I was lucky to attend an intensive workshop on mindfulness, accompanied by our Naturmend psychologist, Karyn Zuidhof, last week in Banff. Being in the mountains was a great setting for such a workshop and a good reminder of how busy our lives become without even recognizing it. It is often not until we get away from our daily routine do we gain this perspective.
Ron Siegel, a guru in the world of mindfulness, led us in a 3 day intensive workshop. In essence, Mindfulness is a mental state of awareness and is achieved by focusing on the present moment. This may sound easy but how often are we truly aware of what is going on around us, let alone in our minds? The busy state of our lives and the over stimulation we get from the outside world seldom has us paying attention to what is really going on in the moment. Have you ever left your house and wondered if you had locked the door, shut off the stove, unplugged the iron? Have you ever been in the shower and ended up washing your hair a few times as you had forgotten if you had washed it? These are all signs of not being in the present moment.
Much suffering can come from our inability to be in the moment or be with and watch our thoughts without being run by these thoughts. Mindfulness is a practice that can help us to get to know and understand our minds without judgments or feeding in to the continual stories and dialogues that play. It gives us a perspective on our thoughts, desires and often our resistance to change. Everything in us and around us is constantly changing and there is much freedom that comes being present. Mindfulness can be difficult and takes some work and dedication. We go to the gym to train and exercise our bodies and we can see mindfulness like training for the mind.
Here are a few a few practices to try out so you can get to see how your mind works, get an awareness of the world around you and really start to feel different sensations in your body and different emotions that arise.
- Eating meditation: Explore what it is like to eat in silence paying attention to the taste, smell and texture of the food. Think of where the food came from and all those involved in this process. You will most likely find your mind wander but bring your attention back to the taste and texture of the food. Allow yourself to consciously chew, be in the moment putting your attention on the food not on the noises around you, your next meeting or what you are going to make for dinner tonight. See how the mind wanders and notice how difference the experience is to the usual experience of a meal.
- Sound meditation: This is practiced by closing your eyes, connecting to your breath and noticing all the sounds you hear around you. How far can you hear? Some sounds may make us feel good and some sounds may irritate you. Keep listening, without judgment and include them all. It may start with a bird and then you notice an air conditioner, then a car, then a breeze through the trees. Extend your perception as far as you can, including it all.
I highly recommend the book “The Mindfulness Solution” by Ron Siegel for an in depth look at understanding mindfulness, its applications in our day to day world as well as some practical exercise and meditations that can help begin the process. It can be difficult and there will times you will want to quit but I guarantee your life will change by starting a practice of some sort.
Dr. Brandy James graduated from Bishops University with a Bachelor of Science majouring in Biology. She went on to complete her medical training at The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. She is a strong believer in finding and addressing the root cause of the imbalances in health and disease. She takes a holistic and individualized approach to medicine and utilizes a combination of botanical medicine, nutrition, homeopathy and lifestyle and is also trained in Neuroemotional Technique (NET).