Mindfulness practice:

Breathing, Eating, Walking

Breathing Mindfully

Developing a breathing practice brings awareness to the present moment. By breathing full life-sustaining breaths the respiratory systems is strengthened and the lungs are fully cleared. By increasing the inhalations and exhalations of the breath we use similar techniques to that of the Biofeedback model to self-regulate the heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, and more (Frank et al., 2010). Becoming aware of the breath also increases circulation throughout the body, stimulates brain function, allows us to slow down, think rationally, and react with awareness.  

Practice:

At any time, simply stop what you are doing, take a full-deep inhalation and hold the breath at the top of the inhale for 3-5 seconds. Next, exhale, drawing the core of the stomach back towards the spine, and hold for 3-5 seconds at the bottom of the exhalation. Repeat this as often as needed. Continuing to practice this breath can increase lung capacity and decrease your chances of respiratory issues in the future. As your experience develops observe your breath and how it has changed.   

Eating Mindfully

In his beautiful book Peace Is Every Step, (1991) Thich Nhat Hanh makes peace within the self an attainable action. He provides lessons that indulge the moment of washing dishes or crafts walking on the earth a form of love making. It is through his words that I find much of my own peace for living in this world and you will find some of the practices provided reflect that adaptation.  

After everyone is seated and ready to eat take a full deep breath to begin this practice. This practice requires less than a minute prior to eating and does not replace any other ritual you may have. Eating mindfully brings awareness to the moment when we offer attention to our food and environment.

Practice:

Before eating preform three breaths while either silently or speaking this phrase, “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile (Pg.23).” After two or three breaths, look at each person dining with you and smile. This shows significance to the person and yourself in relation to that person. “After breathing and smiling, we look down at the food in a way that allows the food to become real. The food reveals our connection to the earth. Each bite contains the life of the sun and the earth. …Contemplating our food for a few seconds before eating, and eating in mindfulness, can bring us much happiness (Pg. 24).” Simplistic and beautiful!

Hanh recommends eating in silence “from time to time,” but this element can be added later as your practice develops. He also suggests abstaining from conversations that can disrupted the awareness of family and food and to assist others if the focus is elsewhere.

Goal of exercise: Appreciating the food and Earth it came from, as well as the people that accompany you and to bring awareness to the moment. Enhance awareness of gratitude and allows for its expression.  

Mindfulness Walking- This is one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy

The experience of walking is quite strange for me and many people that I talk with. We function by moving through the day at a rate faster than our brains can keep up with.  As though our feet always know where we are going and our brains are left a few blocks behind, forced to catch up. There seems to be a destination to the movement of our feet. I wonder if this could be measured collectively. As the population increases does humanity get faster? Have you ever been in a mall on Saturday morning? I ask simply because I don’t recommend beginning this practice in such a place. Almost any setting will work for mindful walking but natural, including grassy, areas are more conducive environments. Walking with mindfulness can happen anywhere.

Practice:

Begin by walking at the pace you usually walk. Begin breathing as you usually breathe. Now stop. Take a deep breath, inhaling fully, allowing the chest to rise. Exhale and the chest falls. Try to imagine a moment that lacks a future and past and revel in the moment you are in. Begin walking again at a slower rate than your previous speed of walking. The breath can remain constant and full (deep inhale, deep exhale). Begin to bring your awareness to the bottom of the feet. You can connect with the bottom of the feet whether barefoot or wearing shoes. If barefoot is an option on grass, or something soft, feel free to explore. As you take each step feel how your foot touches the earth. With every step the focus remains on the bottom of the feet. This next step comes again from Peace Is Every Step. While connecting your feet with the Earth, “walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet (Pg.28).” This is an intimate act one can perform with the Earth. Thich Nhat Hanh expresses the need to take care of the Earth by bringing peace and calmness to the surface.

Explore the beauty of your environment without the attempt of identification. If help is needed, ask. For example, ask a flower “What are you?” and don’t answer the question. Investigate the characteristics of what you have noticed instead of naming it. Enjoy the different shades of green or the variegation of color in the flower. It’s so easy to get caught up in the concepts of identification. Stop and enjoy something beautiful, or enjoy yourself for creating a moment of authenticity. Begin, again, by walking slowly as you finish the practice in your time.