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BLOG # 2 Mindfulness and Meditation - Is it for you?

Learning how to be “mindful” is a powerful tool to reduce stress. In recent studies, mindfulness classes were found to lower stress and improve mood in parents of children with special needs. Sounds promising. But is it for you?

We talked with Jacqueline Gilbey, instructor of yoga and meditation at of Guelph Living Yoga and Health http://livingyoga.ca/. Read on for her insights and tips.

What exactly is MIndfulness?

Mindfulness is paying attention to your moment-to-moment experience in a way that is non-judgmental, friendly and kind.

What is Meditation?

Meditation is using various techniques to develop awareness of the present moment.

How is mindfulness helpful in dealing with difficult situations?

When we’re overwhelmed by emotions, our minds begin to race. Often we’re projecting what will happen in the future. Or we’re remembering something from the past. This fuels the emotion even more. Mindfulness helps us pay attention to what is actually happening that moment. So we may recognize that we feel anxiety in the body. But we can choose how to react to that. So we can slow down and breathe with it. With that skill, we often see the emotion subside. Mindfulness is a tool you can use in the moment.

How can you develop mindfulness?

It’s an inner resource that we all have. It can help you feel a sense of calmness. But you need to build it, like any skill. It becomes easier over time to be more present. Start small. You could try 10 minutes a day. Try to choose a consistent time each day.

Can you suggest a meditation exercise for beginners?

Yes. Focus on your breath while sitting quietly. Follow these steps:

  • Set an alarm (not too loud), for the length of time you want to mediate. That way you don’t have to watch the clock.
  • Sit in a comfortable position.
  • Feel your body settle on the chair or cushion.
  • Pay attention gently to your breath. No need to change how you are breathing.
  • To focus, find a place in your body where you feel your breath: nostrils, back of throat, abdomen or chest.
  • Notice when your mind wanders.
  • Gently bring your attention back to your breath.
  • Keep bringing your attention back to your breath.
  • With time, patience and gentle effort, your awareness will rest with the breath for longer periods.

 Other ways to try this meditation exercise?

  • Try adding words to your breath.
  • Asyou inhale, think “one.” As you exhale think “one.” Inhale and think “two”. Exhale and think “two.” Continue up to five. If your mind wanders start at one again.
  • If you have a favourite prayer or poem memorized, you can repeat that silently as you meditate. It helps to keep you focussed and in the moment.

 How can you develop mindfulness if you don’t like to sit still?

  • Yoga and exercise:

Yoga is an accessible way to move into mindfulness. A yoga teacher will keep bringing your attention to your breath. That’s a way to keep you connected to the present. Most communities have yoga, meditation or T’ai Chi classes.

 Reviewed: August 2016