for a couple of months now focusing on healing her back. One thing that has really been working for her is mindfulness meditation as well as some other techniques. She's got quite a lot to say about this sort of thing, so there will be more posts in the future.
This bus is hot, packed and frustratingly slow. Nothing new, this is part of a 1-hour and 15-minute schlep into Westminster every morning. A queue of people shuffles on at the next bus-stop, including a lady who would talk loudly and continuously for 20 minutes. She's unaware of my stern sideways glances of disapproval. I often give Seth these looks when he's clattering his coffee cup about - but this is truly a 'polite Brit' thing. Oh - er - sorry.
Somehow I find a moment of solitude and calm. My weekly 'mindfulness meditation' course is really paying off. Focus on the breath. Feel the breath saturating the torso. Be aware of the sensation of breath, trying not to alter it. As the mind wanders naturally, bring it back to the breath. 10 minutes later and my day is on a path to the positive - all I need now is my morning Americano. Some habits I don't want to break!
I have primarily used mindfulness as a pain reduction technique for chronic pain after herniating a disc two years ago. However, the most surprising outcome of mindfulness training is its effectiveness as a super stress-busting saviour. Who knew breathing could be more relaxing than gulping down two codeine tablets and a Cuba-Libra?
The body scan (10 minutes)
- Focus the breath and notice how you are feeling but don't change it. Become aware of the breath in the torso - what is it like? Can you feel it in the chest, the abdominals and the sides and the back? Think of the diaphragm opening out like a parachute on the in-breath, and contracting up on the out breath.
- Now slowly bring your awareness to the toes. Move your awareness from the toes to the bottom of the foot - the top of the foot - the ankles - both feet together. Then the calves - the thighs (front and back) - the pelvis - the abdominals - the torso. Stay here for a while, be aware of any discomfort. Feel a sense of letting go as you breathe, soothing areas of pain or tension with the breath. Can you feel the echo of breath deep in the pelvic floor?
- If your mind wanders, bring it back to breathing (noticing your mind is wandering is a successful mindfulness practice in itself)
- Now to your chest, breath into the back of your ribs, then to your whole torso. Flow up to your shoulder blades, relaxing into the ground with gravity. Move down the upper arms, lower arms, hands, and tips of the fingers. What shape are they in? Travel back up the arms.
- Now my favourite part; pan out to your whole body. Think of this as the Office Word 'zoom' button for bodies. I often feel a rush of pleasantness at this. Saturate the body with breath for several minutes. To me, this is like the 'resetting' of the nervous system that usually holds tension and pain.
- Stay with the breath for a while longer. As you bring the meditation to a close, move the body slowly and gently, maintaining a sense of mindfulness in your next activity.
Damn, it's happened again - this time It's someone on the tube unknowingly pushing right into me whilst playing their music at a volume the entire carriage can hear. I reach for my headphones and press pay on 'the body scan' audio guide.