Buddha & Body: Mindfulness

Nicole McIntryre

Everyone is looking for that oasis of calm in this hectic world.

The popularity of mindfulness came long ago from early teachings of the Buddha but the practice and truth of it still remain the same today. Learning to be mindful for even the most striking of rationalists can prove to be beneficial to boost happiness and wellbeing. It is not about chanting OM, lighting incense and hitting gongs, it is clinically and scientifically proven that mindfulness can help everyone find greater peace of mind and contentment. The added bonus is it helps improve your health, brain power and emotional intelligence.

The science behind the practice

The brain is a very powerful organ and it is quite vulnerable to chemical reactions. For instance, when you are feeling excited the neurotransmitter dopamine rises. Dopamine is good as it keeps us in more positive states of mind and keeps you sharp. This close interaction with our brain and mind is also relevant when in a peaked states of stress. The neurotransmitter adrenaline gets fired up and too much of this over time can cause detrimental effects on your health and inevitably, your social life. Too much of these stress chemicals rising over a period of time can lead to poor decision making and less than favourable states of mind. In a recent study, the combination of mindfulness practice and anti-depressants helped prevent relapses of depression by almost 70%. Not to mention the positive effect it has on everyday stresses. Research has also shown that mindfulness can help alleviate chronic pain. It can strengthen the immune system and help fight the flu and colds. With the countless research, endless studies and participants claiming the effects from mindfulness is worth trying… they can’t all be drinking the koolaid right?!

Mindfulness has many myths that still put people off. The most common misconception is its a religion or cult. Although mindfulness is a popular practice within many well developed religions you do not need to pray, sit cross legged, worship or adopt the same beliefs as your neighbour. Mindfulness is a state of mind that can be developed to your liken. As long as you are in the present, in tune with your body and cultivate gratitude, you will see the positive outcomes it will offer to your life. Another misconception is it takes too much time. You do not have to meditate each day for an hour. You can be mindful at any point for one minute to whenever. Mindfulness can be practiced in the shower, while drinking coffee or even during sex! Who doesn’t want better sex, c’mon?! Again, the biggest part to feeling a change and being more mindful is being fully present. That seems to be the hardest issue…

How to focus your mind better

Mindfulness comes in handy when a negative thought or action happens. Say for example your boss criticizes you for something you feel is unfair. Our automatic reaction is to become defensive then stew in this until it becomes much bigger than it needs to be. Mindfulness encourages to let this go like a wave in the ocean. Let it pass by. Over time, these defensive feelings won’t bog you down as much and your attitude will change for the better. By practicing this mindset it will ground you to the present more while letting harmful and useless shit not enter. Therefore, by allowing yourself to let go of the things that don’t serve you overtime you will become much more productive, successful and positive. You will see key points on how to do this below.

Adopting a more aware mind can be likened to having more compassionate awareness. Its not as easy as that though…Start by observing your thoughts and the feelings they evoke in a specific situation. Do this with no judgement or action. Be curious and open with these thoughts. Examine them in a positive light with alternative conclusions. Don’t even entertain ‘what ifs’. Then take your mind from just ‘doing’ which is distracting to ‘being’ which is present. This means having your full attention on only one thing. Feelings or thoughts may arise that may bog you down and are not useful. When this happens take a few deep breaths, calm yourself, perhaps smile and simply let it go – come back to the present of being. If visualizing is easy for you see negativity as a distant fog getting chased in the wind or if you are more of a rationalist, make a vow to yourself that you are perfectly fine being done with that thought after much reason and deep thought. If a negative thought comes back simply acknowledge it and let it pass. Do not get bothered if these negative thoughts keep coming back as it will take sometime to clean up all your bullshit. There is no need to be stressed about it. This is your time to work on you and allow yourself to connect with yourself. No one else can do this work but you.

3 Easy Steps to get started on your mindfulness journey 🙂

1) Observe one thought with full attention and non-judgement.

2) Observe your body. Release tension and negativity through relaxation.

3) Allow yourself to venture a bit out of your comfort zone.

Remember…

1) Practice mindfulness during your routine activities. Keep it short and sweet.

2) Have a prompt to remind you to practice.

3) Continue ‘check-ins’ with yourself. Fully accept how you are feeling that day with no judgement.

4) Learn to meditate, simple yoga and breathing exercises. Combine them.

5) Assign a different value to each day’s practice.

Studies of shown that even random acts of kindness are psychologically proven to help us feel better about ourselves, while also making the other person feel valued as well – a win/win situation!

I’d be happy to customize a schedule for your own mindfulness practice. This way you can continue improving yourself and appreciate the richness of life more. Whether practicing once a day works best for you or not, find a routine you will be able to stick with in the long-term. It all starts by changing one habit at a time – give it a try.

Message me for some great templates or details on how to customize your plan. hello@hotmamaliving.com.

I’ve included some really great mindfulness practices below. This is a great starting point as it gets your body and mind more in tuned to be clear and relaxed. Subscribe to my website for more like these!

Body Scan Meditation

This short and easy meditation can be done anywhere and at any time. It centers you, brings you into the present and immediately lowers your anxiety. Visualization in meditation can become a wonderful tool to enhance consciousness and self awareness. This focus of the mind can fuse pieces of thoughts together and allow you to stay more in the present with greater acceptance.

Take a moment to become present and find your breath. Sink deeper in your seat.

Start to follow your breath and allow it to become more relaxed. Take a few nice deep breaths here into the belly. Belly breaths are key here. High chest breaths increase stress and anxiety as they are more shallow.

Feel your shoulders relax down with each exhale. Sink deeper.

Become more observant of the noises around you but with a curious mind. You may start to eliminate those noises or welcome them into your relaxation. It’s your practice – listen to what your body tells you.

During the scan visualize a warm bright energy passing each body part almost like it passes to healing and clear out all bad energy that lingers there. This warm bright light can heal, relax and ignite energy. You have the ability to change how your body and mind feels it just takes time, dedication and patience.

If you can, gently close your eyes and if not keep eyes open but relaxed.

Scanning the soles of the feet first. Noticing any tension there. Bring a sense of curiosity as you rise up to the tops of the feet like you’ve never felt these sensations before. Allow your feet to become relaxed and relieve yourself of any tension or pain there. With your next breath exhale any garbage or toxins that remain in your feet. Let it go.

Do this practice moving up your body. It can take as long or as little as you want. Simply focus on sinking deeper, relax each part of your body, breath smoothly and become more observant inside your body than ever before.

Yoga for the body and mind

Throughout this whole article I have emphasized the benefits of mindfulness and the different avenues you can choose to practice it. Mindfulness is all about bringing your awareness into the present moment, of noticing and accepting without judgment or reaction. Yoga is more than just improving your flexibility and strength. It has a huge impact on your social, emotional and mental states. Needless to say it is an understatement of the endless benefits yoga offers. Yoga is an individualized practice for all levels. I have taught 70 year old elders to 8 year old energetic little girls. The end result is to feel better in your body and mind.

Short yoga sequence for beginners

Savasana (Corpse Pose) for a busy unfocussed mind. This pose can be one

of the hardest poses for some as it invokes relaxation. It allows the body and

mind to feel connected while relaxing in a meditative state. It begins to prepare

you for practice and opens your heart and chest up. To begin, lie down

on your back with palms up and legs comfortably splayed out. Place a blanket

under your head if that feels more comfortable. You can also roll up a blanket

and place that under your knees, if your lower back is sensitive or bothering

you. Feel the weight of your body sinking into your mat one part at a time. Begin

belly breathing and place your hand on your stomach to feel more connected.

Do this for a few moments…

Alternative Pose: You can position your arms

laying above over your head and stretch out all extremities.

Point the toes, lift the rib cage and deep breaths.

After a few minutes if you wish to take

the pose to the next level open your knees apart

with big toes still touching. This can help relieve

some stress and tension in the abdomen and heart.

Do this for a few breaths and keeping your lower back on the mat.

Balasana (Childs Pose) is an excellent pose to begin with as it opens up the

heart and relieves pressure. It also reduces the amount of fluid in the joints.

Come into table top position and have a block handy just in case. Sit on your

legs and stretch your arms out in front of you where you are comfortable.

Remember to keep long and have much space for baby. Using a block may help

but always remember to have the big toes touching and have the thighs splayed

out. Remain there for 2 minutes if you can.

Pigeon Pose is another option for a deeper stretch. A caution here for

newcomers to yoga. Pigeon is a popular pose to relieve sciatic pain during

pregnancy. Get into a table top position and slide your right knee forward so its

between your hands. Slide your left leg back, keeping your foot on the floor.

Place a block under the knee costed for better support and stability. Lean

forward over your right leg and slowly lower yourself down. Make sure you feel

comfortable and grounded. Hold for 1 minute and focus on deepening the

breath here. Both sides may not be even so explore where these hip stretches

take you.

Come back to Corpse pose for 5 minutes or sit in a comfortable seated position

with eyes closed. Perhaps end with the body scan exercise.

Set an intention for the rest of your day. End sequence here.

So the ending of this article is only the beginning for you. The potential effects of practicing mindfulness from decreased psychological stress to enhanced mental and emotional health – not to mention reduced symptoms of burnout, high abilities to cope and resilience – the positive potential outcomes are there for the taking. It would be a shame not to give mindfulness a fair try! If your still looking to enrich your life and make lasting positive changes please message me and we can chat about this more 🙂

Much love and support,

Nicole McIntyre

hello@hotmamaliving.com

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