Week 6: Cultivate the Gifts of Mindfulness

Welcome

Starry skyIn every moment we have the opportunity to awaken . . . to let go of whatever fear, constriction, and stories are running through our mind as we come fully into the present moment. And it is only in the present moment that we can experience happiness.

Since ancient times, people have used a wide variety of mindfulness techniques to cultivate this state of ever-present witnessing awareness. When we’re mindful, we observe our thoughts, emotions, and sensations without judging them as good or bad. Our attention is active and our attitude is compassionate. We’re aware that we’re connected to the patterns of intelligence that weave the tapestry of the entire cosmos.

Mindfulness practice can be simple. You can come to the present moment by shifting your awareness to your breath, or you can bring your awareness to the sensations in your body. Some people find it easier to let their attention rest in the space between objects. This can be the space between breaths, or the space between movements. The way you move your body – sitting, walking, eating, or any other activity – can be the object of your mindfulness. Once you find the method of mindfulness that suits you best, it becomes easy to access your silent witnessing presence.

By cultivating mindfulness, you begin to experience another level of mind, where silence dominates. From this state of mindful awareness blossoms a sense of wellbeing and a feeling that you are safe. When you embrace what is with your whole attention, you will be immersed in the fullness of the now.

Intention

Cultivating Your Intentions

Transform Your Relationship with Time

Woman sitting in lotus position in a busy city street sidewalk

All of the happiness and fulfillment that human beings yearn for exists in the present moment. In the now, time ceases to exist and we experience a presence that is all-absorbing, completely at peace, and totally satisfying.

Nothing could be closer than the present, yet nothing slips away faster. In an instant our mind can carry us far away into memories of the past or fantasies about the future. Or we may get caught up in a race against the clock, feeling like there’s never enough time. We say things like “Time is flying,” “Time is running out,” or “There are never enough hours in the day.”

We can choose whether to make time an enemy or an ally. We can shift from time-bound awareness into timeless awareness . . . to the ecstasy that can only be found in the present moment. If you want to have all the time in the world, you can train yourself. This week, choose one of the three practices below as your focus.

As you set your intention to transform your relationship with time, remember that being present does not require effort; you can’t work to be present. The key is having a willingness to discover that aspect of yourself that is timeless.

Practice #1: Transform Your Internal Dialogue
The way we talk to ourselves has a profound influence on how we perceive the world, how we feel, and ultimately how the events of our lives unfold. Instead of letting your internal dialogue bully or scare you with endless commentary about time running out, use affirmations that empower you and fill you with a sense of ease and wellbeing. You can use these affirmations or come up with your own:

I have all the time in the world. I always have plenty of time.

This moment is exactly as it should be.

I follow my own rhythm and my mind is at peace.

Throughout the day, whenever you notice that you’re rushing or having anxious thoughts about time or the need to get something done or be somewhere else, silently repeat your affirmation to yourself and take a few deep breaths, coming back into the present moment.

Practice #2: One-Pointed Awareness
Choose one mundane activity that you do every day, such as brushing your teeth, making the bed, or washing the dishes. Instead of rushing, put your complete attention on this task. If your mind is impatient or prods you to move on to more “important” business, ignore it. Don’t judge yourself; simply return your attention to what’s in front of you right now.

This simple daily practice of focusing your awareness on one activity can create a powerful ripple effect that will expand your experience of present moment awareness throughout the day.

Practice #3: Listen to the Messages of Your Body
While the mind tends to dwell in the past or in the future, the body lives in the moment and finds the greatest joy and satisfaction there. Like many people, you may have been trained to rely on your intellect and mind while ignoring, distrusting, or simply being unaware of the signals of your body.

No matter how long it has been neglected, the body is a faithful servant and will respond when you begin to connect. This week, try the following exercise for tuning into your body.

  • Begin by setting a phone or clock alarm for three times throughout the day – such as 9 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m. Whenever the alarm sounds, take a few moments to check in with yourself.
  • Close your eyes, put your hand on your heart, take a few deep breaths, and then ask yourself, What am I feeling and what do I need right now?
  • Wait for the answers to come to you. It might take some practice to identify your body’s messages, so be patient with yourself.
  • Once you receive an answer, take some concrete step – no matter how small – to fulfill the need you have identified. It may be as simple as the need to get up from your desk and stretch your body, to go outside for a few moments and take a brisk walk, or to call a friend.

As you practice checking in with yourself on a regular basis, you will connect more deeply with your body and may begin to identify greater needs, such as, I need to end this relationship or I need to cut down on the number of hours Iwork. As you honor these needs, you will strengthen your relationship with yourself and experience the fullness and joy of present moment awareness. This is the practical value of mindfulness.

Connecting to the feelings in your body brings you back into present moment awareness and gives you valuable information about what you need to cultivate greater health, balance, and happiness.

Meditation

Dive into the Source of Awareness

Meditation is a time simply to be . . . to dive below the mind’s churning surface into the still point of pure consciousness. In meditation, you enter a state of awareness that is beyond thought, sensation, emotions, desire, and memory. In this timeless or transcendent awareness, you have the sensation of fullness and bliss.

This week’s meditation will help expand your awareness of your energetic body, known in Sanskrit as the pranamaya kosha, which translates as “the sheath made of vital energy.” This vital energy, or prana, is the very principle of life and consciousness. In each of us, the most obvious manifestation of prana is our breath – the delicate yet powerful thread that weaves together our environment, senses, body, mind, and soul.

This guided meditation, led by Michael McShane, includes a breathing awareness practice known as pranayama, designed to circulate awareness throughout the body, from the tips of your fingers to the arches of your feet.

Michael McShane is a Chopra Center-certified teacher of Primordial Sound Meditation and Perfect HealthAyurvedic Lifestyle.

Consciousness In Motion

Connect to Your Breath

Focusing on the breath immediately brings us into the now, which is why awareness of the breath is at the heart of many meditation and yoga techniques. When we allow ourselves to be present, we create the breathing room that we crave so intensely – the ability to sense, unimpeded, the rhythm of our lives.

If you practice yoga, you may be familiar with ujjayi breathing (pronounced oo-jai), a yogic breathing technique that you can use to cultivate present moment awareness

Here is how to perform ujjayi breath:

  • Take an inhalation that is slightly deeper than normal. With your mouth closed, exhale through your nose while constricting your throat muscles. If you are doing this correctly, you should sound like Darth Vader from the movie Star Wars.
  • Another way to get the hang of this practice is to try exhaling the sound “haaaaah” with your mouth open. Now make a similar sound with your mouth closed, feeling the outflow of air through your nasal passages. Once you have mastered this on the outflow, use the same method for the inflow breath, gently constricting your throat as you inhale.

Each day this week, practice ujjayi breath for a few minutes each morning, and whenever you find yourself becoming aggravated or stressed. Ujjayi has a balancing influence on the entire cardiorespiratory system, and you should notice a prompt soothing effect.

Take some time to follow your breath, and you will be amazed where it will take you. The breathing room you were looking for was inside of you all along!