You may have read in my recent post May is Mental Health Month that I have taken up the Mindful in May Challenge,an online mindfulness program which also raises funds to bring clean water to those in developing countries. Each day I will be receiving emails with guided meditations and exercises to create more calm in my life.
The challenge is to spend 10 minutes each day meditating and being mindful. Easy I thought, I can fit 10 minutes into each day!
Well the challenge has certainly proven to be a challenge. I’ve written about the Benefits of Mindfulness and Mediation several times, however, sometimes I don’t always practice what I preach. After the Blogging AtoZ Challenge of April which extended me with my writing and creativity, I thought that I needed something to bring me back to focusing on me and my inner self.
The first week of the Challenge has been completed and I’m giving myself half a tick for my progress. However, if you read my post ‘Me from AtoL’ you would note that I use Determination to describe myself. Throw me a challenge and I will give it my best shot!
Mindful in May – Week 1
I eagerly awaited the email which would take me on a journey of improving my ability to meditate and be more mindful every day.
The email arrived and Day 1 included an interview and a guided meditation.
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, neuropsychologist and New York Times best-selling author, who started meditating in 1974. The topic of his interview (51 minutes) was ‘Mindfulness for Greater Resilience’. I was interested in his thoughts as I had recently written about resilience in my post ‘R’ is for Resilience – Why you need it in the good times and bad.
My take away: Turning past experience into lasting change. ‘Getting good at getting good is the magic pill’ ‘Neurons that fire together, wire together.’ The longer you sustain an experience, the more likely you can change it. Start with the experience and the longer the pattern is sustained the more your brain will change.
- Embodiment is important to be mindful of what is happening in the body.
- Don’t deny or minimise problems but essence of relying on self-reliance to grow the inner strength to cope with problems.
- Mindfulness we just need to wait sometimes and just be and meditate just being with what’s there and riding the wave.
- Cultivate and develop your activity in your own mind.
- Being in the moment and notice what is around you in everyday life.
- Slow it Down – Bring attention to your body – Let yourself feel something, slow down for a few seconds and let your emotions catch up with your thoughts.
- Don’t let other people steal your attention – you need to regulate where your attention goes.
- The guided meditation was ‘Getting focused by settling into the body’ by Elise Bialylew. This meditation was all about becoming aware of our senses and the body. The meditation took 8 minutes 49 seconds and I was able to download for future meditations.
- Tuning into the body using different elements – Earth element – all the points of contact the body makes with the floor. Fire element – notice the temperature of the body in the moment. Air element – movement noticing the air, movement of the breath flowing in and out. Water element – moisture – noticing moisture in mouth.
- Scanning your body to see if you can feel any areas of tension and with each out breath trying to let go and relax more deeply.
- Using the out breath to let go of thoughts
Day 2 – Mindfulness of the breath
Shauna L. Shapiro, PhD, is a Professor of Psychology at Santa Clara University and an internationally recognised expert in mindfulness, takes us through a guided meditation for 13 minutes 25 seconds.
Today the guided meditation was focused on how we use the breath to keep us anchored to the present moment. I found it difficult to sit for this length of time but that’s okay I will improve.
‘Research by Herbert Benson, Harvard cardiologist, has shown that resting our attention on the breath regularly, elicits the ‘Relaxation Response’. This is a biological state that counters the impact of the ‘fight-or-flight’ response reducing the impact of stress.’
Day 3 – The science of mindfulness and it’s lasting benefit
Today was actually two interviews. Firstly with Daniel Goleman is an internationally known psychologist and science journalist. He is co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
My Take away:
- Daily mediation gives you a mental workout like a physical exercise
- Mindful Meditation and it’s affect on stress
- Resilience is time from getting to peak upset or stress to getting back to calm state
- Many studies show that meditation does make you more resilient and able to cope with stress
- Studies have shown that for ordinary depression, mindfulness can be just as effective as medication
- As little 5 – 10 minutes of mindful meditation will have short-term beneficial effects, especially with your ability to concentrate.
- Emotional Intelligence – 4 parts
- self management, motivate yourself,
- empathy social awareness,
- relationship management – how you handle relationships in personal and business situation.s
The second interview was another with Rick Hanson and although it was termed a guided meditation it was more of an informative talk about Using Wise Speech for Courage and Resilience
- Well intentioned speech – is your speech coming from a place of being well intended or to tear the other person down.
- Truthful – is what you are saying truthful?
- Beneficial – is what you are saying helping your or the other person?
- Not harsh – is your tone clean rather than nasty or harsh
- Timed – are you choosing the right time for a discussion?
- Wanted – does the other person actually want your advice?
Day 4 – Relaxing with the Breath
Elise guided us through a 13 minute meditation focusing on the breath. I found this much easier today and the background music was soothing and relaxing. There was an optional extra 5 minutes at the end and I nearly managed to complete it. Still room to improve.
Mindful Tip from Day 4
Set an alarm for three times today that says BREATHE, and when it goes off, simply pause, tune into the breath and sense five breaths as they move in and out of the body. Actively use the out-breath to release any tension that you discover within the body. We unconsciously carry so much stress in our body. In doing these mini-mindfulness check-ins, we become more aware of the stress that is accumulating in the body and better able to let it go. Awareness is the first step to transformation. Mindfulness is a vehicle towards greater self-awareness which allows for new possibilities in our life.
Day 5 – Mindfulness for improved learning and better relationships
I missed the interview but managed the guided meditation.
Dr. Richard Chambers is a clinical psychologist and internationally recognized expert in mindfulness. I have yet to complete this interview but the main points from the MiM website are:
- A crucial attitude that will transform your meditation and your life
- A powerful strategy for managing difficult emotional states like fear and anxiety
- A common obstacle that arises in meditation and a tactic to overcome it
- A helpful tactic to use when you’re under pressure and feeling anxious (think exams or public speaking)
- Some fascinating science that explains how mindfulness can support higher performance and improved learning
Body Scan Meditation by Elise Bialylew
This meditation (10 mins 22 secs) I lay on the floor and it was all about feeling each part of your body starting at the toes. I found this very relaxing and much easier today to focus and not let my mind wander. My mind and body felt so relaxed at the end of the meditation.
Day 6 – The impact of mindfulness on your brain
Another interview I need to catch up on. I’m finding it difficult to make the time to listen and also my concentration is not as sharp as I would like it to be.
Interview An interview with Sarah Lazar has a PhD in microbiology at Harvard University– ‘The Impact of Mindfulness on your brain’.
I haven’t done this yet but here are the main points from the MiM website.
- Which areas of the brain change with regular mindfulness meditation and why this is important
- How these brain changes could enhance your mental health
- The powerful effect mindfulness can have on the amygdala, the stress centre of your brain.
Rick Hanson – 5 ways to Confidence one of the 12 strengths of Resilience
We focused on Self confidence and own worth – the way others care about you and you care about yourself. We can grow in confidence by being aware of facts of being cared about let recognition become a feeling of being cared about by thinking about.
5 different ways to be cared about
- Included – Ways in life currently or in past where you are included – team, friendship circle etc
- Being Seen- Feeling of being seen – felt that you are seen by others and they have empathy
- Appreciated – Feel appreciated – think of when you have felt respected or valued by others
- Liked – When you have been liked – think about when others have been friendly or warm toward you. Allow yourself to feel liked.
- Loved – Being aware of ways you have been loved – when the love for you has been true
Day 7 – A day for reflection and integration
Today was about reflecting on the first week of Mindful in May and also selecting one of the guided meditations to repeat. I chose the meditation from Day 1.
We were also asked to reflect on these questions:
- How was your effort this week? I managed to complete the guided meditations each day, although I still have to catch up on two interviews.
- What got in the way of your practice (if anything)? Outside noise, I need to ensure I take myself to a quiet place in the house to be able to concentrate.
- What could you do differently next week to support your practice? I need to find the time to listen to the interviews.
If you have read this far you will realise that this is not just a quick daily challenge. However, my most important take away from the week is that you do what you can and don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t lived up to your expectations. Mindfulness and Meditation requires practice so hopefully, Week 2 will bring more learnings.
Next Wednesday I will be publishing my Update for Week 2 – I hope you will join me then.
Do you meditate daily? Do you practice mindfulness? Share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comments below.
Let’s Keep Sizzling!