Are you losing your mind?

The weather in Boston has been like a freaking rollercoaster.

A few weeks ago I was out walking, enjoying the 70 degree day looking at buds on the trees and beautiful purple and yellow flowers blooming.... Then it snowed. Gotta love New England weather!

Seriously though, I felt such a strong pull towards the future warmth that comes with spring, yet I was pulled back to the present moment when it was 30 degrees and the snow was falling. This is something I have been working on my entire adult life. I think most people can relate to this. We are always so busy running around with our to-do lists, making plans and focusing on the future that we don’t realize life is passing us by. 

How many times have you mindlessly inhaled your food because you were so hungry? Or you arrived at your destination and don’t even remember the drive? We are constantly living on auto-pilot. While this works for a lot of folks, over time it is simply not sustainable.

Enter mindfulness.

There is so much to be learned from simply slowing down and being mindful. Mindfulness may sound like something only for hippies or yogis or may seem overwhelming, but in reality it is for everyone, including children (more on that later). The pioneer of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment to moment”.*

Mindfulness can be applied to anything you do such as eating, walking or cooking or what you experience, such as thoughts, feelings or sensations in the body. 

Being both a yoga instructor as well as a student, I have become very familiar with mindfulness. I find the more I am able to be quiet and sit with myself, the more connected I feel. Even though I often feel frustrated by the chatter in my mind, I am learning the chatter is actually another part of myself and there is much to be learned from it. That makes it easier when thoughts arrive to get super curious about what I can learn from the thoughts as well as my reaction to them versus resisting.

The next time you find yourself running from thing to thing, stop and give yourself permission to take it all in. If you are out walking, slow down, get off your phone and notice what you are seeing, smelling and hearing. If you are at the park with your kids, really be present. Again, turn off your phone, watch your kids laughing, smiling, screaming and having fun. Take it all in. If you really hit the mother load and are able to create a few quiet moments to yourself try counting breaths. Not only will you become more aware of your relationship to your thoughts, you may feel more calm, relaxed and centered. Remember counting breaths is always at your fingertips and can be done anytime, even if you only have 30 seconds (see counting breaths practice below).

While I try to live a very mindful life, I am human like everyone else and share the same struggles. Opening myself up to becoming more aware has allowed for a huge internal shift. Whenever I catch myself coming from a judgmental, non loving place, I take a step back, acknowledge where I am coming from and then give myself permission to try again and again and again…. As the waves of life ebb and flow, so do our thoughts and feelings. That is why is it called a practice. There is no destination. It is a way of living that will always be evolving.

Here is a mindfulness practice for you to try.

Mindful breathing: Counting Breaths

Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor, close your eyes and deepen your breath. Begin to notice the sounds around you. Notice your body resting against the earth. Now begin to tune inwards, as you inhale, say the number one silently to yourself, as you exhale, silently say the number two. Continue doing this until you reach 10, then start over.

Do this for at least one minute, more if you can. 

At first this may be difficult, but the more you practice the easier it gets. The idea is to focus on the breath, noticing your thoughts in the background. Think of the thoughts as clouds, simply notice them, then move on. Or if you like, you can name them, “oh this is a thought” and then let it go. Do not attach or try to resist the thought as that will only frustrate you.

“Remember, the practice of mindfulness is one of non-violence with respect to ourselves, our habits, our thoughts, our feelings and our bodies. Training the mind is different than fighting with the mind”.*

I would love to hear your thoughts or experiences with mindfulness, counting breaths or any other experience you have had and would like to share. If any of this resonates with you feel free to comment below.

*Info taken from Mindful Schools Fundamentals Course