Guest blog via Jennifer Haston-Maciejewski
Behavior Coach/Yoga & Mindfulness Instructor
“Maybe sometimes we should just sit, and in the sitting understand that life speaks in stillness and therefore on occasion we would be wise to join it there.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough
Our minds want to confuse us and make everything more complicated than it really is. We constantly feel like we have to make to-do lists, and complete priorities. It’s why our brain will not easily settle down to do a simple task. The most difficult and simultaneously the simplest task we can undertake is to pay attention, to listen, and to observe. The most beneficial thing we can do for our mind is to enter into that space of stillness, that perceptual, sensing side of our brain; yet, this is what we resist more than anything! We must take time to intentionally drop out of the planning, conceptual brain, and into the present moment. We must make the conscious, on-purpose decision to practice doing this even knowing that our brain will fight us. When I say our brain will fight us, I mean that it might call forth emotions of panic, anxiety, worry, thoughts of time-wasting, to-do lists, the past, the future–anything but the right now.
Your brain is in charge of your thoughts, but you are in charge of your brain–Don’t forget that.
Practicing mindful breathing for a few minutes every day gives you an evidence-based tool to help you eliminate stress and stay focused on tasks. The exercises we will practice can be used regularly in classrooms and personal mindful breathing practices at home! Follow these tips to help you during your mindful breathing practice:
- Put everything else aside. Everything you have to do will still be there at the end of your practice. Take a break from your phone, your work, your to-do lists, and maybe even the people around you. It might help to move to a quieter place.
- Get comfy. Move to the edge of your chair or sit on a cushion on the floor. Keep your back upright, but not too stiff. Place your hands palms down on your legs or however most comfortable. Try to relax your jaw and forehead.
- Set a timer. Try to do breathing exercises for 3-5 minutes as you’re first learning. If that seems too long, try 2 minutes at first.
- Eyes open or closed? It’s your choice. Notice which one makes it easier for you to stay focused. If you keep your eyes open, try to focus on just one object without looking around.
- Try to focus fully on your breathing. Starting out, just feel the flow of breath — in, out — whatever feels natural to you. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. Not long, not short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. Maybe it’s in your belly, maybe in your chest or throat, or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of your breath, one breath at a time.
- Be kind to your wandering mind. Now as you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. You may start thinking about other things and be 17 thoughts in before you even notice. If this happens, don’t get grumpy, it’s normal. Just notice that your mind has wandered. You can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. And then gently bring your attention back to your inhales and exhales.
- Close with kindness. I always like to close with a good arms overhead stretch, a soft smile, and a gentle sigh
That’s it! That’s the practice. You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible again the next day.
Before beginning the day, take five or ten minutes (maybe less if this seems daunting) to just sit in the quiet stillness. Don’t worry about what needs to get done. I always say if it needs to get done, it will get done. You do not need to prove to yourself that you are busy by making a list. Just be. Everything you are pushing aside to have these few minutes will be there at the end of your practice. Just for now, enjoy these moments that belong only to you.
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