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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mindfulness and Meditation

This is something I've been meaning to write about for the last year or so, but hadn't fully grasped what mindfulness or meditation really were in the context of my own life. Somewhere in the last 48 hours I figured it out in classic epiphany fashion while trying to wrestle some demons. Going forward from this moment I will try to incorporate some sort of meditation into my daily routine, and I'll try to explain why.

I should preface this by saying I am not spiritual person. I don't believe in 'aligning chakras'  or the sort.  I tend to identify closely with a very scientific, analytical way of thinking. A born skeptic, I tend to see mindfulness as a self imposed method of  'resetting'.  Without further adieu, here's what I have come to appreciate in the world of mindfulness and meditation.

This is just the rant of a personal experience and bears no resemblance to proper psychology or even proper meditative theory I'm sure....but still, I feel it's an experience that most can relate to.

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All too often our day to day's become a series of tasks to complete from the moment you wake up to the very second you fall asleep.  You may not think of them as tasks as they are often disguised as a seemingly natural routine. However, this day to day, if you step back is nothing more than a series of sequential tasks where your brain shifts focus and intent from one thing to the next. Unless you actively take time to consciously 'do nothing' and meditate, your mind and body is at 100% for every waking hour.

Break down your typical day and you may realize this. Even something as innocuous as watching TV after work can be a 'task' in the sense that you may be mentally invested in the show that you are watching. This is not to say that this is not enjoyable, but your mind is still going.

A typical day looks like this:

Wake up
Brush teeth
Make breakfast
Pack lunch
drive to work
do your work
drive home
pick up groceries
workout
go to friends place and have a beer
watch TV
play Fallout 4
go to sleep

The only items on this list where you are not using your mind are 'Wake up' and 'Go to sleep'

It's understandable why you're tired at the end of the day. Your mind and body are exhausted, However if it's been a stressful day. You carry the burden of this stress mentally as you go to bed. Your mind hasn't had a time to consciously rest, and in my personal experience, it leads to bad sleeping habits and restlessness.

I started casually doing mindfulness exercises a year ago to combat some anxiety. It helped tremendously. During the summer I hardly meditated, as cycling kept me distracted enough. However as the weather gets cooler, and I spend less time outside, the need increases. I would like to continue to meditate 365 days a year going forward though.

Mindfulness exercises train you to clear your mind of external distractions and focus on yourself in the mental and physical sense, It is about minimal exertion, relaxation and mental clarity. Many focus on releasing the stress or anxiety that you have accrued over time. Focusing on aspects such as  breathing in intricate detail,  allows your mind to release other thoughts that may have been racing around. Focusing on many of the subconscious things we do has a way of 'reclaiming' control of your mind.  I don't know the hows or whys, but I know that these exercises do help.

Personally I have found online youtube guided mindfulness meditations to be helpful. There are probably better ones out there, but these are accessible and free. The ones I have been using range from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. While a skim of many of the titles may have you thinking this is some next level, over the top hippy business... take my word on it. Just try one out, be honest with it, and instead of being skeptical (like I was initially) just play the game for the duration of the video.

Step 1: In the evening about an hour before bedtime, find a quiet place in your house.  Make it comfortable.
Step 2: Wear something comfortable. You don't want to be distracted thinking about the wallet in your jeans digging into your leg!

Step 3: Pick a video. (You only need the audio, don't stare at a computer screen)

I like this one.



Step 4: Sit calmly for 30 seconds or so before starting this exercise.

Step 5: Relax.

For me, I come out of these sessions with a slightly hazy, but very relaxed state. I've also found that I fall asleep much easier, and don't carry much of the stress I may have had before.


I highly recommend trying this out. Just once. It's only 20 minutes, and it may do more good than you'd ever imagine.


That's all for now.

Aaron












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