“Between a stimulus and a response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”
THE LEARNING LAB ON MINDFULNESS
This Learning Lab experience provides neuroscience research on how mindfulness can be used as a tool to change the brain. We explore how mindfulness can ultimately lead to transformed behaviors, responses and better overall physical and mental health while also starting to identify our thoughts and behaviors that are self-limiting. In this learning lab, we engage in mindfulness practice together and learn skills and practices to take into daily life.
Reflections from Participants:
“Mindfulness is like a magnifying glass- it shows what’s real…”
“I feel that life has been an ocean in which I am drowning. Through practicing mindfulness, I have learned to keep my head above water and actually float in the waves. Sometimes I have been able to look up and see the sky or look out and see the beach.”
Mindfulness is like floating down a river and taking everything in- being in the moment and enjoying everything around me.”
“Mindfulness is lie taking a deep breath- it is relaxing and gives me space.”
“I actually am in control. It’s not what happens to me, but how I frame my response.”
Mindfulness is like a blossoming flower. It takes time [and] awareness of what’s around you… When it is full nourished… you can bloom.”
“Mindfulness is like a cool breeze- it helps to calm the entire body and soul and allow reflection and breath- complete thought.”
My Own Experience:
“Thank you for the peace and relief that comes with these moments of silence. Like a cool washrag on a feverish forehead, the silence wipes clean the emotions and lingering thoughts from my mind. I need this.”
May, 2014 journal entry by Brandi Lust
“I feel as though something within me is healing and in replace of it, there is now an objectivity- a truth and even a beauty- has found a place within my chest.”
June, 2014 journal entry by Brandi Lust
More About Mindfulness:
There are MANY ways to engage in a mindfulness practice, but here are instructions to try one strategy.
Preparation: Find a relatively quiet, comfortable place where you can be alone for the duration of your practice without distraction. Set a timer when you begin to meditate (five to twenty minutes is a reasonable amount of time). Five to ten minutes is a good “starting place” for a new practitioner, then building to longer amounts of time when/if one is comfortable doing so.
Posture: Sit in a chair or on the floor (perhaps with a pillow beneath you) in a position where your back can be fully straight and upright but still relaxed.
Breathing: Breathe relaxed, full breaths, slowly and deeply. Some people choose to breathe through the stomach. You don’t have to do anything special here; just settle in and let your breath come and go
Awareness: Attention should be focused (especially in the beginning) on something specific. Most beginning meditators focus on the breath. Don’t try to control it, just notice it going in and out, the way it feels in the body, the sensations of the air moving through the lungs, the nose, the mouth etc. Awareness will get caught up in thoughts and emotions, but just bring it back to the present over and over again.
Acceptance: It is normal to experience and get “caught” in thoughts and feelings. When this happens, gently come back to the moment without condemnation and judgment. Practice empathy for yourself.
A practice might also include other activities, such as mindful walking or eating. In addition, mindfulness is a lifestyle as well as a practice. Taking a moment to come back to the present and notice what is happening and what one is feeling is a way to intersect habitual patterns, maintain empathy, and engage in the moment while limiting judgment or distractions in daily life and can be done at any time.
As I become aware of what actions, behaviors, habits and practices are life-giving for me, I find that I am drawn to spend more and more time in nature. In the mornings, I feel compelled to breath deeply the air as I leave the house, open my window when I am commuting, slow down enough to bask in a moment of sunshine before I enter a building.
The more time I spend in world of nature, the richer my interactions become. A sunset will fill me with a sense of emanating warmth. Mornings of low-hanging fog over dewey grass will fuzzy my sense of here and there. Soft blankets of grass will move me to visceral connection, my fingers (or toes) moving through the strands.
“The power of ritual is profound and under-appreciated. Mostly, I think, it’s because we live in a time-starved culture, and ritual is time-indulgent. Who can afford the luxury of doing one thing at a time? Who has the patience to pause and honor an activity before and after we do it? We all should.”
I am not a superstitious person. And yet. For some reason lately the concept of ritual has been swirling around in my brain- beautiful and shrouded in mystery, they seem a powerful component of life and humanity.
Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Review states, “Rituals are about paying attention. They’re about stopping for a moment and noticing what you’re about to do, what you’ve just done, or both. They’re about making the most of a particular moment.”This makes sense to me. What ways do I find to celebrate the joys in life- small and large? In what ways do I honor the difficulties? Maybe ritual is a way to honor a moment. To see that I am perceptive and open to noticing the stages and transitions of my life and the lives of others.
“When he heard music, he no longer listened to the notes, but the silences between. When he read a book, he gave himself over to the commas and semicolons, to the space after the period before the capital letter of the next sentence. He discovered the places in the room where silence gathered; the folds of curtain drapes, the deep bowls of family silver. When people spoke to him, he heard less and less of what they said and and more and more of what they were not.”
– Nicole Krauss, The History of Love
This post is really about listening, but I think the ability to really listen comes solely from silent spaces: those without and within. In Julian Treasure’s short and informative TEDTalk below, he gives advice on becoming a better listener. One of the things he suggests is three to four minutes of silence a day to retrain your ears.