Exercises for Mindfulness
Bryan Kest’s 3 Favorite Yoga Practices for Mindfulness
Mindfulness really means “being mindful”. What are we supposed to be mindful of? The answer to the question is kind of tricky. You should be mindful of anything you want. So, what I’m saying is there isn’t anything you need to be mindful of other than the thing you want to be mindful of. Is this making sense?
Basically, mindfulness means placing your awareness on a point of your choosing. You’d be surprised at how rarely this occurs. People’s minds are constantly lost in thought. Have you ever had the experience of talking to someone and you notice that their eyeballs are looking away and they weren’t even listening to what you were saying? It's annoying, right? You just want to slap them (gently) and say, “Hey, I’m talking to you. Will you please listen to what I’m saying?” Well, this is the way most of us lead our lives. We are not paying attention to what’s happening because we are mentally busy thinking about other things. We do this so often we have become attached and comfortable dwelling within these thought patterns. Psychologists call these neuron pathways. The more we think about something the more it becomes ingrained in us. Many studies suggest most of what we think about is negative. We are stuck or attached to negative thoughts. Negative thoughts create stress, affect our world view and affect how we interpret things, whether it’s experiences or even what someone is saying.
Most of the time one is not choosing to drift into these thoughts; thus, the lack of mindfulness. Here’s another example: Have you ever been naked and looked at yourself in the mirror and had a negative or critical thought about the way that you looked? Most of us have due to societal conditioning, yet how many people are mindful that they are doing it? Basically, many of us walk around all day long repeating a negative inner dialogue that we are not aware of. Mindfulness seeks to counter this. It’s our birthright that our mind dwells in a place we want it to dwell instead of some default mentality imposed upon us by our culture.
Here are some exercises meant to facilitate mindfulness outside of one's yoga and meditation practice:
In the morning
When you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed, spend five minutes in positive affirmation. Create a positive affirmation such as, “I am happy and healthy and prosperous,” or, “May I bring joy to all I encounter”, or, “May I see beauty in all things.” Better yet, make up your own. Something you deeply believe and resonate with. Spend five minutes creating it and excavate a neuron pathway of your choosing.
Throughout the day
Notice your thoughts. Become aware of where your mind dwells. If the thoughts are not benevolent or uplifting, let them go and bring your attention back to whatever is happening in the present moment.
Become aware of your natural breath. In other words, don’t try to breathe loud or deep or fast - just let it be natural. See how long you can keep your attention on your breath before your mind drifts into a thought. It's like you are playing a game and the game is, "How much space in my mind can I create in between my thoughts?" As soon as you notice your mind drifted into thought, let the thought go and come back to your breath. This game will truly help with falling asleep as well. Don’t allow yourself to get frustrated or competitive with this.