You finally find a coveted quiet moment in your day. You take a deep breath and automatically begin reflecting on what you’ve accomplished. This should be a moment of ease for your busy brain, but too often your thoughts race to unfinished to-dos, grocery lists, your next appointment… the list goes on.
Forget it- all of it. Take the next few moments to close your eyes and focus on your breathe. Stay present, quiet your mind, and just focus on your here and now. Don’t read any further until you’ve tried it for a few moments.
Mindfulness meditation- something that always seems easier when suggested than actually done. How do you mindfully separate yourself from your thoughts without thinking about that too?
Studies at Yale University coined this habitual worrying and mind-wandering “monkey mind,” and scientifically associate it with the brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN). According to Help Guide, “mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment.” Emerging studies show a link between a quieter DMN (a.k.a. monkey mind) and mindfulness meditation, due in part to meditation’s ability to physically change the shape of your brain. Studies at Harvard show that regular meditation can increase cortical thickness of the hippocampus, which is directly linked to well-being and happiness. Greater implications of these studies link meditation to anxiety relief; improved attention/concentration; and even addiction management. Point being- the quiet moments we so readily cast aside are much more important than we realize. Probably even more important than the shirt you forgot to grab at the dry cleaner.
Let’s try that breathing exercise once again. This time, you are working to mindfully meditate.
-Sit in a quiet place. Relax into your seat and sit tall.
-Lightly close you eyes or allow them to go out of focus in front of you.
-Allow your breathing to slow to a relaxed, natural pattern. Release your tongue from the roof of your mouth; relax your jaw; and allow your mouth to open slightly.
-Take note of the feel of your surroundings. Take a sensory scan of your body and the way you feel in the space around you.
-When a thought enters your mind, simply set it aside and remain focused on the here and now. Stay present.
-Focus on your breathe- notice the rise and fall of your chest and shoulders. Feel the small expansion in your rib cage and take note of where the breathe is traveling.
-Use your exhale to release negativity, worries and disappointment. Notice the space in between each breath. Then use your inhale to fill your body with with fresh, clean energy.
-Hoan in on your breathe and use it to experience the phenomena of your senses.
Continue this process of focused breathe work for five to ten minutes. Just like that, you’ve accomplished day one of mindfulness meditation training.
The feelings resulting from focused meditation may feel familiar to Barre Evolution students. Many times throughout class, your mind and body are forced act separately. Your body is able to accomplish more than your mind gives it credit for, so this separation allows you to focus completely on the physical sensations in your body. The resulting thoughts in your mind keep you completely focused. In essence, finding your edge is as much a mental escape as it is a physical challenge. The concept of “mind/body” is one which has been overused in the fitness industry, but holds incredible value in this school of thought. When you are able to treat your mind and body as separate entities, you are able to pursue and achieve physical and mental balance.