The Mindful Path

By Marilyn Halpern ~

Perhaps November is the best month to amble onto the mindful path.  Many credit Jon Kabat-Zinn a professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School for popularizing mindfulness.  He defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises when we pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.”  Simply put, mindfulness is a form of meditation that encourages us to purposely focus our active mind on an awareness.  Often people begin with a focus on their breath or a simple expression or mantra. 

You may think, “Why explore mindfulness?”  The physical and mental benefits are astonishing and well-documented.  Author, Anne Lamott, reminds us, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” Daily we are bombarded by thoughts, worries and concerns, it can make us feel frazzled and exhausted. Allowing ourselves to unplug can be an amazing gift. 

Mindfulness is not a quick fix.  It is an exercise for our mind.  We are training ourselves to provide a space and place of awareness.  Mindfulness is not a substitute for medical or mental health treatment.  If you have any doubts, check with your health provider before you begin practicing mindfulness.

Many focus on gratitude during the month of November. If you feel confident it is safe for you to try a mindfulness exercise, you can plan to start for five or even ten minutes.  Breathe steadily and naturally. Allow your body to be comfortable sitting upright in a chair.  Some individuals like to lay quietly in bed as they begin or end their day.  If you choose to complete the exercise laying down, do not be too concerned if you are in a state of awareness one minute and asleep the next.  This is common and natural as we relax our minds and bodies.

As you sit, you can begin by taking three breathes.  You can deepen the breath by expanding your lungs and feeling the air travel all the way to your belly.  If you feel comfortable focusing on your breath, you can continue this gentle process allow thoughts to drift by like clouds.  Softly draw your thoughts back to your breath. 

If you would like to focus on a positive expression, picture in your mind a person or an animal who makes you feel thankful.  After taking a few relaxing breaths, you can begin.

If possible, inhale and state out loud or silently, “May you be well” then exhale.
The process is repeated.  Inhale, “May you be joyful” exhale.
Inhale, “May you be grateful” exhale.
This is repeated four times. 
Next, If possible, inhale and state out loud or silently, “I am well” then exhale.
Inhale, “I am joyful” exhale.
Inhale, “I am grateful” exhale.
Repeat four times. 
This process can be repeated for five minutes.  When other thoughts come to your mind, you can quietly acknowledge those thoughts and return your mind to the mantra. 
Over time, the process will feel more natural and welcomed. 

Marilyn Halpern is a geriatric care manager and guardian in the Denver Metro area.  To learn more visit www.aspencareservices.com or call 720-724-0000.


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