what you keep forgetting. #MeditationThoughtMondays

bells of mindfulness

I’m great at forgetting things.  One time I left the mop by the front door to remind myself I needed to clean my entryway and it was still there two weeks later.  (I put the mop away. Without cleaning.)

With forgetting comes the nearly oracle act of remembering the most mundane, ordinary tasks at the most inappropriate times. Like when I’m with a private client talking about their chronic back pain and I suddenly remember I didn’t put the sheets in the dryer. Or when I’m in savasana at the end of yoga class and realize I forgot to pay my rent and return a phone call from last Tuesday. Not game changers, but definitely not ideal to forget.

My mind is such an dexterous venue; I’m grateful that it can multi-task and hold incongruent thoughts simultaneously, but sometimes, man, I wish it could focus on one thing. I’m always looking for more ways to be mindful, to train my mind to be actually present in the moment, as opposed to hurdling wildly from one thought to the next. ‘Mindfulness’ is surprisingly trendy right now…at least that’s what trendy people tell me. The act of being mindful is hard remember, because… I just forget.

Even if I wake up with the intention of being mindful and present all day long (even while driving!), I’ve forgotten by 9:30 am when I sit down at my computer, with my breakfast and my iPhone and start multi-tasking.

One mindfulness training exercise that I’ve used for years and I absolutely love is called ‘Bells of Mindfulness.’  It involves choosing a sound— like a chime on a timer— to bring your attention back into the present moment. 

In his gem of a book, Peace is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh tells a story about his ‘Bells of Mindfulness.’  He says that he and his fellow monks living in the monastery at Plum Village always stop what they are doing when they hear the monastery bells ringing. Upon hearing the sound of the bell, he pauses, takes a deep breath and thinks:

‘The sound of the bell brings me back to my true self.’   

this is me, not being mindful, just doing an annoying 'tourist' yoga-gram in front of a church in Europe.

this is me, not being mindful, just doing an annoying ‘tourist yoga-gram’ in front of a church in Europe.

This probably works well if you live in a place like Europe where cathedral bells toll on the hour, but I don’t hear church bells every day. Thich Nhat Hanh suggests choosing a different sound, such as the dinging in your car when you forget to buckle your seat belt, as a ‘bell of mindfulness.’ I suggest using your smart phone or your genius watch or whatever the heck tells you ‘you have too much to do!’ all day long.  Remember how I have my phone remind me to de-stress every few hours?

 

Here’s a quick, 5- minute mindfulness practice that will help you train your mind.  (You’ll want to download the free app “Insight Timer.”) 

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit.
  2. Set a timer for 5 minutes, with a 1 minute interval chime.  
  3. Breathe naturally, enjoying the natural rhythm of your breath. Focus on the place where the breath enters your body, and just enjoy sitting.
  4. Start your timer.
  5. Every time you hear the interval chime, repeat silently: “The sound of the bell brings me back to my true self.”
  6. After five minutes, notice how calm you feel. Smile, extend gratitude for the time you spent ‘not forgetting’ your true self, and move on with your day.

I suggest practicing this Meditation Moment in the middle of your work day and also before your formal meditation practice in the evening.

Let me know what you forget.

-lisa

bells of mindfulness

5 benefits of meditation.

“Meditating” is still fairly misunderstood.  From the outside, it totally looks like someone is just sitting still.  Thinking about who-knows-what, trying not to slouch over, hoping to find inner-peace or whatever.  Yes, stillness is usually involved (doesn’t have to be! you meditate while walking) but that doesn’t mean that NOTHING is happening.  In fact, active meditation is very… well, active.  As neuroscience evolves, we are now able to see, quantify, and measure what is happening inside the brain and inside the body during  meditation.  Techniques that have been practiced for hundreds of years are now being ‘proven’ to have lasting health benefits.  And guess what!  Meditating can make you happier!  :)  Read on for 5 benefits of meditation.  (There are many more!)

1. Your Happiness. The more you learn to be ‘in the present moment’ the easier it is to feel content with what you have.  The easier it is to remember that the only reasonable response to life is gratitude.  The easier it is to be happy, and to cherish that happiness.  Read Sharon Salzberg’s “Real Happiness” for a detailed look at this phenomenon.

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“The more you learn to be ‘in the present moment’ the easier it is to feel content with what you have.”

 

 2. Your Attention and Focus. The first way we learn to meditate is through dharana, or single-pointed concentration.  Our brain is always working over-time, and we are accustomed to jumping around from thought to thought.  Meditation, even for 3 minutes, teaches us to be sensitive to the continuity of awareness.  Read Learn to Meditate: Your Way for some ideas on how to learn concentration.

3. Your Immune System. You got it.  Meditation can actually make you healthier! Studies have found that people who meditate can enhance their own immune system by decreasing stress responses.  In addition, people who meditate have increased antibodies, which are integral to the immune system response to outside agents.  Lastly, activating the parts of the brain which act as command centers for the immune system. Check out ecoinstitute for more articles.

4. Your Brain.  A recent Harvard University study found that the brains of people who meditated actually showed changes in the brain area (called the amygdala) which plays an important role in the management of anxiety and stress symptoms.  The study also found that meditation can increase the gray matter within the brain… that’s a good thing because your brain areas associated with self-awareness, introspection and compassion are strengthened!  Read more here.

 5. Your Spiritual Well-Being. Contemplative practices like prayer and meditation have long been an integral piece for developing a spiritual inner stillness.  It is in this moment of stillness that we can best commune with our sense of self, of Divinity, of creation as Divine.  Be well.   Read Tich Naht Hanh’s “You are Here.”

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when you meditate, areas in your brain that are associated with self-awareness, introspection and compassion are strengthened!

 

New to Meditation?  Great!  Check out this article: “Learn to Meditate, Your Way” to learn more.

Happy Meditating,

-lisa