The ancient wisdom of mindfulness helps us make positive changes in our brains and our lives.
A recent study of people of all ages, backgrounds and gender responded across the board with "feeling not good enough," "I'm not living my life right," and with tremendous self-judgment and shame.
Shame is universal, and something everyone has felt at some point in their lives. Worse, we think if we beat ourselves up, we'll somehow improve.
Yet, shame doesn't work. It never works. It can't work.
When we feel shame, the brain's growth learning part shuts down and triggers a cascade of cortisol and other hormones. We want to avoid it and hide the parts that most need our attention.
As a Yoga teacher, I deeply believe in transformation, yet you cannot achieve transformation without mindfulness.
So let's break it down...
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is to be fully present in the moment. Yet, constantly the mind wanders. It's not so easy. A recent Harvard study showed the mind wanders 47% of the time. That is nearly half of our lives that we are missing. We're not here! Part of mindfulness is simply learning to train the mind in how to be here, where we already are.
Where do we begin, and how do we arrive here fully?
Through our breath. Focus on full breaths in and out without judgment. When the mind wanders, simply return to the breath in and out of the belly. What you practice grows stronger. If you are frustrated, annoyed or impatient, and you focus on those feelings, that is what you will create more of.
Repeated experiences shape our brains. We can actually sculpt and strengthen our synaptic connections based on our repeated practice. Mindfulness strengthens the immune system, decreases stress and cortisol. It helps us sleep and feel better. When you look at meditators' brains, the areas related to attention, learning, and compassion grow bigger and stronger.
What we practice grows stronger.
Meditate with judgment - you are growing judgment.
Practice with kind attention, and you will experience kindness for yourself and others.
Kindness bathes us with dopamine, turning on the brain's learning centers and giving us the courage to see the things we don't want to see and the resources we need for lasting change.
Mindfulness isn't just about paying attention. It's about how we pay attention with kindness, like loving arms that welcome everything –even the messy, imperfect parts of ourselves. We're practicing all the time, moment by moment. Not just when we're meditating on the mat. We're growing something in every moment. So, the questions really become, "What do you want to grow?" "What do you want to practice?" I'd love to hear.
True and lasting transformation requires Kind Attention!
Are You Feeling Scattered or Out of Sorts? Here Are Some Winter Activities Sure to Keep You Grounded!
With darker days and longer nights, it makes sense that your energy will shift. Daylight affects your internal rhythms – affecting your mood and feelings. You can do specific activities to help you balance out that "case of the blahs," primarily to ground your energy and sustain you through the winter months.
What is Grounding?
Grounding is an activity that connects us to the Earth and has a calming, soothing effect. In scientific terms– just as you are made up of energy, so is everything else. The electrical current of the Earth, when connected with yours, is very grounding.
Grounding helps reduce stress, inflammation, and improve mood, sleep and circulation. It is worth exploring the many ways you can ground yourself indoors during the time of the year you need it the most.
Grounding Activities You Can Try
Grounding Yoga Postures
Enhance Your Grounding Experience
Taking some slow deep breaths is one of the quickest ways you can calm the nervous system. What's the catch? Most of us were never taught how to breathe properly, and living in a face-paced world, most of us don't realize its importance. Thankfully it can be learned, and with awareness, it becomes easier.
Belly Breathing Exercise
Breathe in through the belly and out through the belly, taking full breaths in and full breaths out. Imagine the diaphragm is a balloon filling up on the inhale and emptying on the exhale. Belly breathing is the quickest way to get us out of our thinking mind and into our center.
Connect to Your Senses
One way to connect is to meditate for 5-10 minutes. Sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. While breathing deeply, focus on your senses one at a time, paying attention to each for a few breaths.
Get wet! Take a hot shower or maybe take a quick dip in the ocean. Soak in a warm bath with candles, relaxing music, essential oils or your favorite aroma. Connect to the feeling of water washing over you.
Or you can enjoy your favorite warm beverage or your favorite hearty soup. Savor and drink in the warmth, comfort and smell and allow it to soothe you.
Learning how to ground yourself anytime, anywhere, is one of the most helpful and useful skills for a lifetime of inner calm, health and resilience. By centering yourself amidst the chaos of life, you can let circumstances come and go without attaching to them.
I hope you will try these simple techniques, find what works for you and reach for it daily. Remember, your calm is just a breath away!