Mindfulness derives from the Buddhist tradition from over two and a half thousand years ago. Despite the multitude of schools and differences in texts and rites, mindfulness remains the foundation of Buddhist meditation practice. The concept of mindfulness became the object of interest of Western researchers in the 1970s. Mindfulness is usually defined as an attention directed at emerging experiences at a present moment, in an intentional, non-judging and accepting way. This kind of attention allows perceiving oneself, people and events in a way free from distortion. Mindfulness can be developed through appropriate mental training. Its practice consists in observing appearing thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in the body with full openness and acceptance, without wanting to get rid of them or avoid them. Intensive research over the last fifty years has shown that the practice of mindfulness has a positive impact on many areas of human functioning such as mental and physical health, as well as balanced social functioning.
Multiple studies have shown, among others, that the practice of mindfulness reduces the level of anxiety, stress, depression, aggression, feelings of loneliness, fear of death; and increases the level of compassion, acceptance and trust, develops creativity and attention as well as unconditional self-acceptance. These changes are associated with structural changes in the brain in the form of, for example, an increase in the density of grey matter in areas of the brain involved in learning and remembering, regulating emotions, self-awareness and perspective taking. What is also important, longitudinal study has shown that the effect of the practice of mindfulness persists in the long-term. The most recent area of research on mindfulness is the intergroup relationship. Their results showed that a short mindfulness practice (10 minutes) affected the reduction of implicit prejudice as well as discriminatory behaviour towards out-group members.
First, allow yourself to settle in here. Now, gently close your eyes part way, or all the way, whichever is more comfortable for you.
Then ask yourself, what is my experience right now? What am I thinking about? What am I feeling, emotionally? What sensations are present in my body? Just observe and acknowledge your experience whatever it is.
Bringing your awareness to your body, focus your attention on the sensations of touch, or pressure, how your body makes contact with the chair. Spend a moment or two exploring these sensations. Now bring your awareness to the changing physical sensations in your lower abdomen as the breath moves in and out of your body. Become aware of the changing sensations as your abdomen rises and falls with each breath you take. Continue to focus on the sensations in the abdomen. Focus your awareness on the sensations of slight stretching, as your abdomen rises with each in breath, and a gentle deflation, as it falls, with each outbreath.
As best you can, follow with your awareness the changing physical sensations in the lower abdomen, all the way through, as the breath enters your body on the inbreath, and all the way through, as your breath leaves your body on the outbreath. Perhaps also noticing the slight pause at the end of the inbreath, and the slight pause between the end of one outbreath, and the beginning of the next inbreath. Focusing on the actual sensations of breath entering and breath leaving the body. There is no need to think about the breath, just experience the sensations of it. And there is no need to try to control the breathing in any way. Simply let the breath be natural. As best you can, also bring the sense of allowing to the rest of your experience. There is nothing to be fixed, no particular state to be achieved. As best you can, simply allow your experience to be your experience, without needing to change it in any way.
Sooner or later, your mind will wonder away from the focus on the breath in the lower abdomen to thoughts, feelings, daydreams, drifting along, whatever. This is perfectly okay. It’s simply what minds do.
When you notice that your awareness is no longer on your breath, gently acknowledge briefly where the mind has been. Then gently bring your awareness back to a focus on the changing physical sensations in the lower abdomen, renewing you’re your intention to pay attention to the breath coming in, and the breath going out. However often you notice that the mind has wandered, congratulate yourself each time on reconnecting with your experience in the moment. Gently escorting the attention back to the breath and simply resume following in awareness the physical sensations that come with each inbreath and outbreath.
Now simply continue with this for the next few minutes, perhaps reminding yourself from time to time that the intention is simply to be aware of your experience in each moment as best you can, using the breath as an anchor to gently reconnect with the here and now each time that you notice that your mind has wandered, and is no longer down in the abdomen, following the breath.
Now allow your attention to extend to your whole body – to your posture, your facial expression, and other parts of your body.
Now, expand your awareness further, to the space around you. And when you are ready, slowly and gently open your eyes.
This is the end of your relaxation. Please press next when you are ready.
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