30, Mar, 2012

Mindfulness: A Listening Exercise

img0917_0In a few minutes, I’m gonna take myself a badass, meditative, transformative hike through the gorgeous spring landscape, drinking in the sight and scent of flowers, watching the apple blossoms break into individual petals and spin through the air, borne aloft in clouds of glorious delicate confetti! That’s what I think of as my Green Meditation Cardio Blast.

Meditation can be practiced in a number of ways and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Many people find that daily meditation is a powerful means of achieving a state of inner well-being, since it aids in grounding the practitioner in the moment and can enable the mind and senses to experience life fully. For those in recovery from addiction, daily meditation helps to maintain serenity and connection to a higher power.

Mindfulness meditation is described as a calm, non-judgmental awareness of consciousness — mind, body, emotions, and even consciousness itself. Mindfulness is particularly effective in restoring peace of mind in times of emotional stress or when experiencing anxiety.

One quick way to engage in mindfulness meditation is to sit with feet planted on the floor and simply observe the body, the level of tension and relaxation in different muscle groups, for instance — to observe the thoughts as they pass through, like clouds across the sky, and to observe different emotions that may present; either in response to a thought or for no reason at all.

The idea is to simply be in the moment, observing without attaching any particular emphasis or judgment to any thought or feeling, for a period of time, say, five minutes. The amount of time spent in the exercise can be adjusted, but the goal is to be able to lengthen the time spent each day. Some advocates recommend at least twenty minutes a day, some insist is should be an hour, but the beauty of mindfulness is that everything is up to the individual.

Another way of experiencing mindfulness meditation is to take a walk outside, consciously experiencing the world through all the senses. Sometimes it’s good to add the repetition of a mantra, for instance, “I’m healing,” or, “I’m happy in the moment” — anything that will encourage and establish positive self-talk and enable the brain to establish new neural pathways so that the level of “feel-good” chemicals in brain increases. When using a mantra, daily application for at least three weeks is required before the results kick in, but they always kick in if we work it daily and consistently.

Some who practice mindfulness report they do their meditation while / by watching a sunset or sunrise, lighting a candle and watching the flame, or during any quiet moment in a given day. Mindfulness meditation has been found to empower those who practice it daily with ability to stay present in each moment and to enjoy life with serenity and a positive attitude. Like exercise, meditation is a daily program which rewards the mind and body both immediate and long-term benefits when consistently practiced.

Listening is a powerful way to exercise mindfulness. It is an activity which brings the listener into the present moment. Active listening — being present for the person listened to — provides immediate benefit and strength to both speaker and listener. Listening is a powerful activity in our society today because it is so rare. Often, people are completely absorbed in phoning, texting, channel surfing, etc., that the opportunity to listen is ignored.

The opportunity to listen presents itself constantly, even if / especially when you are alone. Try listening to some of your favorite music, for instance, but consciously listen to the music as if you were hearing it for the first time — be actively present in the moment. Now click off the music and listen to the silence — or noise — that fills the space, depending on where you are. Allow the sounds — or the lack of sound — to wash over you, and pay attention to every little detail that presents itself to your ears.

Listen to your body. Observe how this process affects your physical state — are your muscles tensed, or relaxed? How is your breathing? Is it shallow or deep? Try performing this exercise once or twice a day, and see how refreshing it is to rediscover your innate listening power. Allow this process to become meditative, as it draws you inward and keeps you in the present moment.
We live in a global community, connected to one another by myriad networks. During every waking moment, we’re bombarded by advertising, peppered with text and voice messages, emails, social media updates, and all kinds of other noise. We adapt by learning to filter out anything we deem expendable. The key is to be conscious of what we’re receiving and how it affects the brain, body, emotions, and overall energy reservoir within each of us.

The power of living is in the moment. We access, share, and multiply that power when we are present, actively listening to and connecting with another human being. When we open our minds and hearts to people close to us, in real time, we both give and receive a priceless commodity: empathy, exchange of ideas, shared hopes and dreams, mutual encouragement.

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