The Marble

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My youngest son started middle school this week in a town roughly 40 minutes from our home.  He will have to start fresh with new friends, new teachers, a new culture and new expectations.  Even though he is up for the challenge, he is understandably anxious.

In new situations, it is natural to feel uneasy and overwhelmed.   Mindfulness shifts the attention inward like a spotlight on these thoughts and feelings and calming yourself can be as simple as observing your breath. However, it can be difficult in new situations to remember to breathe and be present.  When the anxiety upsets our balance, it may just take a simple reminder to bring it back.

Enter the Marble – my son was given a marble to keep in his pocket as a reminder to breathe.  Each time he reached into his pocket and felt the marble, it was his queue to be mindful of his breath, inhaling and exhaling and being present, calming any anxiety he may feel in that moment.

It is proven that mindfulness helps strengthen attention, adaptability, emotional regulation, compassion, calming and resilience.  To think, it can all start with a simple breath, and sometimes a simple reminder.

Embrace the moment!

Mindful Moose

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Walking

I love my morning walks they have become a daily ritual I look forward to.  Some days I exit my house with a mind full of chatter, I can walk for an hour and return home unaware of the experience, I have been in my head for the entire journey.   I live just behind a beautiful provincial park, so to wander through this amazing park and not truly notice it – well, that is just criminal.

I have found if I set an intention for my walk I can remain somewhat present to the experience.  ‘somewhat.’  Our minds naturally wander through thoughts, and that is okay;  when I am walking and notice my thoughts drifting to the chatter, I take a breath and bring myself back to the moment.

At the beginning of my walk, I take a moment to just breathe in the air, being aware of my breath as I inhale and exhale.  Once I start walking I cycle through my senses.  Sights, sounds, scents.  Today I started by observing the trees and the changing colors, the sky, and the clouds, the bright pink sun, the birds, and insects.  Next, I listened to the sounds surrounding me, the wind through the leaves, the pounding step of the runner that just passed me, the river moving by me and the plane overhead.  What can you smell? today it was the scent of freshly fallen leaves and crisp morning air.

Now soften all your senses and take in the experience, be mindful of your surroundings and your place within them.  Open your heart with gratitude and appreciation for the beauty that surrounds you.

Embrace the moment!

 

Mindful Moose

 

 

 

Patterns

My husband and kids attended an event at a beautiful lake in central Alberta over the weekend.   After the event, many of the attendees posted a great number of pictures on social media. Excitedly I looked through the pictures and saw the amazing faces of the families that attended – moms and dads, grandmas and numerous kids.  However, I notice as I scan the photos that my jaw is tight, and my shoulders are becoming tense.  I recognize that I am feeling very sad and hurt.  It takes me a minute to understand why but then I realize that in going through the many photos posted, there isn’t one picture of my family.

Immediately I judge myself. I shouldn’t be upset, I shouldn’t feel hurt and why am I feeling sad over a series of posted photos?  But the feelings of hurt have settled in.  I start questioning my families value.  I feel sad that the faces of my own children are absent from the collage of photos and the anxiety I try so hard to avoid starts to take hold.

I have entered dangerous territory.  My mind is beginning to cycle through feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness.  My internal dialogue has become negative and I start comparing and judging.  It is a familiar pattern of self-sabotage. I have to act and fast.  So I STOP!  In the midst of these challenging emotions, I turn to the 3-minute breathing space.

‘This exercise is taken from Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). It is a quick and simple way of taking mindful pauses throughout the day and maintaining continuity in our mindfulness practice. It is also helpful for interrupting automatic (i.e., habitual) and unhelpful thinking patterns that can sometimes spiral into negative moods and destructive behaviors. It integrates two types of meditation (open-monitoring and concentrative) as well as the practices of acceptance, attentional switching, and letting go. The following instructions are from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression by Segal, Williams, and Teasdale, 2002.’

Step 1 – Becoming aware

Start by adopting an erect and dignified posture. Then, if possible, closing your eyes and bringing your awareness to your inner experience by asking “What is my experience right now?”

  • What THOUGHTS are present? As best you can, acknowledging thoughts as mental events, perhaps putting them into words.
  • What FEELINGS are here? Turning toward any sense of discomfort or unpleasant feelings, and acknowledging them.
  • What BODY are SENSATIONS here right now? Quickly scanning the body to pick up any sensations of tightness or bracing, acknowledging the sensations.

STEP 2 – Gathering your attention

Redirecting your attention to the physical sensations of breathing in the abdomen. 

Feel the sensations of the abdomen wall expanding as the breath comes in and falling back as the breath goes out. Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out, using the breathing to anchor yourself into the present.

STEP 3 – Expanding your attention

Expanding the field of your awareness around the breath so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, and facial expression.

If you become aware of any sensations of discomfort, tension, or resistance, taking your awareness there by breathing into them on the in breath. Then breathing out from those sensations, softening and opening with the out breath. As best you can, bring this expanded awareness to the next moments of your day.

It is important to remember that we are not defined by our thoughts and feelings, all human beings experience difficult emotions, our thoughts are not our truths. Cultivate kindness and compassion for yourself and your experience and become aware of uncomfortable emotions without shame or judgment.

Embrace the moment!

Mindful Moose