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Mindfulness and Meditation

Written by Ashley Posey

Hello, beautiful soul. I am Ashley Dianne Posey, and I believe in the integrative path to healing. I am a free spirited, trauma-informed psychotherapist and Reiki master who incorporates the scientific with the energetic and spiritual. Writing is a love language for me, and my intention here is to create a space for learning, laughing, healing, and getting to know a little more about me.

 What do these practices look like when put into action? Are these really attainable skills for living life in today’s world?

Many of my clients come to counseling having heard of the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Without even identifying it as such, clients, family, and friends alike, all talk about moments of experiencing the benefits. I hear about the peace experienced during śavāsana at the end of a yoga practice; the awe found in the beauty of nature that exists here on planet Earth; the connection to God/Source/Higher Power found deep within a prayer; in “aha moments” while journaling, listening to music, or painting; in the laughter and innocence of their children; in the unconditional love of a pet – in a million other true and sometimes fleeting ways, this place of being so deeply lost in the present moment is described to me – completely alive, fully aware, totally accepting.

These are the beautiful moments; the ones we want to hold onto. True, people rarely come to counseling to linger in these moments. It is also quite possible that given the current climate of our world, the concepts of meditation and mindfulness seem more like unattainable buzz words than something to be tangibly cultivated in our day-to-day lives. My clients come to counseling with a variety of goals, but no matter what the “presenting issue” may be, cultivating a mindfulness and meditation practice is the perfect starting point.

So, what is mindfulness?

How can you meditate when your mind is full of all the things that happened in the past or of all the uncertainties that the future holds? Do you need to be all OM’s, yoga, and sitting cross legged on a cushion to do it? I like to think of these practices as psychological self-care. There is no “right” or “wrong” way, and the best way to start is to just start! No overthinking required. There are thousands of definitions and approaches to practicing mindfulness, as well as to incorporating meditation into your daily life. Most simply explained, mindfulness is the informal practice of present moment awareness of our outer lives by being actively aware of what you are doing while you are doing it. In turn, meditation is the intentional practice of cultivating inner peace by focusing our awareness on our inner lives.

Psychologically speaking, mindfulness and meditation can be combined as keeping a continual awareness, within each moment, of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment while viewing these experiences through an open, gentle, and loving lens.

Mindfulness has three core elements: intention, attention, and attitude. Intention means knowing why we are doing what we are doing – what is important, what motivates us, what we value.

Attention, however, is focusing fully within the present moment without falling into thoughts of the past or future. Attitude, is the “how we go about this” part which involves remaining open, kind, and curious. These three elements are interwoven and interconnected, fostering a moment-to-moment process. Interestingly, counseling, at its core, invites clients to be intentional, to pay attention, and to shift attitude/perspective. It may sound complicated in theory, but like any selfcare practice, the more you do it, the better it gets. So, what does this look like in real life? Here are some techniques to get you started!

Mindful Breathing

Settle into a comfortable position, allowing your eyes to close or keeping them open with a softened gaze. Begin by taking several long slow deep breaths breathing in fully and exhaling fully. Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose or mouth. Allow your breath to find its own natural rhythm. Bring your full attention to noticing each in-breath as it enters your nostrils, travels down to your lungs and causes your belly to expand. And notice each out-breath as your belly contracts and air moves up through the lungs back up through the nostrils or mouth. Invite your full attention to flow with your breath. If your mind wanders away from your breath, take notice without judging it and gently guide your awareness back to your breathing.

Body Scan Meditation

Do mindful breathing as step one. Then start by bringing awareness to your body. Notice where your body touches the floor or chair. Be aware of where your body exists inside of your space. Take your time, getting a good feeling of where you are and what you feel. Now start exploring your bodily sensations, one section or muscle at a time. You might start at your toes, noticing any sensations you feel and then letting it go. Move onto the bridge of your feet, then to your ankles, shins, calves and so on. Keep focusing on individual parts of your body, while experiencing the sensations within each body part until you get to the top of your head. If your mind wanders away from your breath and body, take notice without judgment and gently guide your awareness back to your body scan.

Loving Kindness Meditation

Do mindful breathing as step one. Settle into the awareness of your body and breath. We all have the natural capacity within us to cultivate loving kindness. Loving kindness is the natural opening of a compassionate heart, both to ourselves and to others. It is a wish for connection and acceptance. Allow yourself to remember your basic goodness, your natural desire to be happy and not to suffer. If it is challenging to accept your own goodness, look at yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you, or possibly the unconditional love of a child or a pet. Repeat or reflect on these words or a similar script of your choosing: May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be held in loving kindness. May I feel connected and calm. May I accept myself just as I am. May I be happy. May I know love. (Repeat). After practicing this meditation on yourself, direct this loving kindness to someone you care about, to the world at large, to those you have yet to know and may never know. Close the practice with your hand over your heart, setting an intention of gratitude for this experience of self-acceptance.

If you scour the internet, you will uncover millions of techniques for cultivating a mindfulness and meditation practice. Inevitably, each one starts with your own willingness to accept what is here for you within this present moment and a desire to look within yourself. The benefits are vast for your physical and mental health, ranging from substantial reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression, to increases in working memory and focus, as well as emotional regulation. Most importantly, there is no “one-size-fits-all” method to incorporating this practice into your life. Find what feels good to you, lean into that, and proceed with open acceptance and intention.

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