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Mindfulness and guided meditation

Join Avril James-Hurt, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Fitness Center, and Robin Raflo Hurtado, a social worker at Piedmont’s Sixty Plus Older Adult Services, for a mindfulness and guided meditation training session.

Hurtado: Thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today. Our intent for this video is to provide a definition of mindfulness, help you decompress during your day and provide simple techniques that can help you respond a little more easily to stressful situations.

James-Hurt: Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to and seeing clearly whatever is happening in our lives. Having mindfulness means to be fully engaged in the present moment. The key word in the definition of mindfulness is practice. It’s not something that may come naturally to all of us. Practice makes proficient. We’re not striving aggressively to develop mastery.

Introduction to initiate a personal practice

Hurtado: We have included four tenants of mindfulness to better describe the foundation of the technique. These include:

  1. Openness – having an openness to exploring these new types of concepts for yourself and releasing expectations.
  2. Non-resistance – accepting and acknowledging whatever is happening around you, whatever thoughts might be coming up or situations you’re experiencing.
  3. Non-judgment – not labeling situations as “good” or “bad,” and becoming more aware of your engrained thought patterns.
  4. Gentle determination – to commit to some sort of practice for yourself and also having self-discipline throughout that process as well as compassion for yourself throughout your journey.

The more you work on these techniques, the better you will be able to see the benefits and the effects in your daily life.

James-Hurt: One technique to help develop mindfulness is meditation. Meditation is a process of systematically going inward from the external world of the senses and drawing the attention inward to a point of stillness and then allowing the mind to essentially just act normally, but observing with gentle detachment what happens in the mind field.

We are going to systematically take you through a meditation by loosening up the body with a gentle range of motion exercise and then helping to feel the body more internally with a body scan. Then we’ll work on breath awareness, noticing different sensations associated with deep, mindful breathing. We’ll finish the practice with something called anchoring, where we gently hold the attention at one point and allow whatever happens to unfold naturally.

Range of motion

Range of motion exercises loosen you up and make it more comfortable to sit for meditation.

Hip circles

  • Put your hands on your waist and softly bend your knees.
  • Begin making circles with your hips, while keeping your shoulders still. Focus on using the pelvis. This is generally safe for most people, but use your own discretion.
  • Repeat five times, then repeat in the opposite direction.

Side bends

  • Bend side to side, letting your hand find its way to the outside of the knee.
  • If you have lower back issues, you can make the movement higher, bending above the navel.

Torso twist

  • Bend the knees and raise your arms into a goalpost position. If you have lower back problems, you may want to skip this exercise.
  • Without moving your legs, gently turn your torso from side to side.
  • The move should feel very gentle and almost effortless.

Shoulder rolls

  • Roll your shoulders to the back to open up the chest for the breathing we’re going to be working on.

Neck stretches

  • Keeping the shoulders down, bring your head forward and backward to increase range of motion in the neck. Move only to a comfortable stretch and stop if you feel any discomfort.
  • Gently move your head up and down. This may not be appropriate if you have arthritis in your neck. If this is the case, simply repeat the first neck exercise. You should not feel any pain, just loosening up.
  • Gently look side to side. Repeat four to five times.
  • Finally, tilt the head side to side. Keep the knees soft and your face relaxed.

Now, find your way to a seat, sitting tall with your feet flat on the floor.

Body scan meditation

Close your eyes. Allow your awareness to expand and become aware of whatever sounds are in your space. Perhaps you hear noises in this room or even out into the street. Don’t analyze the source of the sound, but just become receptive. Let it all come in.

Then, take your awareness inward a step and become aware of what is directly interacting with your physical body. Feel the clothing touching your skin, the chair beneath you, your feet contacting the floor.

Take another step inward. Become aware of just your physical body and however you experience your body – that’s right and perfect. You cannot fail or do this incorrectly.

Scan and survey, starting with the top of your head. Be very curious about it. Allow the awareness to move over the forehead, eyebrows, eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth, chin and jaw. Become aware of the neck, explore even the inside of the throat, the shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, fingers. Bring awareness to the tips of the fingers without moving – just feel. Then again, the fingers, hands, wrists and arms. Explore the shoulder blades and the back. Allow your awareness to move deep into the spine. Become aware of the chest and the abdomen and the hips. Feel the thighs, the knees, the lower legs, the ankles, the feet, the toes. Remaining still, feel the tips of the toes.

Then again, the toes, back into the feet, ankles, lower legs, knees, thighs, the hips. Feel awareness in the abdomen and the chest. Moving through the spine and the whole back. Shoulder blades, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, fingers. Just feel the tips of the fingers. Again, the fingers, hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, the neck and even the throat. The chin, explore the jaw, the mouth, scan the cheeks, nose, eyes, feel the eyebrows, forehead and the top of the head. Allow the awareness to move from the top of the head to the tips of the toes. Feel the whole body integrated. Feel the whole body steeping in the stillness.

Breath awareness

Hurtado: Take a moment now to feel your breath as it enters and leaves your body. There’s no need to control your breath in any way. Be aware of each breath just how it is. Relax your shoulders back and down. Relax your abdomen. Melt any tension that you might feel around your eyes, in your eyebrows, in your jaw.

With each breath, smoothing away the tension you might have in your face and hands or in any areas of discomfort you might have in your body. Take a moment now to notice where your thoughts are. Maybe you’re thinking about your to-do list for the rest of the day, your thoughts judging this experience. You might be compelled to rehash a past grievance or analyze a problem you’re having. Whatever it is, just watch these thoughts pass by, just like clouds in the sky. Letting them go without resistance or judgment. Acknowledging these thoughts and letting them go as easily as they came, noticing their impermanence and how quickly they might be changing.

Gently turn your attention to your breath cycle and notice where in your body you feel the sensations of breathing. Maybe you’re feeling the flow of the air over your upper lip, across the tip of your nose. Spend a moment here with focused curiosity of the in and out of the breath. See if you can sustain focus on an entire breath cycle, perhaps noticing the slight pause as the breath rounds the corner from the inhale to the exhale.

Anchor

Turn your attention now to the rhythmic rise and fall of your belly. Using this area as your anchor throughout this practice. Each and every time thoughts pull you away from the present moment, just gently come back to that rise and fall of your abdomen. Appreciating each opportunity to start again. Focusing on this area as your anchor the present moment, just continually coming back to the simplicity of your breath.

You might be feeling restless, fidgety or even sleepy. Whatever it is, that’s okay. Just notice those sensations without judgment. Letting your thoughts go just as easily as they came and embracing this moment as a time to just be, not to do or act. Just becoming still with the present moment. In a moment, we will end this session with the sound of a bell. When we do, take time for yourself to gently open your eyes and come back to your day, maybe wiggling your toes and fingers, and knowing this space is always accessible to you at any point. You always have access to your breath.

For more mindfulness and relaxation tips, click here

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