Mindfulness & Meditation

mindfulness

Due the demands of our current lifestyles, caring for ourselves by being mindful at first often feels peculiar, difficult, or even boring. Like developing any skill, the cultivation of mindfulness takes time and practice. Consider how long it took you to play an entire song smoothly on an instrument you were learning, or to begin to acquire mastery in a novel sport. It is no different with the inner art of mindfulness.

Since mindfulness is a way of life, there is both formal and informal elements to the practice. Formal practice refers to setting time aside for the sole purpose of being mindful of a particular activity such as breathing, stretching, or walking. The informal practice is developing the habit of cultivating awareness in all other areas of our lives, such as driving in our car, sitting in class, or spending time with a lover.

When first beginning the formal practice of mindfulness, it is often helpful to do the following:

Create a quiet spot that enjoy spending time. Many people enjoy decorating this spot with special pictures, statues, or colors.

Pick a specific time everyday for the sole purpose of being mindful - And make that gift to yourself a top priority.

You don't have to always like it, Just do it. From a certain point of view, once you have your set time for mindfulness, its none of your business what happens during it. Some days you will feel relaxed, others tense, others successful, others like a failure, just sit and watch these states arise and pass.

No need to advertise. You can do yourself a favor and focus your energy on your own practice and not on being a spokesperson for mindfulness. This usually only serves to diffuse one's energy and confuse (or scare) one's friends and family.

Find a teacher or group that can be supportive. The Counseling Center offers a variety of services to assist you in the process of developing mindfulness. Each fall and spring semesters, Mindfulness Groups are offered. Contact Dr. Jaime Fenton at to learn more. Individual and group sessions are available in the Towson University Counseling Center's Meditation Room.

resources

Self-Help Apps
  • Mindfulness Trainer ($4.99)
    Are you searching for less stress and more balance? Do you want to experience silence and clarity in yourself? This app offers 16 guided Mindfulness Meditations (5 hours of audio) and more. It will help you to practice Mindfulness wherever you are.
  • Headspace
    Ever wanted to sleep better, feel calmer, focus more or just get some relief from that busy mind? Well it's probably time to get some headspace. Headspace is meditation made relevant to modern life. Get unique daily guided meditations, science facts and figures and progress reports, all designed to make it as easy as possible for you to get some calm and clarity.

    This app aims helps to improve users’ well-being, offering suggestions for improved self-care, sleep concerns, and guided meditations. The basic version is free.

    Check in with yourself, slow down and re-engage with this app. Enjoy a variety of guided meditations and self-assessments. The basic version is free.

Exercises

The exercises described below are best understood and used within the context of the 10 week course offered by the Towson University Counseling Center.

Self Care: Evoking Kindness Toward Oneself:

This guided meditation provides an opportunity for one to care for oneself and cultivate a sense of kindness toward oneself. In our busy lives, we often push ourselves to the limit. As a consequence, our bodies, emotions, and minds are neglected and criticized by ourselves. This inner battle with our thoughts, bodies, and emotions leaves us feeling sore, numb, or exhausted. As an alternative to pushing away unwanted parts of ourselves, this meditation provides an opportunity to open and transform our relationship with our inner world. This leads to increased vitality, clarity, and self-esteem.

Have you ever noticed that while sitting in class you find yourself in an argument with your roommate about something that has been bothering you about them. Your heart starts beating more rapidly, your muscles tense, your breathing quickens, perhaps you’re even feeling angry, only to realize that your roommate is not even in the room – the conversation has taken place in your own mind. Afterwards, you can’t even recall the main points from the lecture.

Or perhaps you failed to study as much as you would have liked for a test and the rest of the day you find yourself ensnared in a self-condemning dialogue. The test is over and you are stuck in an unproductive state keeping you from dealing effectively with what is actually happening.

The truth is that most of us live our lives absorbed in our thoughts about what might happen or what has already happened, missing the moment to moment experience of the life that is unfolding before us. This habit not only decreases our effectiveness but it also robs us of the full experience of our lives happening here in the present, which is the only time we get to live or act. Due to this habit, we may miss more than our class notes, we may be distracted during valuable time with our families, thinking of other things while with a lover, or off in thought in the midst of a delightful Spring day.

Of course it is important to take time to plan and reflect, but this works much better when conducted through the clarity of conscious choice, and not habitual, unproductive, discursive thinking.

 

Mindfulness is about cultivating full awareness of the present moment so that we can better manage stress and develop states of clarity and relaxed alertness. Some common misconceptions about mindfulness meditation is that it is about making your mind blank, feeling a specific way, or running away from problems. Mindfulness is about waking up to the fullness of your life and changing your relationship to your problems, your fears, your physical or emotional pain, so that these things don’t wind up controlling you and dictating the quality of your life. Mindfulness is not an idea, it’s a practice and a lifestyle cultivated by making a commitment to it over time.