Category Archives: Mindfullness

Exercise 49: Observing the Breath

Background

If you wanted to divide up all the spiritual exercises, all the contemplations, all the ways of approaching of mindfulness that have ever been, you could find one convenient dividing line around what they do with the breath.  

Many practices begin by asking us to take charge of the breath. Generally speaking, these practices encourage us to slow down our breathing.  There are lots of reasons that this is a good idea.

As discussed above, it may not be the most accurate picture of the way things work though.

The other category of practices asks us to simply observe the breath.  

The act of simply tuning into the breath can be so much more difficult than it sounds.  It is easy to overthink the direction, “Tune into your breath without changing it.” Generally speaking, holding this instruction to tightly will lead to struggles.  In trying to be too literal we tend to unleash a series of questions and doubts.

As with so many things, entering these exercises in a light-hearted manner is wise.  If we accept that we will not be perfect at it, we will be able to observe our breath much more effectively.

Exercise 17: Observing the breath

 

  1. Create a safe, quiet space.
  2. Sit in a comfortable, upright manner if you are able.
  3. Tune in to your breath.  Do your best to accept it without changing it.
  4. Note whether you are using the mouth, nose, or both.
  5. Become aware of specifically where you feel the breath entering the nose or mouth.  How does it feel there? What is the temperature?
  6. Note the temperature as it comes in.  
  7. Extend this awareness of the feeling and temperature as the breath leaves you.
  8. Where does the breath end in your body?  Does your abdomen move? Your chest?
  9. When you are ready, increasingly bring yourself into this particular breath.  The one you feel right now. This breath, now is the only breath you can ever change.  It is wholly unique among all the breaths you will ever feel. Greet each breath. Find its uniqueness. 
  10.  Welcome the special breaths that follow in the same way.  Sit in this awareness for most of the time you have devoted to your practice today.  
  11. When you are ready, return to your everyday life.  But know that you can welcome each breath throughout your day.

 

 

Exercise 41: Mindful Walking

Background: Mindful practices are rooted in the idea that our senses live in the now.  They have no memory, anxiety, hopes, or fears.  So whenever we engage and tune into our senses, we are helping to locate ourselves right here and right now.

There are many ways to use this.  For example: listening to a familiar song, but identifying one particular instrument and only focusing on this for the whole song.  Or doing yoga or dancing, with a particular awareness to one particular body part or sensation.

In today’s practice, I will break this down for one way of approaching a mindful walk.  As with all practice, please engage in this safely.  Be aware of where you are going, how you will get home, and your physical limitations around how far you should walk.

 

The Practice

1.  Before you begin, have your shoes ready.

2.  Sit and center yourself.  Release yourself from other responsibilities.   Take 3 deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.

3.   Stretch, hydrate yourself, and consider your route as needed.

4.  Begin your walk.  Focus on a single sensation through out.   You might choose any one of these:

* The feeling of the air as it enters through your nose on the inhale.

* The feeling of your diaphragm expanding with each breath.

* The feeling on the sole of your foot as it makes contact with the ground each time.

* The feeling of any soreness or tightness.  (It’s a strange thing, drawing our awareness to physical hurts.  In my experience, doing it casually makes it feel worse.  But committing to mindfully inhabitting an ache or a pain is a way to befriend the pain, and realize that pain is only pain.)

* Looking for a particular shape or color everywhere it appears.

* Being on-the-look-out for all the different smells you can notice.

* Being on-the-look-out for all the difference temperature changes or air movements that come to your cheeks.

5.  To whatever extent it is safe to do so, do not consciously consider the route you are going to take.  Dwell inside the perception you chose and let your body decide where you are going to go.

6.  Whenever your brain begins to do its job of thinking, return to your breath or your chosen sensation.

7.  When your walk is completed, spend a few minutes sitting with your chosen sensation and breathing.

Throughout your day today, return to your sensation.

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Exercise 38: The Countdown

This simple mindfulness exercise is a powerful way to reign in anxiety.  It might be used as a precursor to another spiritual exercise, or as a way of handling racing thoughts.

Exercise:

  1.  Breathe deeply.  Place your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Identify and name to yourself 5 things you can see.
  3. Take a cleansing breath.
  4. Identify and name 4 things you can hear.
  5. Take a cleansing breath.
  6. Identify and name 3 things you can feel.  (textures, pressures etc; not emotions.)
  7. Take a cleansing breath.
  8.  Identify and name 2 things you can smell.
  9. Take a cleansing breath.
  10. Identify and name 1 thing you taste.

As you go about your day, recall that your senses have no worries about the future and no concerns with the past.  Do this exercise, in whole or in part, whenever you are needing to be rooted in the now.

You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

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  1. afe, quiet environment for yourself.  Turn down your phone and consider lighting a candle.
  2. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  3. Take a mental inventory of where you are, right now.  List the feelings you are experiencing.  Do your best to engage this with a nonjudgemental attitude.  Your feelings are neither good nor bad.  They simply are.  
  4. Choose the feeling which seems to be the most impactful.  Think, or say “Welcome ___________”  (E.G. ‘Welcome, Fear.  Welcome, sadness.  Welcome, anxiety.  Etc.)
  5. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire to change this feeling.’  or ‘I let go of my ___________’  or ‘God, I give you my _____________’
  6. Progress on to the next emotion, repeating steps 4 and 5.
  7. When you have worked through these emotions, spend a moment doing a mental inventory, assessing whether you feel differently.

36 B

  1. Create a safe, quiet environment for yourself.  Turn down your phone and consider lighting a candle.
  2. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  3. Take a mental inventory of where you are, right now.  List the feelings you are experiencing.  Do your best to engage this with a nonjudgemental attitude.  Your feelings are neither good nor bad.  They simply are.  
  4. Choose the feeling which seems to be the most impactful.  Think, or say “Welcome ___________”  (E.G. ‘Welcome, Fear.  Welcome, sadness.  Welcome, anxiety.  Etc.)
  5. Breathe once.
  6. Say, or think “I let go of my desire for security and survival.’
  7. Breathe again.
  8. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire for esteem and affection.’
  9. Breathe again.
  10. Say, or think ‘I let go of my desire for power and control.’
  11. Breathe.
  12. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire to change the situation.’
  13. If you wish, you can repeat this process for a second, troubling emotion.

 

Contemplation and Pseudo-Contemplation

There are so many things competing for our attention.

The makers of our devices are engaged in a kind-of arms race.  Instead of creating weapons of destruction, instead of having a goal of militaristic conquest, they are creating weapons of distraction.  The goal is not conquest, it is mindlessness.  But it is still an arms race.

They are very good at what they do.  And the goods and services they provide are not bad things in moderation.

But make no mistake: endlessly scrolling through a facebook feed only feels like meditation.

(And please, feel no judgement or shame here!  I am writing as much to myself as I am to you, dear reader!  These struggles are real!)

Further, meditating but being willing to be distracted…  Engaging in a spiritual exercise while having my facebook page open, so that I can take a little break if I get that endorphin-producing ‘ping’….  that is not really meditation.  That is wasting time while I am hoping that something interesting is going to happen on my social media feeds.

Part of the growth promised by these spiritual exercises is in facing down boredom.  More than just filling my time, the important thing is that I stop running from my fears about myself and the world.  This is why it is so valuable to commit to a length of time each day.  So much good will result when I don’t offer myself easy retreats out of this sometimes difficult work.

Let’s make a deal with each other, and with outselves.  Let’s agree that we might choose to engage in distractions: music to fill up the air, games as candy for our eyes, social media as a venue for our monkey mind to do a little dance.  But let’s be honest about it.  If we are going to do it, let’s make the conscious decision to do these things.  They are o.k. in moderation.  But let’s not pretend that we are meditating while really we are just looking for an excuse to engage those activities.

You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

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Exercise 32: 7-11 Breathing

Background: One of the values of mindfulness practice is that it simply brings a focus to the breath.   On one level, the specifics of the breathing count is not the most important thing.  The most important thing is to note the reaction that different lengths of inhales and exhales take.

However, there has been significant research done.  It seems that breathing in for a count of 7 and breathing out for a count of 11 is the best timing to maintain an alert awareness.  First responders, are in fact, taught 7-11 breathing as a way to be calm in the fact of panic.

The Exercise:

  1.  Find your center by placing your feet flat on the floor.
  2. As you breathe in, keep a steady internal count of 7.
  3. As you breathe out, keep a steep internal count of 11.
  4. As your mind wanders, return to the breath.

You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

  • Share your thoughts, feelings, and criticism below in the comments.
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Exercise 31: Adoration

Background:  This exercise works best in an outside environment.  While it is good to simply explore, sometimes, don’t be unwise about this situation.  Pay attention to your surroundings enough to know where you are and how to safely get yourself back to where you began, please.

The Exercise:

  1. Explore your surroundings; meander, and hike around.  Do your best to see things with new eyes, even if you are familiar with the area.  
  2. Find your breath and do your best to stay there, breathing calmly for the duration of this exercise.
  3. As you continue your walk, be open for little nudgings from The Spirit of an object to give special attention to.  It might be a rock, a leaf, a tree, a plant; perhaps even an anthill or smudge of paint.
  4. When you find this object– what ever it is– approach it with loving reverence.  
  5. Carefully consider the setting of the object.  Where is it?  What is around it?
  6. Look at it from as many angles as possible.
  7. Touch and smell it, if you can.
  8. Sit with this object, whatever it is.  Love it, as best you can.
  9. This object is a manifestation of God.  The whole of God can be inferred from this one single thing.  Sit with this image for a long time.  Get to know it intimately.
  10. If thoughts, feelings, or memories seek to intrude on this time, release them by returning to this item, whatever it is.

Throughout your day, know that you can bring this object to mind as a way to find calm.

You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

  • Share your thoughts, feelings, and criticism below in the comments.
  • email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com to share something directly with the Project’s Director, to join our next email campaign, or to ask to be placed on the mailing list.
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Exercise 30A & 30B: The Five Senses

Background: Experts, today, debate the precise number of senses that we actually have.  Most agree that it is, in fact, more than 5.

However, the traditionally identified 5 senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste) are a good place to begin.

Like many mindfulness activities, this one is at its best when we try to discover something new though our sensations.  Work at not phoning it in; be present to what is actually around you!

Spiritual Exercise 30A

  1.  Breathe in slowly through the nose, and out through the mouth.  Place your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Begin by noticing what you can see by being aware of what you are looking at now.  Tune in, as fully as you can, to your vision.  When you are ready, look around.  Try to discover something new.  
  3. Now, pay attention to the things you can hear.  Listen for sounds you were unaware of.  If their are sounds you often hear, listen deeply to them.  Make an attempt to find something new in the characteristics of these common sounds.
  4. Now, pay attention to your sense of touch.  Note how your body connects to wherever you are sitting.  Tune into the feeling of the clothes as they hang on your body.  Notice the temperature your neck is registering.  Explore the textures of where your hands are with your finger tips.
  5. Breathe deeply in.  Try and find scents in the air.
  6. Now, pay attention to the taste in your mouth.  
  7. If you like, cycle through each of your senses again.

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Background: The exercise that follows is a variation on the one above.  This is a great thing to bring with you into the world.  When seeking calm from invasions like panic attacks, this can be a very calming thing.

Spiritual Exercise 30B

  1.  Notice 5 things you can see.  Name each one.
  2. Notice 4 things you can hear.  Wait for them to happen if there are not 4 things right away.  Name each.
  1. Notice 3 sensations you can feel.  Identify each one.
  2. Notice 2 smells in the air.
  3. Find one taste on your tongue.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

  • Share your thoughts, feelings, and criticism below in the comments.
  • email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com to share something directly with the Project’s Director, to join our next email campaign, or to ask to be placed on the mailing list.
  • Access exclusive content and help The Faithing Project share spiritual practices with a world in desperate need.  Become a  Patron.
  • follow @faithingproject on twitter.