Finding Mindfulness Through Contemplative Practices
The New Year seems to be a time where we evaluate ourselves and set goals to improve upon various aspects of our lives. Many of these goals tend to be focused around our health and include plans to improve physical fitness and nutrition. While I think it’s wonderful to focus on healthy behaviors like working out, eating right and getting enough sleep, I also think it is a perfect time to reconnect with the mind and start with a fresh, clear perspective.
Every year seems to go by faster than the last and it is amazing how much can change over the course of 365 days. There may be exciting things like new jobs, new homes, and new family members or challenges such as loss or heartbreak. Regardless of where we left 2014 and where we hope to go in 2015, finding mindfulness in our daily lives is sure to have a positive impact.
The key to finding true mindfulness is through Contemplative Practices. Contemplative Practices can mean different things for different people but all with the outcome of helping us to focus on what’s most meaningful in our lives. These are disciplines that help us to reconnect to the moment, focus on our breath and quiet our minds. They can be physical like running or yoga, creative like journaling or drawing, incorporate religious or spiritual traditions like prayer or may simply be stillness through meditation.
Busy schedules, buzzing cell phones, demanding professions and family obligations make it hard for many of us to quiet our minds and disconnect from daily life. Below are some tips to help guide us to sit back and just breathe.
1. Begin being physically comfortable and grounded, situating our sitting bones, tall spine so energy and breath can move with ease, feet on floor, hands relaxed and not gripped. Close your eyes if desired and focus your gaze inward.
2. Notice all that is around you including physical sensations like temperature, aromas etc. Look around but return to a still gaze.
3. Move awareness to the breath. Do not try to change or control it, but rather notice the gentle ease of the in and out, the rhythm and the regularity. Invite the breath to move through us, knowing that the inhale brings energy that nourishes us and the exhale allows us to get rid of what we do not need.
4. Envision the breath entering through our crown of your head. Slowly and evenly, we see it moving through the rest of the body as we become more centered and more relaxed. If the breath comes to a spot where we are holding stress like our jaws, shoulders etc., invite the breath to soften that area and remember that the softer and more relaxed we are, the stronger we become.
5. Sit quietly for a moment, attention to our breath. Bring to awareness something/someone we are grateful for and send thoughts of gratitude from our heart.
Contemplative Practices can enhance our lives by reducing stress and helping us be in the moment. Identify what this means to you and try to incorporate it into your daily life.
Best wishes for a wonderful year!
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