Mindfulness Meditation Warnings & Alerts
Julie Lusk, M.Ed., NBCC, E-RYT-500
Mindfulness is hot. It’s in schools, the workplace and in mental health centers. It’s popular because when true mindfulness is practiced regularly, it’s been found to
- Improve brain function
- Balance out the nervous system
- Reduce physical, mental and emotional pain
- Tame mental restlessness
- Increase emotional stability for more happiness and less suffering
- Improve mental clarity and intuition for better decision-making and peace of mind
- Help transform worry and anxiety into curiosity
- “Oh snap! What if this pain lasts forever?” vs “Oh here is muscle tension (or sadness, or whatever). How interesting?”
- Heightened appreciation
- Everything from food tasting better to understanding and accepting the ups and downs in life.
- More benefits HERE.
Due to its trendiness, it is often misunderstood, misused and taught incorrectly. It can be downright aggravating. Mindfulness is only one type of meditation. The two are not synonymous. It is not time spent thinking or mulling things over. Mindfulness is not for escaping either, like trying desperately to run from negativity to positivity.
“Mindfulness is the empowering practice of living fully in the present moment with awareness. In practicing mindfulness, we train our mind to be more focused and responsive and less distracted and reactive. All this happens as we learn to pay attention to what’s happening within and around us with unbiased curiosity, accuracy and open-heartedness. Care is given to neither resist nor hold on to what’s happening but to let experiences come and go, just as they are, in a friendly, evenhanded way. We learn to skillfully direct our attention in wholesome ways and take appropriate action when needed.” (Guided Mindfulness Meditations: Practicing Presence and Finding Peace, by Julie Lusk: Health Journeys, 2016)
Sophie, our sweetheart dog has been extremely ill, bringing on worry, sadness and a sick stomach. I was so grateful that I could use my mindfulness skills to help me with feeling so freaked out. I practiced mindfully focusing on the wild range of feelings, physically and emotionally. Eventually, I could feel the knots in my stomach calm down. All this eased my fears to naturally make room for some clear thinking and problem-solving. Now that she’s home from critical care, I’m enjoying my time with her without being distracted as much. Her fur feels softer.
There are many correct and incorrect ways to practice mindfulness. Body-Based Mindfulness is a great practice with long-lasting benefits for novices and seasoned meditators. It happens when one impartially watches over physical sensations as they happen. Gentle awareness is placed on the body and/or the breath. Doing so serves as a very effective anchor for ones wandering thoughts and feelings because the body and the breath can only happen in the present moment – the hallmark of meditation.
Think about it. All bodily organs can only function moment to moment. It’s impossible to breathe in the past or for the future. It only happens now. The same goes for impartially noticing places that feel unpleasant, pleasant, neutral or numb. The mind can hop, skip and jump from the present to the past or the future in a flash, making moment-to-moment awareness very challenging.
Focus Points for Body-Based Mindfulness
- Sit up tall as comfortably as possible. Either close your eyes or have them half-open. Start with a few minutes, progressing to longer time-frames.
- Choose something concrete. Focus on your dominant hand, for example. Where is it? What position is it in? What’s its temperature? How much tension/relaxation is present? You can even focus on an ache or pain – anything that calls for your attention. As attention strays, gently refocus on the direct experience as it happens.
- Choose the breath. It is subtler than most body sensations but breathing still happens here and now. If this is your focal point, go with what’s happening physically. Figure out what part of the breath is the easiest to follow. Is it the sensations at your nostrils, could it be the movement in your chest or belly? Maybe it’s the sound of it. Remember, there’s no need to change it. Simply notice it as it comes and goes.
- When an emotional array of moods come up – same deal – how does this joy, this grief, this confusion, this clarity being experienced physically? Let it spark an exploration of what happens in your gut, to your heart rate, in your jaw – wherever physical sensations are showing up.
- What’s fun is to center in to see what happens? Folks are often surprised how impermanent and fleeting distractions really are. All that’s needed is to watch what’s happening, with curiosity and acceptance. Whatever is showing up physically, mentally, emotionally or some combo is often just asking/crying out for attention. Soon enough, the sensation shifts. If something persists, perhaps it really is time to make a change. It’s all about moving away from reacting mechanically or unconsciously to responding with awareness.
- When resistance or restlessness flairs up, rather than trying to squash or ignore it, try making peace with it. Try something like, “Oh hello restlessness. Make yourself at home.” In other words, make peace with it while it’s visiting. Notice what restlessness feels like, practicing with acceptance, more and more.
- All in all, it works better when moving from the gross to the subtle. All that means is starting with the body, then perhaps to the breath, and maybe to the thinking mind. Honestly, it all seems to naturally flow that way anyway.
Warnings – Mindfulness leads to
- Peace of mind
- Clear thinking
- Better sleep
- Unconditional joy
- Appreciation for the ups and downs of everyday living
Want more? Go Here Now
- Mindfulness & Why it Matters
- Mindfulness Magic – Easy-to-follow breathing exercises
- Stop ~ Look ~ Listen Meditation
- More on Meditation, Guided Imagery & Relaxation
- Meditation on the Fly: Handling Distractions(video)
Julie Lusk, MEd, E-RYT 500, has more than 35 years of expertise in stress relief, yoga, relaxation training, guided imagery, and meditation as an international author, recording artist, and workshop leader. Julie is the author of Yoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation and Stress Relief, Yoga Meditations, two volumes of 30 Scripts for Relaxation, Imagery and Inner Healing, and Desktop Yoga®. Her audio downloads and CDs include Wholesome Relaxation, Power of Presence, Yoga Nidra Essentials, Blue Moon Rising, and many others. Learn more at https://JulieLusk.com