Learning mindfulness exercises for beginners can be really helpful when we are going through times of significant change. For many of us regularly doing mindfulness exercises as part of our daily routine kindness is simly an aspect of our mindfulness. If Mindfulness is the practise of ‘being here now’ we can say Kindness is the active positive response to what we discover about ourselves and our world.
This Covid 19 pandemic has brought us into a sharp awareness of our interdependence and yet as we begin to move out from lockdown we are experiencing the deep divisions within us as humans. In his Little Book of Kindness the author Dr Hamilton in plain english talks us through the scientific evidence of how kindness changes the brain, impacts the heart and immune system, is an antidote to depression, improves relationships, and even slows the ageing process. Focusing on his simple practises of mindfulness for beginners can be a great place to start on the journey of mindfulness.
I think however that the most important insight in the book is that kindness can power real and lasting change in the world. So somewhat like mindfulness itself something that is simple in a way can have a profound effect on ourselves, those around us and the world itself. Hamilton gives us practical tools to help build the muscle of kindness in our own lives through his variety of simple mindfulness for beginners practises.
In my own understanding of mindfulness, in my practise and in my teaching I have long believed that mindfulness without heartfulness is incomplete. Very early on I moved to compassion and kindness as key – and starting with compassion and kindness to ourselves if we are to find our own peace , and be a compassionate presence in the world. Mindfulness and compassion not the saccharine Pollyannaish positivity psychobabble they are sometimes presented as. Rather they are hard core, resilient building super powers and remembering to be mindful and compassionate takes practise, habit and a supportive community.
In these days as we begin to move out of lockdown and where there is global disturbance around our systemic, intergenerational racism, we are challenged to our core. Our differences emerge, and it is not simple to know how are we to both find our own peace and to live in peace with each other.
How are we to find our way in our interdependent world so aware at the moment of our differences and divisions?
There is nothing I would more recommend than having a long slow cup of tea and spending some time with these ten zen things to remember as a mindfulness exercise you can return to again and again – perfect practise in mindfulness for beginners.
In the practise of mindfulness poetry often helps us to become aware of what is happening, and then to shine a light of compassion on ourselves as we soften, take it easy and rest in the awareness of how we are. Poetry can help us to get in touch with our own steady heart. If we were in a room together I would read this poem with the invitation to let he words drop where they will, making no particular effort and instead just letting go what does not land or is not helpful to you in this present moment. We are not in a room together, so I invite you now to read the poem below softly for yourself – let what is useful sink in and with a light touch letting go of all the rest.
On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.
~ John O’Donohue ~(Echoes of Memory)
Mindfulness is no magic pill. It is a simple practise which we need to learn and build, and as we do this it allows us to live well whatever the weather of our lives. In practising mindfulness for beginners exercises we find an inner peace and come to know how to create a little space between the stressful or painful experience that causes our suffering, and our response.
If you have no experience of mindfulness it can be difficult to know where to start. One good place is to use the practise STOP at the moment when you are feeling under pressure.
S stands for Stop. The goal here is to catch yourself before you react. Someone cuts you off in traffic and before you do anything else, you say to yourself, Stop. Your boss criticizes your work and you say to yourself, Stop. Someone starts yelling at you and you say to yourself Stop. Stop is a pause before reactivity. Stop is a moment of mindfulness and awareness before reactivity.
T stands for Take a Breath. Next, you take a deep breath. A good, long, deep breath takes at least a couple seconds, if not longer. The breath serves to ground you in your body, ground you in the moment, and relax you a bit (when we feel upset, we start breathing more shallowly and in our chests, and deep breathing will trigger a calming response). This deep breath pause also gives you a little more time so that you might respond more wisely instead of our habitual unthinking reacting which often makes ur situation even more difficult.
O stands for Observe. Observe is the superpower in STOP. In this step you are breaking a habit. Instead of listening to all the stories in your head about how wrong the other person is and how right you are, you begin to pay attention to your body (a place as Jon Kabet zin says we often ignore). Instead of listening to your thoughts, you lbegin to notice and listen to the sensations in your body.
Drop down your awareness into your body and notice what’s happening. What do you feel? What sensations are arising? Maybe you feel tightness in your chest or tingling in your stomach? Maybe you hands are tightly gripped together?
Follow this by paying attention to the emotions underneath these physical sensations. What is the emotional tone? What feelings are around? Yes, you probably feel angry, but there is likely something beneath the anger. Maybe you feel threatened or unsafe, or your feelings are hurt. The power is in understanding what lies beneath the emotion, and when you can connect here the emotion itself for example anger rapidly diminishes.
P stands for Proceed. Havibg created a ‘pause’, a different place to stand you now continue on with whatever you were doing with less reactivity and more inner calm.
How to use STOP. This looks like a long process but with practise can be done in a remarkably short time right in the heat of the moment.This can be a great practise in mindfulness for beginners as you will quickly see the difference it can make.
There’s nothing like heavy traffic, someone cutting in front of you, and the honking of horns to trigger the “fight or flight” response. Road rage erupts , stress levels soar, and our normal calm reasonable way of responding disappears as our stress levels soar. The worse the traffic, the worse the stress. A great time then to try this mindfulness exercise.
This stressful situation can also give us an opportunity to practise a mindfulness exercise that will result in lowering our stress levels and calming our response. Like all practises it has steps or a procedure to follow but while following the steps sequentially is important this exercise will actually be done in a very quick time and will make a difference in the moment of stressful driving.
1. Take a deep breath. This will bring more oxygen into your body and create some space between the stimulus of the traffic and your heightened stress reaction. In this space lies perspective and choice and the potential for calm.
2. Ask yourself what you need. Maybe you need to feel safe, at ease or you just need some relief. Knowing what you need will immediately bring some balance.
3. Give yourself whatever you need. If ease is what you need, you can scan your body for any tension, breathing into the area that is tight or holding or tense. Use some words of compassion for yourself from the ancient wisdom traitions: “May I be at ease, may I feel safe, may I be happy.”
4. Look around and begin to see that the other drivers around you are just like you. They all want the same thing you do—to feel safe, have a sense of ease, and to be happy. Maybe you will recognise agitation and tension in some .Others are likely to look more relaxed. Maybe you will see someone one who is singing or actually smiling. Send you well wishing to all of these other driers also – “May you be at ease, may you feel safe, may you be happy.”
5. Take another deep breath. Breathe in, breathe out, tuning into the gentle rise of the belly on the in breath and the falling back on the out breath..
This mindfulness exercise for beginners will take very little time but building this habit will produce results you will be happy with – lower stress levels in traffic.
Some other mindfulness exercises you can use with no experience and little time to spare
In mindfulness it is not what you do , or how long you spend in the practise that matters. Rather it is the quality of your attention.
Mindfulness is simple – it is remembering to do it that is the challenge! Why not settle on one or two mindfulness exercises that you can bring into your everyday to help you to build your own mindfulness muscle?
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During the session, I listen as you share. I may occasionally question, challenge, or support you as appropriate. Ultimately, you will own whatever insights are uncovered, as well as whatever action you might take. We end the session with a short meditation, thanking Wisdom for the sacred space and the support, and asking for continued guidance and blessings in your life.