Being Mindful, Formal and Informal Practices
A free offering from the Loran Smith Center, Piedmont Athens Regional
Being Mindful – formal sitting practice and during every day activities. Developing mindfulness as a way of being.
Mindfulness Practice Evenings include discussion and practice of mindfulness. We will focus on both formal and informal (every day activities) mindfulness practices that allow you to be more fully present in your life. Learn how to pay attention, increase concentration, and be more aware of your inner and outer experiences. Gain wisdom just by “showing up” more fully, here and now.
What is Mindfulness? – Attention, Concentration, Awareness, and Compassion
Mindfulness is awareness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally (that is, suspending judgment). Mindfulness involves training in attention, awareness, concentration, and compassion. You come to know and understand yourself in a deeper, experiential way.
Key aspects of mindfulness: Concentration – the ability to stay focused on one object, one-pointedness. Awareness – another way of knowing that is non-cognitive, experiential, in the present moment; when we are not being caught-up thoughts of the future or the past. Attention is where the mind is focused, with curiosity and gentleness. We focus attention on whatever arises in mind and body. Just directly observing the sensations themselves, moment-to-moment, with nothing added. This practice is done with Compassion – the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s or your own suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. Mindfulness allows us to see more clearly and understand the conditions that largely create suffering; coming to know and understand these conditions, creates space for great compassion.
Mindfulness practice allows you to respond rather than react to stressful situations. Reactions are often automatic, unconscious, and habitual. Responses are conscious choices arising from mindfulness – perception, appraisal, awareness of what’s actually happening in the moment. This mindfulness process results in not identifying as closely with thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, which in-turn loosens attachment to them. This allows space for creative conscious choices. You are fully present in the moment. Keep in mind, as with developing any art or skill, mindfulness requires practice and patience.
Mindfulness meditation practice includes both formal sitting practice as well as being present throughout the day. You mindfully attend to whatever activity you are engaged in, moment by moment. Whether it is eating, washing the dishes, or playing sports or a game, you can bring mindfulness to that activity. Notice how you feel, engage all of your senses, watch your thoughts as they arise. In this way, you are bringing your whole self to whatever you are doing.
Benefits of Mindfulness Practice
- Change your relationship to stress, anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, other difficult emotions
- Be less reactive and more responsive–allowing “space” for conscious, creative choices
- See more clearly – with fewer perceptual filers and biases, less conditioning
- Realize a deep relaxed awareness of mind and body
- Develop peacefulness, a reservoir of peace or calm energy
- Gain insights – identifying skillful and unskillful patterns of behavior, speech, etc.,
- Know yourself more deeply, fully; be more open to your inner wisdom
- Be more compassionate with self and others
In short, you can realize greater health and happiness
Cultivating Mindfulness for everyday activities
Mindfulness meditation practice is the heart of learning to be mindful in everyday life. This formal practice is the crucible or “laboratory” where we learn how the mind body processes work. It is where we can observe our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations, learning about impermanence, how not to identify as closely with our “self,” and change our relationship with stress/suffering. We are coming to know ourselves on a deeper experiential levels.
This is where mindfulness can lessen our suffering and enhance our health and happiness. Some say informal mindfulness is, “where the rubber meets the road” or where the work happens, benefits are experienced, in everyday life.
Start by identifying several routine activities and practice doing those activities with more attention and curiosity, with mindfulness. Use routine activities that are things you are already doing every day. For example, eating is an everyday activity. By bringing mindfulness to eating and pay attention to the full experience of eating – using concentration and awareness with your five senses and the thinking mind in each moment. When you notice the mind wandering, gently but firmly move your attention back to the activity, without any self-criticism about the wandering mind.
In this way, we are weaving mindfulness into each day several times. Three to five times a day perhaps! By eating mindfully we remember to be present in those moments. And this can carry-over into more and more of your day. As you add additional informal practices (see examples below) you create greater presence, and calm energy in your life, until it becomes a way of being in the world. Formal mindfulness practice supports informal practice and informal practices support formal practice. They complement each other.
Suggestions for informal mindfulness practices – these are “wake-up calls,” remembering to be present with whatever you are doing, while you are doing it.
- Brushing your teeth
- Washing dishes
- Vacuuming floors
- Walking or petting the cat or dog,
- Climbing stairs
- Stuck in traffic
- When the phone rings – voice, message, or text
- When placing a key in a door
- Mindfulness apps
- Stop signs – stop and find the breath
- Each time you meet someone
- Any “transitional event:” moving through any passageway or doors
And there are many more opportunities you can identify yourself-routine activities that bring mindfulness in to your daily life.
The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) workshop provides guidelines and practices for bringing mindfulness to stress/suffering that we all experience in life. MBSR was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts in 1979. It is one of the most effective and researched stress reduction workshops available today. MBSR is taught and researched at US medical centers, universities, and elsewhere throughout the world, and is available through the Loran Smith Center at Athens Regional Health System, 240 Talmadge Drive, Athens, GA 30606. Research on MBSR is the “gold standard” for mindfulness.
Research Visit the American Mindfulness Research Association
Mindfulness Practice Evening is a Free Offering in the Athens Community – that meets the second Friday of each month from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. These mindfulness instruction sessions explore different aspects of mindfulness through discussions and practices and are free. All those who are interested are welcome – whether you are just curious or have a regular practice. Free parking. The Dedicated.
Mindfulness Practitioners Group meets, 1st and 3rd Saturday, 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. These two mindfulness practice opportunities and the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop are held at the Healing Lodge, next to the Loran Smith Center, Piedmont Athens Regional, at 240 Talmadge Dr., Athens, GA 30606. The next MBSR workshop starts in early 2018.
A Taste of Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn
“Have you ever had the experience of stopping so completely,
of being in your body so completely,
of being in your life so completely,
that what you knew and what you didn’t know,
that what had been and what was yet to come,
and the way things are right now
no longer held even the slightest hint of anxiety or discord?
It would be a moment of complete presence, beyond striving, beyond mere
beyond the desire to escape or fix anything or plunge ahead,
a moment of pure being, no longer in time,
a moment of pure seeing, pure feeling,
a moment in which life simply is,
and that “is-ness” grabs you by all your senses,
all your memories, by your very genes,
by your loves, and
welcomes you home.