Welcome to Mindfulness Monday! As I mentioned in my post Untying The Knots, I’ve embarked on a mission to try to learn to relax through mindfulness meditation. I’m using a book called Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan For Finding Peace In A Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Since I’m not great at staying with things over the long term, I decided to make you all my accountability partners and use this blog to chronicle my journey through this book over the next eight weeks. Thanks for joining me!
In the first few chapters of the book, authors Williams and Penman explain the purpose of mindfulness meditation, address some myths regarding it, and explain how our our deeply-ingrained habits can prevent us from living our best lives. They explain that mindfulness consists of two parts: a mindfulness meditation program and habit releasers to help us break the habits in thinking and doing that keep us from living our fullest possible life. The authors explain the importance of these habit releasers:
“Many judgmental and self-critical thoughts arise out of habitual ways of thinking and acting. By breaking with some of your daily routines, you’ll progressively dissolve some of these negative thinking patterns and become more mindful and aware.”
I was really excited to get started! I wasn’t sure what to expect, because as I’ve said before, my mind never stops, but after reading the background information in the first four chapters I was ready to start. Each week consists of both meditations and habit releasers, so each week you’re addressing both parts of the mindfulness equation. The authors suggest that you do each meditation on six of the seven days of the week.
The first week was all about waking up to your autopilot. Throughout our day, we complete many complicated actions without even thinking about them. The automatic pilot is a great thing to have because, in effect, it allows us to extend our brain’s “working memory” by forming habits that help us complete the many tasks we’re responsible for throughout the day. Sometimes though, our thoughts and actions can become so ingrained that we’re not even aware of them anymore. When we become more aware, we’re able to be more in control our autopilot and use it to our advantage. The first step in becoming more aware is to relearn to focus our awareness on one thing at a time.
So how did week one go for me? Well, let’s just say it was interesting…. In the book, the authors give you a link to download meditations for each week and there are also written instructions for each one if you don’t want to listen to the audio file. The first one is pretty short and the gentleman who walks you through the meditation has a very pleasant, soothing voice.
The very first time I did it, things didn’t go so well. Right away, I noticed that rather than just observing my breath, I started trying to control it. I immediately went into deep breathing instead of just observing what my breath was doing naturally. Then, my husband’s cell phone started ringing and the dogs started barking at that. Finally, after it got quiet again, I settled back down and started thinking, “I need to include this in my update….” My mind flitted from one thought to another.
Subsequent times have been better, and I usually feel pretty relaxed once I complete my meditation. My mind is still all over the place, but that’s okay; they tell you to just acknowledge the thought and “escort” your mind back to your breath. I’ve found this helpful, because rather than beat myself up because I’m not doing it right, I just acknowledge that my mind has wandered, and bring it back. If this teaches me nothing except not to be so self-critical it will have been worth the time I spend on it each week.
The habit releaser for this week was to simply sit in different chairs than you normally do. I didn’t really do much of that because right now, sitting isn’t much of a habit and I can only sit in certain chairs. With the problem I’m having with my hips, every time I sit I’m fully aware.
As the authors explain in the book, these things may not appear to have instant benefits. Meditating requires practice; it’s not something that comes naturally to everyone, and big changes may not happen overnight, but many studies have shown the benefits of meditation. I figure it’s worth at least a few minutes twice a day for eight weeks to see how it works for me.
Thanks for helping me stay accountable!
Have you tried meditation or do you currently meditate? How has it worked for you?