Sunday night there were 11 of us in a yoga studio filled with windows, lit softly with candles.

The sun was almost down and the rain began.

I was in my Sunday night meditation class.

As we sat on our cushions and our teacher taught us about various meditation practices, the thunder began.

I looked around the room of people who were there to learn how to meditate.

Most people hoped meditation would help reduce their stress.

 

I was there because the meditation teacher is brilliant and I love learning.

The other students were listening intently to our teacher, while I chose to take a few moments to appreciate the moment.

The sight of the rain and lightening outside our window.

The glow of the candles in our room.  The warmth of the air around me.

The cushion and mat supporting me.  The sound of the thunder. The wisdom being taught to my peers.

I felt grateful for being there.  I reflected on how happy I was that I have the skills to live mindfully and appreciate these small moments.  To me, this is one of the greatest gifts of mindful living.

This week I was teaching a new client how to meditate. 

We talked about sitting postures, what experiences tend to frustrate new students and different types of formal meditation practices.

I knew I was working with someone who was skeptical of mindfulness meditation.  This is what I love – it is all the more delightful when they start to see how powerful it is for their health and happiness.

“Okay, I understand the process, but how does this apply to my life?” he asked.

“Great question” I replied.

Here is what I said…

Formal meditation practices teaches you how to focus on an object (the breath, an object, sounds, walking, eating and so on).

When you are focusing on that object your mind will wander – that’s what just it does. 

When you realize your mind has wandered to some story you telling yourself (eg: things you have to do or things you forgot to do) and you bring your focus back to the object, you are making changes in your brain – you are meditating.

Formal meditation becomes powerful when we can take our ability to recognize our thoughts in our day to day life. 

Formal meditation gives us a little bit of space between our thoughts and with this space we can play a little.

By play, I mean we can question our thoughts instead of being absorbed by them.”

Here is the example I used:

Today as I walked through the office I passed candy, chocolates and cake.

Without mindfulness my thoughts would have been like this…

Mmmm chocolate and cake for us!  Great, where are the plates.  Do I have enough time to eat a piece before my next client? Yes.  

Ohhh that icing looks good. Forks, ah yes, fork and plate. 

I would scoop my cake and head to my office to eat it before my next client.

The results: Eating food I didn’t need or plan to have.  And we have this type of stuff in our office daily, so it could get scary!

With mindfulness, my thoughts went like this…

Oh look, more cake and chocolate here.  It looks like it would be sweet and tasty.  I could have a small piece….

THEN I RECOGNIZED MY THOUGHTS AND PLAYED WITH THEM…

…but then I would have a sugar rush and crash and probably not want to go for my run after work.  What does my body really need right now?  Yes, my fruit and Greek yogurt will make me feel better in the long run.  Some herbal tea would be great as well.

The results:  Healthy choices made with intention.  No sugar crash. Lots of energy.  Great run after work!

This, my friend, is mindful living at its best!  To live mindfully is to be aware of thoughts as they come up and to play with them a little.  It means to think about thinking.  To not be consumed by thoughts.

My client understood completely….. I may have just converted one more….:)

Now that it is finally spring in Ottawa, I have resumed my lunch time walking.

I try to do different types of mindful movements (yoga, walk, run, swim, stretch, weights, bike) throughout my day.

As a therapist, I am often sitting for long period of time – this is not what the body was designed to do.

 

At lunch I decided my body would like to be moving outside.

 

As I took my 20 minute walk I decided to slow down for some mindful walking.

 

Walking meditation is a formal meditation practice.

 

This means you mindfully focus on your body sensations as you are walking.

 

Heel…arch…toe…lift.  repeat.  Heel…arch…toe…lift. repeat.

 

It’s a great meditation practice when my mind is extra busy.

 

For people who are new to meditation, here is an inside view of how the mind can work during a few minutes of a meditation practice.

 

Alright, time for some walking meditation.  Heel…arch…toe…lift.  Heel…arch…toe…lift.  Heel…arch…toe…lift. Heel…arch…toe…lift. 

 

What is that person honking at, who is that, oh, it’s Emma,  big grin and wave.  Heel…arch…toe…lift.  Heel…arch…toe…lift.  Heel…arch…toe…life.

 

I’m doing this so well, I just love meditation – oh right… Heel…arch…toe…lift.  Heel…arch…toe…lift. Heel…arch…toe…lift.

 

Oh crap I forgot to return her call. I should have time when I get back before my one o’clock. 

It’s actually kinda hot out here.

Look at all this litter… I hope they sweep the streets on… Oh Right… Heel….arch…toe….lift.  Heel….arch…toe….lift.  Heel…arch….toe….lift.  Heel…arch…toe…lift.

 

I wonder if he’ll call me again. I like him – he makes me laugh…Oh Right… Heel….arch…toe….lift.  Heel….arch….toe….lift. Heel…arch…toe…lift.  Heel….arch….toe….lift.  Heel….arch…toe…lift. 

 

Look at these new condos.  It would be nice to have a new condo.

I would do so much cooking and I would have more people over for dinners. 

I miss my old condo.  Oh how I miss the garden.  Oh right… Heel…arch…toe…lift.  Heel…arch…toe…lift.  Heel….arch….toe….lift.  Heel….arch…toe…lift.  Heel…arch…toe…lift.  Heel….arch….toe…lift. 

 

Oops I almost stumbled there, I’m sure people driving by think I’m crazy. 

I’m okay with that. Oh right…Heel…arch…toe…lift.  Heel….arch…toe…lift.  Heel…arch…toe…lift.  Heel….arch….toe….lift. Heel…arch….toe…lift.  Heel…arch…toe…lift. 

 

As you can see – the mind wanders.

 

The last statistic I read was that the average adult has between 14,000 to 40,000 thoughts per day.

 

Mindfulness meditation is the perfect way to slow the mind down and develop it’s ability to focus.

 

The next time you have a few minutes on your lunch, I invite you to try a short walking meditation.

 

I guarantee you that your thoughts will wander…. just remember – if your mind wanders 19 times, bring it back to focus 20 times.

 

If your mind wanders 98 times, bring it back to focus 99 times.

 

And you, my friend, will be successfully meditating.