This week we will:
Mindfulness Practice 1 – ‘Mindfulness of Breathing’ - an audio version of this practice is available below.
Time: Allow 5-10mins
The mindfulness of breathing practice is the most basic practice to begin with on your mindful journey. This simple meditation technique allows us to develop more ‘awareness’ on the experience of the breath as it comes and goes, and in return enables a calm collected state of mind in which we can cultivate more peace, vitality and clarity within ourselves, important qualities of a mindful state.
As we tune into the flow of the breath, we appreciate the subtle sensations of the body around our breathing, and when our thoughts begin to wander (as they naturally will) we simply return to the breath with awareness and kindness.
Before you begin, switch off any electronic devices that may prove a distraction, including turning your mobile to silent. Find a comfortable and quiet space in your home (preferably where you won’t be disturbed) and begin by sitting upright on a supportive chair, or for those slightly more flexible, cross legged on a floor cushion if this is more suitable. Rest your hands in your lap or on your legs, whichever feels more comfortable, and then lower and soften your gaze to roughly a metre or so on the floor in front of you. You are welcome to keep your eyes open for the practice or closed, again whichever feels most suitable to you.
Begin by tuning into your body and the current physical sensations you are experiencing. Notice your sit bones through your bottom on the chair or cushion, and any sensations you may be feeling through your limbs, torso and head. Are they heavy, tight, pulsing, relaxed, cold? If you feel particularly uncomfortable at this stage, it’s worth making any minor adjustments to your sitting posture where possible, as you want to feel as centred and supported as you can for the next 5-10mins. Once again, tune your attention to the sensations of the body and begin to soften and relax any pockets of tension you may begin to notice. This could be a tenseness in your forehead or jaw, holding your arms, thighs or shoulders tightly, clenching your hands, fingers or toes. Just gently begin to soften and release these areas of your body, and feel yourself letting go.
As a sense of relaxation falls upon you, begin by turning your attention to your breath and the direct sensations of breathing: air entering your nose, mouth, throat, the chest slowly rising and falling, gently in, gently out. If it helps to begin with you can try a silent count of your in and out breaths to help focus yourself in the initial stages of practice: ‘Breathing In, Breathing Out, ONE…Breathing In, Breathing Out, TWO and so on until TEN, and then begin again.
It’s important to try not to force the rhythm of your breath but to just allow it to be in its natural state. For some this may be quite shallow breaths, for others deep, there is no right or wrong way, just allow your breath to be as it normally is.
When your mind begins to wander (as it will) into the past, future or fantasy, simply notice you are no longer with the breath and gently bring your attention back to the physical act of breathing. This is completely normal, and does not mean you are failing to meditate. It’s all part of the process. Every time you begin to notice your mind has wandered, and you return yourself back to the breath, you are practicing mindfulness!
If it helps in the early stages of establishing your breathing practice, you can set a timer on your phone or place a clock nearby to you, which you can utilise to keep a track of your time. Perhaps begin with just five minutes a day and build it slowly by 5 minutes each week. You’ll be surprised how easily you begin to enjoy this time of relaxation and quiet, and before you know it, may be happily sitting for 30 or 40 minutes with relative ease.
Following your breathing practice, if you feel like it you might like to reflect upon some of the below questions:
Nature Connection Activity 1 –Sit Spot
What you’ll need:
In the first of our nature connection practices we’d like to introduce the idea of creating a sit spot.
A sit spot is a useful way of setting aside time to be with nature. Getting to know a place is to get to know ourselves. The practice offers a way of becoming intimate with a space over a period of time, to experience your reciprocal relationship with it and how this can support you in the discovery of your ‘natural self’.
Ideally a sit spot is a place or space in nature that feels close to your heart and you enjoy being in. This could be a special corner of your garden, or a place further afield, such as a woodland, riverside, or park. It usually helps that it’s a spot that is relatively quiet, where there is not likely to be lots of distractions by people or traffic passing you close by.
Once you’ve chosen your spot, settle yourself into a comfortable position and begin by taking some deep breaths and relaxing any tension in your body. The intention is to build a relationship with your sit spot, get to know who and what lives there, try not to disturb any creatures, plants or insects (if outdoors), just introduce yourself to it and allow it to show itself to you. Initially just try 15 minutes of sitting and observing, but going forward there are no set rules on how long you may wish to stay, so this could increase from minutes to hours or even longer, depending on how you feel.
To be in conversation with the natural world is a vital part of our reconnection to it. We often look towards our human companions for guidance and support, but our connections to the ‘more than human’ world, are just as important for our well-being, and have equally many valuable lessons to teach us.
In furthering and deepening this practice over time you may wish, if suitable, to experience your sit spot in darkness; the stars and the moon will change its narrative, and bring in other aspects not experienced during the daytime. Likewise, experiencing your sit spot throughout the changing seasons and weather will also show you other dimensions and further deepen your relationship to a sense of place and the natural cycles of life that we move through day to day, month to month, year to year.
Suggestion: you are invited to keep a journal of your experiences in your sit spot, what threads do you notice, what plants, insects, animals and trees can you see, how does the space change over time or during different weather patterns and what words, images or sensations are present for you when spending time there? Draw, sketch or write about your experiences, maybe even pen a poem, or just sit quietly and observe whatever unfolds, its entirely up to you!
Keeping a Journal
Starting a journal can be a useful practice for recording moments on your nature connection journey. In this sense it can be used for as much or as little creative expression as you wish, and can be a fun way to capture any new insights you may discover about yourself or the world around you.
A journal can also be a useful tool for when we find ourselves overwhelmed by unhelpful thinking patterns, thoughts and emotions. By writing these down the journal can act as a means of moving them from inside our heads to the outside, where they can be given the space to be reflected upon at a later date.
It’s said that a consistent journaling practice can reduce stress, boost your mood, and help you make better sense of your thoughts. According to the University of Rochester, the benefits of journaling include:
We hope you enjoy trying out the suggested activities and practices above and would welcome any feedback of your experiences taking part in the course. Please do drop us any comments in the comments section below. The theme of ‘co-production’ is important to us at the Green Minds Project and we value your input greatly!. Thank you.
When you are ready to move on to week two please click the link below: