Karuna Counseling’s Newsletter Articles

March 9, 2006

A Guide to Mindful Living: Part III

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Mind-body-spirit Integration — karunacounseling @ 5:35 pm
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by Andrea Schrage, MA, LPC, CMT

This section will be dedicated to an ongoing look at simple ways to incorporate mindfulness in your everyday life. Over the course of several newsletters you will have a set of tools to pull out to create a healthier environment within you. One way to facilitate use of the exercises will be to focus on one for the next 2 months and really become fluent in it. Then you can move on in the succession of exercises that can build on each other.

What is mindfulness? Mindfulness in simplified terms is learning to be present in the current moment. Why would one want to do this? The list of benefits is very long but here are a few:

  • Decreasing Anxiety
  • Ability to make conscious choices
  • Helps to reduce addictive patterns
  • Changes your relationship with negative thoughts
  • Allows you tune into answers from within
  • Increases your sense of peace in the world

If you missed the first exercise on Mindful Eating, please feel free to go back and look at
our article on A Guide To Mindful Living

Exercise Three:

Mindful Listening

Benefits may include:

  • Becoming more conscious of your senses.
  • Feeling more connected to what is around you.
  • Increased concentration.
  • Increased ability to stay in the present moment.
  • Stillness and peace.

Suggested Use:

  • Upon waking or before sleeping.
  • During a stressful time.
  • Short breaks during the day

“I can’t meditate!”

Many people get frustrated at meditating because they think that they are only succeeding when they are in complete silence and feeling peace. That assumption is the opposite of mindfulness because it is trying to force a result verses relaxing into what is. We have a constant barrage of voices in our heads that are always judging the world and ourselves. They are usually being critical and can keep us in a state of worry.

In the beginning it is your job to keep moving from these voices back to your focus. The more you practice this, the longer the stretches will be between your focus and the voices. What you will find in that space will very from day-to-day; some days it will be still and peaceful and some days it will be sadness or anger. Whatever is there is exactly what is supposed to be there, so just notice it. Every time you find yourself in the thoughts, be thankful that you realized it and come back to your focus. We are constantly following the voices in our heads, so every time you even notice yourself in them, you are growing.

Basic Instruction for Mindful Listening

Part One:

  • Began by sitting in an upright position with your feet on the ground and your spine straight.
  • Take 2-3 breathes and relax into your body as best as you can.
  • Bring your attention the sounds around you.
  • Open your ears and keep a focused attention on what you hear. You may notice stillness, ringing, traffic, the sounds of your house, air blowing, people talking etc. judgement.
  • Open up to the most subtle of sounds and notice them without judging them. Let go of your assumptions about what is a pleasant sound and what might be irritating and listen to them as if it is the first time.
  • When your mind wanders to thoughts, gently bring it back to listening.

That is it!

You may also want to try this while listening to people when they are talking to you. Really focus on what they are saying without your mind working on an instant reply. Notice what happens in your relationships when you really listen.

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February 3, 2006

A Guide To Mindful Living

This section will be dedicated to an ongoing look at simple ways to incorporate mindfulness in your everyday life. Over the course of several newsletters you will have a set of tools to pull out to create a healthier environment within you. One way to facilitate use of the exercises will be to focus on one for the next 2 months and really become fluent in it. Then you can move on in the succession of exercises that can build on each other.

What is mindfulness? Mindfulness in simplified terms is learning to be present in the current moment. Why would one want to do this? The list of benefits is very long but here are a few:

  • Decreasing Anxiety
  • Ability to make conscious choices
  • Helps to reduce addictive patterns
  • Changes your relationship with negative thoughts
  • Allows you tune into answers from within
  • Increases your sense of peace in the world

If you missed the first exercise on the 3 minute breathe, please feel free to go back and look at http://www.karunacounseling.com/mindfulness1.html

Exercise Two:

Mindful Eating

Benefits may include:

  • Becoming more conscious of what you eat.
  • More enjoyment of your food.
  • Increased concentration.
  • Increased ability to stay in the present moment.
  • Better ability to monitor food intake.

Suggested Use:

  • During meals.
  • Deciding if you are hungry.
  • Letting your body inform you of what it is craving (verses your mind or habit dictating).

Any combination of the above will teach your system that mindfulness is readily available. John Kabat-Zinn teaches that if you were jumping out of an airplane, you wouldn’t sew the parachute on the way down. You would instead, sew it ahead of time so that it would be in good shape when you need it. The best way to have mindfulness be something that you automatically reach for is to practice it as much as possible. You may want to leave reminders for yourself to do the exercise, such as, post its or putting it in your calendar.

Part one and two below may be used together or separate depending on your goal.

Basic Instruction for Mindful Eating

Part One:

  1. Begin by sitting in an upright position with your feet on the ground and your spine straight.
  2. Take 2-3 breaths and relax into your body.
  3. Bring your attention to your belly and check in to see if you are physically hungry. You may find the urge to eat, but it could be an emotional hunger.
  4. Ask your body internally or out loud, “What am I hungry for.” You may get a response from the mind, so check it out by imagining your self eating that food. You may try a few foods to see what feels like the best fit. You will find that the more you do this, the more your body will truly guide you to eating what it needs verses what you want.

Part Two:

Follow 1 and 2 above if you are just doing part two and then continue below.

  1. Start by looking at your food like you have never seen it before. Look at the colors, texture, proportions, where it is on the plate and notice the smell.
  2. Notice any judgments that the mind makes and let them go without attaching to them as true. Almost like a child who is being introduced to it for the first time.
  3. Slowly take it to your mouth and stop right before it goes into your mouth. Notice the anticipation of the food.
  4. Now place it in your mouth and chew very slowly, holding an air of curiosity. Notice the texture and the tastes.
  5. Notice how you know when it is time to swallow and then swallow the food.
  6. Put your utensil back down and notice what it is like to be one bite fuller.
  7. Continue on through the meal at a slow and conscious state noticing what feelings, sensations, and judgments come up.

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That is it!

Food and eating can stir up a lot of emotions, so you may want to journal about them, or if they get to intense, call your therapist for guidance. Enjoy a new way to look at food and allow a newfound choice about your eating.

If you have more questions feel free to contact me at

404-818-6114 or at

andreaschrage@karunacounseling.com

Keep your eyes out for a 4 series class after the New Year to learn how to use mindfulness to prevent the recurrence of depression.

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