Mindfulness Activity #38
One of the ways in which mindfulness helps us in life is that when we are at once noticing our thoughts, emotions, and urges and also have access to the logical parts of our mind, we are able to live our values and make the best decisions possible. We can act to actualize goals. For instance, you might wake up and feel tired and exhausted. Your body is telling you to ignore the day, to sleep, to stay in bed. You might be fearful of how you will manage the day. However, if you know that getting up and active will ultimately make you feel better, you can tell yourself, “I am noticing that my body is tired and that I am dreading the day and I also know that I will feel differently when I get up and get active.” So, you might choose to recognize and then override your fear and dread of the day, stretch your tired body, get up, have coffee, and begin your day. We can think of this state…aware of emotions and urges and also connected to our rational self as Wise Mind. In order to get to wise mind, we have to develop this ability to observe our own experience without judgment. This is where practice comes in. It takes a lot of practice to notice feelings without being swallowed up by them. It takes a lot of practice to notice a thought and to actually consider if the thought is true, false, or maybe a little true but exaggerated without getting swept up in a cascade of thoughts that lead one to the other without discernment.
Mindfulness practice involves noticing the world around us. It also involves observing our inner thoughts, feelings, and body sensations moment by moment as they happen. It is often easiest, when we are practicing to develop our mindful attention, for us to focus on concrete things that provide strong sensations. For instance, holding and feeling a clementine-noticing the smell as you peel it, noticing the taste and redirecting yourself back to those sensations any time you have a distracting thought…the strong sensations of the clementine make the task clear and helps us to develop abilities that can then be used to focus in the middle of an emotional argument.
One of the strongest sensations that we have is our sense of smell. It also often links to memories. When I smell bread baking, I am instantly reminded of being at my grandmother’s home which was a quiet and peaceful place. You heard yesterday about an unpleasant time in my life in my noisy, unpleasant apartment. This apartment was also two blocks from a wonderful bread shop and walking to the bread shop and smelling fresh bread baking and buying a fresh loaf brought instant good feelings. Any pleasant smell can help us to focus our attention and can generate pleasant feelings.
For today’s practice, you will need to set up before you begin. For those in facilities, you will need essential oil with a dropper, or scented lotion that you can dispense without touching people. For those at home, choose anything with a smell that you like. You can choose lavender, or orange, or even baby lotion…anything that generates a pleasant scent. There will be no background sounds with this practice, and if it not quiet where you are, that’s completely fine. The idea of this practice is to turn your attention away from sights and sounds around you and from any thoughts in your head and to just notice the smell while you are breathing in and out. If using lotion, you can also notice the sensation of your hands as you rub the lotion into your skin.
If leading a group, begin by distributing scent onto hands of participants. Ready the bell timer from the link below (forward past adds until you see Three Minute Silent Mindfulness and then pause.) Read the instruction… When you hear the bell, pay attention to the sensation of smell. Just direct your attention to smell, breathing deeply in and out at whatever pace feels comfortable. If distracted, try to gently bring your attention back to the smell on your next in-breath. Continue until you hear the ending bell. The practice will be three minutes.
Throughout the day, try to notice your own thoughts and feelings moment by moment, just like you noticed the oil or lotion on your hands and its smell. That’s it–nothing more than noticing. Just noticing can be transformative. It is essential for making wise-mind choices.
Enjoy the weekend.