The fitness classes that I go to always end with a few minutes of mindfulness or savasana. For the most part I have no problem lying still on my mat after a hard workout, relaxing, and clearing my mind. As we are guided through this part of the class, we are encouraged to not just stop thinking, since that is impossible, but to acknowledge the thoughts that come into our head, and have them move right along. Rather than focussing on the lists of things we need to accomplish, people who need things from us, and things that bothered us from the previous day, we should move right past those thoughts, and be in the moment of being still on our mats.
As I said, I don't have much trouble doing that in class, but I have found the techniques from class are useful in my everyday life. I am someone who likes to be really organized and think things through beforehand - things like what we are eating for breakfast, what I'm going to wear, what work I need to get done first at the office, and how to most efficiently spend my time. That way when it's the morning I already know what I'm doing and I don't feel frantic. The problem is that I often think through things several times when I've already figured it out. And it means my brain is never at rest. I've sort of just noticed this recently, if I wake up in the middle of the night, I would start running through the upcoming day - food to prepare, work to do, etc. - and then I could not fall back to sleep. Similarly if I was sitting at church, I would find my mind wandering during the anthem and sermon to plan out the rest of my Sunday.
So now there are certain times of the day when I will not let my thoughts go that way, and I focus my mind elsewhere. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I direct my thoughts toward the last dream I remember having and I find it easier to drift back into that dream and sleep. If I'm at church, I redirect my focus to the music or words I am hearing so I can actually hear them and appreciate them. I've realized that the few minutes I used to spend (re)planning out my day don't offer much, and then I get to sleep more, or get something out of the message at church, which is meaningful to me.
I'm 37 and I'm just figuring all of this out, and of course, still adapting and evolving. E learned mindfulness in Senior Kindergarten, and it's not like he has a regular practice of meditation at the age of 7 but he does get it, and it is a foundation to build upon. Last week I listened to a guided mediation each day (offered by my workout leaders) and on two of the days E did it with me. I'd like this to become second nature for him so if he is feeling anxious or overwhelmed he can take a few moments to calm down.
Some ideas for other things to think about instead of things that cause you stress:
- What is around you - what can you smell, hear, see (behind your eyelids), touch, and taste - spend some time on each of the five senses.
- Think about one thing you are grateful for - don't make a list because that can be stressful, just pick one thing and feel the feelings that come with that gratefulness.
- Pick one person you love very much and focus on them, send love out to them and feel the warmth, then think of one person that you don't get a long with and send love out to them too
- Look at the shadows and flashes of light behind your eyelids, sometimes I think I can see faces and I just try to let them come and go and imagine who those people could be
- Think of a place where you have felt the most relaxed, for me that is a beach. I imagine the heat on the beach in Nevis, swimming in the sea in Barcelona, and the blue and green of the lakes in Algonquin Park. If one doesn't keep my attention, I flip to the next one.