More than some specific meditation technique, mindfulness is a way of life. Mindful living encompasses every aspect of your life imaginable, it's been a major aspect of just about all Eastern spiritual traditions for thousands of years, and is now taking root in the West.
But mindful living is much more than just discovering and enjoying the present moment. Mindful living brings us crashing into ourselves, which can be both beautiful and frightening.
But the very reason this happens is because mindfulness is giving us the opportunity to realize peace and happiness, the opportunity to discover our true nature and live freely, by opening us up much like a flower opens itself up to the sun.
Living mindfully takes courage. But if you want to live your best life, if you want to discover peace and happiness right now in this very moment, then there's no other way.
Life can be crazy, but if we meet it head on and navigate those difficulties with mindfulness then we have the ability to both maintain peace while doing so and come out happier for it.
This is The Mindfulness Survival Guide, and these are mindfulness techniques to help you navigate the twists and turns of life with greater clarity, peace, joy, and to ultimately discover how awesome life can be.
The Mindfulness Survival Guide:
- Physical Healing
- Mental and Emotional Healing
- Nourishing and Healing Relationships
- Dealing with Craving and Addiction
- *Bonus: When Life Just Won't Give You a Break
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Mindfulness techniques aren't usually associated with physical healing, but they can be a great aid in the process of not only healing our bodies and minds when suffering from chronic conditions but from acute conditions as well. Mindfulness can also help us reconnect with our bodies and fall in love with ourselves as well, and this is also very healing.
Mindfulness can also help us reconnect with our bodies and fall in love with ourselves as well, and this is also very healing.
1. Mindfulness of body
To practice mindfulness of body, you should preferably be lying down where you can relax with your hands at your sides. I'd suggest doing this exercise just before bed, as it can be extremely relaxing and often result in sleep.
Mindfulness of body starts at the top of your body and works its way down:
1. From the top. Become mindful of your body. Feel your whole body and become fully aware of it.
Now focus your mindfulness on the top of your head, shortly after shifting to your brain. Feel that part of your body fully with your mindfulness. Does that area of your body feel tense? Loose? Do you notice an ache? Pain? Something you haven't noticed before? Be fully present as you scan your entire body with your mindfulness and direct love and attention to each area as you scan.
After scanning each part of your body, give it a moment to release all the tension held within it and relax fully before continuing to the next section. 2.
2. Full-body scan. Continue to move down your body, one body part at a time, like you were scanning your body with an X-ray machine. Don't just stay on the outside.
Once you get to the shoulders, upper arms, lower arms, hands, chest, back, and abdomen, shift to your intestines, stomach, lungs, and everywhere in between. 3.
3. To the bottom. Continue to scan until you get to the tip of your toes. Sometimes, you might need to wiggle a part of your body to become fully aware of it. This is perfectly fine.
Take your time during this meditation, devoting as much as 30 seconds to 1 minute of time to each individual body part. Mindfulness of body can bring relief to your body if you're feeling aches or pains, particularly as a result of stress.
But more importantly, like a tuning fork gathering a signal, the more you practice mindfulness, especially mindfulness of body, the more closely you'll be able to listen to your own body and detect the many signs and signals it gives off that you would otherwise not have noticed.
A special level of communication with our bodies is possible, and mindfulness allows us to cultivate that.
2. Compassion meditation
Typically, compassion meditation is generally done by focusing on entire people, but you can also do it by placing your focus on your body as well. One way of doing this is to start by think of someone you love: 1.
1. Feel the love. Think of someone you love: a son or daughter, husband or wife, mother or father, etc. Once you have that person in your mind, begin focusing on the feelings of love and appreciation you have for that person. Continue to do so for a few minutes until you reach a general high point. 2.
2. Give the love (power up). Next, imagine transferring those feelings into your body. Imagine a burst of positive energy hitting you like a wave. Remember everything you've been through with this body of yours, and imagine those feelings of love and appreciation pulsing within you, flowing through you. 3.
Remember everything you've been through with this body of yours, and imagine those feelings of love and appreciation pulsing within you, flowing through you.
3. Be mindful. Become mindful of your body. Feel your aches and pains, joints and muscles, tenseness and posture, and everything in between. The idea here isn't really to focus on each individual body part so much as it is to connect with the "history of your body" so to speak and to remember how much you've gone through with it, and to cultivate love and appreciation for it as a result of your mindfulness shedding light on this fact.
Continue to send your love and appreciation to your body. Sit like this for 5 or more minutes.
Mental and Emotional Healing
We need mental and emotional healing as much as we need physical healing, and mindfulness is a powerful medicine in the practice of mental and emotional healing.
Mental and emotional healing includes a number of mindfulness techniques. This is because mindfulness itself, practiced in any way, is mentally and emotionally healing. But there are some mindfulness techniques which are especially effective at healing mental and emotional wounds.
3. Forgiveness meditation
Hatred and anger are strong emotions which can take root in our minds and be difficult to overcome. Mindfulness gives us a way to be with those feelings, to feel them and see them with clarity, and smile at them with kindness and compassion.
Forgiveness meditation can be practiced in 3 ways, either focusing on how you've harmed others, how you've harmed yourself, or how others have harmed you (or 2/all 3). Whatever you focus on, the steps are essentially the same. For the example we'll use the second- how you've harmed yourself:
1. Reflect on the pain. Think of the ways you've harmed yourself. Let these feelings sit with you for at least a few minutes. Be mindful throughout the entire process.
2. Be mindful of symptoms. Feel the thoughts and emotions that arise out of this. Continue to sit through these thoughts and feelings.
3. Ask for forgiveness. In this case, you're asking yourself for forgiveness. Understanding that you hold the key to forgiveness, that whether this was something you did to others, others did to you, or you did to yourself, you know that it's up to you and you alone to allow yourself to forgive or be forgiven. You can repeat this, "Please, forgive me for _______." Or, "I forgive you for _______."
4. Release. Lastly, as you ask for forgiveness, be mindful of the various thoughts and feelings that arise within you. These could be feelings of anger, hatred, despair, hopelessness, a sudden urge for relief, or something else. Become aware of what thoughts and feelings you attach to your desire for forgiveness or to be forgiven.
This meditation is definitely not a one-hit. It can take a lot of time for us to be ready and willing to forgive ourselves or forgive others, but if you keep at it eventually you'll naturally open and begin to allow forgiveness in or allow yourself to be forgiven.
4. Going Home
Going home is a simple mindfulness of breathing exercise which I've spoken about before and has great application particularly with regards to mental and emotional healing.
Going home, a simple mindfulness technique which consists of stopping (whatever you're doing) to practice mindful breathing and reuniting body and mind as one. It can not only "cool" strong emotions so to speak, but more importantly it can help introduce us to the truth and power of the present moment more than any other mindfulness practice can.
Why is this important for mental and emotional healing? Because much of the reason why we suffer mentally and emotionally is because we don't know how to live fully in the present moment.
We carry baggage from the past, such as anger, regret, and sadness, and worry endlessly about the future. Both of these things weigh us down and we end up feeling like we're standing in between two stone walls constantly trying to close in around us.
The practice of Going home allows us to discover the peace of the present moment and gradually begin to let go of the baggage we're holding on to. And it's easy to do:
1. Stop. Breathe. Be present. No matter where you are, stop and begin to follow your breath with mindfulness. Become fully alive to this very instant and feel each complete in breath and out breath from start to finish.
2. Go to peace. Imagine for a moment that you're transported to your own place of peace. I like to imagine myself being transported to a monastery, seeing the monks and nuns do their daily activities together with one another in peace and mindfulness. Steep yourself in this feeling for a minute while you continue to breathe mindfully.
3. Realize that peace is now. Bring that sense of peace and calm back with you and imagine it hitting you like a wave of energy shooting down to your head, through your body, and down to your feet.
That sense of peace was always with you, because you never went anywhere. You were always in the present moment. Just you and your breath, experiencing the beauty of the present moment with mindfulness.
Go home every day, multiple times a day, with diligence and see as your deep-seated emotions and mental barriers reveal themselves and begin to unfold, one after another.
Nourishing and Healing Relationships
Relationships of all kinds can be tricky territory, and there's few better ways of nourishing and healing relationships than mindfulness techniques.
One powerful way this can be done is through tackling communication. Whether it's a friend, loved one, or colleague, mindful communication can transform a relationship.
Mindful speech and mindful listening are both ends of the communication spectrum. By practicing both mindfulness techniques you can transform your relationships from the ground up. There's perhaps nothing more powerful for maintaining and developing relationships than simply being fully present for the person.
5. Mindful speech
Mindful speech takes practice, and shouldn't be attempted until you've developed other basic mindfulness techniques first. But it's a worthy inclusion in the mindfulness survival guide nonetheless.
To practice mindful speech really means two things:
1. That you're aware of the effect the words you speak in any given moment could have on the person or people you're talking to, and, as a result, choose your words wisely. 2. That you're mindful while actually speaking, and fully aware of what you're saying to the other person and how you're saying it.
To practice mindful speech means to be aware of the power of the words you speak. Words are infinitely powerful, and with them you have the ability to both cut people down as well as raise them up.
To practice mindful speech ultimately means to be fully aware of the message you're communicating to one or more persons. You know you're right here, right now in this moment communicating to a certain person a certain message in a certain way.
You're also aware of their situation and are aware that you need to choose your words and how you convey your message skillfully.
6. Mindful listening
While mindful speech is a little abstract, mindful listening is straightforward and easy to outline:
1. Create an environment of undivided attention. Be fully aware of the conversation at hand, listening to the other person with all of your being. That means remove ALL possible distractions: put your phone and anything else you have in your hand that could potentially distract you down, turn away from all T.V.'s and any other distracting devices, and most importantly give them full and complete eye contact.
2. Follow your breath, follow the conversation. To help stay attentive during the conversation, follow your breath. Feel your breath in rhythm with their speech, and know that if you lose awareness of your breath you've lost awareness of the conversation.
3. Listen mindfully. Don't be quick to draw judgment on their words. Allow their words to come into you and smile at them nonjudgmentally just as you would a thought, feeling, or sensation during sitting meditation.
Mindful speech and mindful listening aren't basic mindfulness activities, as speaking and listening to another person can be much more complicated activities than something simple like walking, breathing, or cleaning. But it's more than worth putting in the effort to develop your mindfulness to the point where you can both comfortably follow a conversation and speak to another in mindfulness.
Both practices will give you the ability to further nourish positive relationships as well as heal broken ones.
Mindfulness techniques in this section cover two areas: both practices which help ground us and make us feel stable and practices which help us care for strong emotions.
Using mindfulness to help care for strong emotions and feelings is extremely effective- whether it's anger, fear, panic, sadness, or some sort of stress. Mental and Emotional Healing covers handling deep emotional issues and psychological hurdles which won't go away overnight, while the process of grounding is a more moment-to-moment practice when sudden occurrences cause us to feel a strong emotion like anger.
When situations like this occur, the emotion can be very dangerous. In the case of anger, it can make us do things in the moment that we'll regret in the future. For this, we need practices which can help bring us back down to Earth and ground us in the present moment through the calming energy of mindfulness.
By doing this, we can regain control and avert disaster.
7. The Walk of Life
The walk of life is essentially walking meditation with a slight twist to help further cultivate the feeling of being grounded:
1. Discover the path. To practice the Walk of Life walking meditation, find a nice quiet place to walk, preferably in nature. If you know of a local park or somewhere else you can walk that would be ideal.
2. Connect with the Earth. It's also preferable that you take your shoes off and walk barefoot so that you can feel the Earth beneath your feet. Both above-mentioned points will enhance the meditation but are not required.
3. Walk the path. Simply begin breathing mindfully. Once you've taken a few breaths, begin walking. Walk very slowly and with shorter strides so that your back heel doesn't start arching up before your raised foot can be placed down.
4. Walk mindfully. Continue to walk and breathe naturally, don't force a certain pace. Your focus during this meditation is the raising, swinging, and placing down of each individual foot. Be mindful as your left foot raises, swings, and lowers. Then, once your left foot has been placed down on the ground, be mindful of your right foot being lifted, swung, and lowered as well.
5. Breathe the walking. Walk the breathing. Try to match your steps with your breath to create a sense of unity within your entire being. If you can do 2 slow steps for each in breath and another 2 steps for each out breath, then say to yourself silently, "step, step" on each in breath, and, "step, step" to yourself on each out breath.
6. Become the tree. Take a moment from time to time to stop and imagine your feet extending down into the Earth, like the roots of a great and immovable tree (you could continue walking and do this as well, but that sense of stability is easier to get while standing with both feet on the ground).
Continue to imagine yourself expanding out indefinitely, your legs as roots, your arms as branches, and many leaves blooming all around you. Focus on your abdomen for a moment, keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, and feel your sense of stability and groundedness.
Doing this meditation especially after experiencing a strong emotion can help you bring the emotion under control and regain a sense of stability and peace.
8. Mindfulness of strong emotions
Mindfulness of strong emotions is an easy practice you can do anytime you're feeling overwhelmed by fear, anger, sadness, or general feelings of stress. The idea behind the meditation is simple:
1. Sit. Take a seat, preferably, and place your focus on the emotion. The idea is to sit with the emotion in the very moment when the emotion is most intense to discover the root of said emotion or stress.
2. Sit with the storm. Let's say it's a general feeling of stress. When that feeling of stress arises, stop to follow your breath and notice what thoughts and feelings arise along with it. You then sit with that feeling of stress for as long as it takes until it calms. You won't necessarily discover the root or source of the stress right away, but you might, and at the very least you should discover some valuable insights as to what the root might be.
3. Discover a cure. Each time the emotion arises, do the same. With time, you'll discover its source and be able to cure yourself of it completely.
This meditation may become a regular practice for you as it can take time to unearth the root of strong emotions such as anger and fear. Stick with it, it's effective in helping find the root of the wound.
Dealing with Craving and Addiction
Craving and addiction can be very controlling forces in our lives, and mindfulness techniques can help us not only manage and overcome those cravings and addictions but discover the source so that they're gone for good.
9. Mindful indulging
Mindful indulging is a meditation which cuts right to the root of the particular craving or addiction. It's only to be used in particular circumstances, and never when the exercise could potentially harm you or another person.
The instructions for mindful indulging are simple:
1. Crave. Let's say your craving is sugar. This is a relatively harmless craving, but one which can still turn into a dangerous and harmful one nonetheless. The idea here is to essentially partake in the craving or addiction itself while being totally and completely present for the entire experience. So get your things together, whatever that entails.
2. Be with the craving. The next step is simple: do it, and do it while being fully present for the experience of doing it. So in our sugar example, you'd go out and buy a bunch of your favorite sugary treats and begin eating them. As you begin to do so, being fully present for the experience with mindfulness, pay attention to any and all thoughts, feelings, and emotions that arise during the experience.
3. Be mindful and discover insights. Follow the experience through with mindfulness from start to finish, and review what you discovered. Did you notice a strong sense of relief while eating the treats? You know that feeling you get when you come home after a long day of work and want to relax? Maybe you notice that feeling. Not a thought or image to connect it to, but simply the exact same feeling. What arises isn't always clear, sometimes all you'll get is clues at first.
4. Find a cure. From there, you might discover that you've mentally connected sugar with a sense of peace and relief from the damage your daily schedule is causing you. Now that you've discovered that, you can not only look for a healthier alternative to your method of relief, but you can begin to evaluate if your daily activities need an overhaul to keep from causing the damage in the first place.
Again, this isn't an exercise that everyone can use. Be careful when utilizing it, but know that it is powerful and a unique addition to the mindfulness survival guide.
10. The Tree of Life
While mindful indulging is a practice which cuts to the heart of the craving or addiction itself, the Tree of Life meditation is a practice which can allow you to momentarily regain control when your particular craving or addiction begins to intensify.
Both practices are valuable in their own right and can be used together. The Tree of Life is a sitting meditation practice with a slight variance, similar to the Walk of Life exercise. To do the Tree of Life meditation is simple:
1. Sit & breathe mindfully. Sit down in a quiet setting and begin following your breath with mindfulness, exactly as you would during your usual sitting meditation practice. Preferably, sit in the full lotus position. If not, a chair is fine too, as long as your feet are planted on the ground. The idea is that you want to feel firmly rooted to the ground one way or another.
2. Grow the tree. After practicing mindful breathing for a minute or two, shift your attention to your abdomen. Feel the strength in your abdomen and imagine it was the trunk of a great tree, firmly rooted to the ground. Begin breathing deeply from your abdomen itself so that your entire focus is placed on the trunk of your body.
3. Breathe. Continue to breathe in this way for another minute or two.
4. Weather the storm, be the tree. Similar to the Walk of Life meditation, imagine yourself as a great tree. Firmly rooted to the ground, you have the ability to weather the pressing storm of craving and addiction.
Take this moment to remind yourself that craving and addiction is a lot like a wave. If you hold strong long enough the intensity will decrease and you'll have a moment of rest. Remind yourself that you stand tall just like the great Tree of Life and that nothing, not even your craving or addiction, can knock you down.
Attempting to cut to the root of our addiction or craving doesn't always work right away. Forces like this can take a persistent effort to overcome. For this, the Tree of Life meditation is an ideal companion.
Bonus: When Life Just Won't Give You a Break
Sometimes, we just need a little something to remind us of all the things we have to be grateful for when life just doesn't seem to want to give us a break. That's where this simple tea meditation comes in.
11. Steep in Gratitude
This is simply drinking a cup of tea in mindfulness, with a bit of a twist:
1. Prepare. Prepare your tea in mindfulness from start to finish. From getting your cup ready, to preparing the teapot, to boiling the water, to preparing the tea, to serving the tea. During the process, be grateful that you have a moment to enjoy this amazing cup of tea. There are few things more peaceful than this.
2. Give thanks. Find a quiet place to sit down with your tea. Before drinking your tea, set your tea down beside you and place your hands together by their palms. Take a moment to give thanks for the tea in front of you and to think of all those people who have never been able to enjoy a cup of tea in this way. Be mindful of these feelings of gratitude swelling in you. Remembering all those things you have to be grateful for is an easy way to level the mental and emotional playing field when daily challenges are really putting on the pressure.
3. Enjoy mindfully. Begin drinking your tea. Take each drink slowly, and don't drink too much tea at once. Take your time, enjoy yourself, and stay mindful every step of the way. Do this for as long as you'd like (preferably, the entire cup of tea).
4. Be mindful. Acknowledge any thoughts or feelings which arise from this. During the process of drinking your tea with mindfulness these feelings of an imminent Armageddon will gradually begin to dissipate, and all that will be left in its place will be peace.
5. Finish (give thanks). Finish your cup of tea and give thanks once more for the tea, the utensils used in making the tea, the time to enjoy it, and the senses which you used to see, taste, and touch the tea.
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