Mindfulness Practice

Mindful: Getting off Auto Pilot and Living Life as if it Matters

Micki Fine Mindfulness Self-Care HoustonSelf-Care Houston, Episode 15: Micki Fine joins Jennifer in a conversation about the importance of developing mindful daily living: “Waking up to life and what it means to be fully human.” Micki is the founder and director of Mindful Living and pioneer of mindfulness in Houston, Texas.  She is the author of, “The Need to Please: Mindfulness Skills for Gaining Freedom from Chronic People Pleasing and Approval Seeking.” She is also in the process of publishing a children’s book about Loving Kindness. You can find Micki and her mindfulness workshops at Living Mindfully. Subscribe in iTunes.

Rumi The Guest House

Resources:

 

University of St. Thomas Labyrinth

A friend of mine recently recommended visiting labyrinths throughout Houston as part of my “healing space” journey. Houston has a number unique labyrinths, located all over the city and surrounding area. I visited the Labyrinth at St. Thomas University, a replica of the labyrinth in Chartres, France. I was deeply moved by the beauty and the serenity of the space. Gentle water fountains line the side the labyrinth closest to Alabama Street, quietly subduing the sound of the traffic. Children’s laughter from a nearby elementary school mixed with the sounds of the birds and trees.

St. thomas labyrinth

Every time I walk, I have a unique experience. On this occasion, I felt myself calm and become centered throughout my walking meditation. Throughout the rest of the day, I continued to reflect on the experience and carry the peace of the walk with me. The labyrinth at St. Thomas University has definitely been added to my “Houston Healing Spaces” list.

St. Thomas Labyrinth 3

Benefits of Labyrinth Walking: 

“Labyrinth walking is said to benefit participants by allowing a temporary suspension of so-called left-brain activity—logical thought, analysis, and fact-based planning—and encourage the emergence of the intuition and imaginative creativity associated with the right brain. labyrinth walking puts them in touch with simple body rhythms. Because labyrinth walking involves physical movement, participants may find themselves becoming more mindful of their breathing patterns, the repetition of their footfalls, and the reorientation of the entire body that occurs as they move through the circular turns within the labyrinth. More particularly, the overall pattern of movement in labyrinth walking—first inward toward the center of the labyrinth and then outward on the return path—holds deep symbolic meaning for many people.” (Encyclopedia.com)

St. Thomas Labyrinth 2

Lightstream Meditation

The light stream is a relaxation meditation used to calm distressing sensations in the body. It is also a body scan that allows you to be compassionate and mindful of what you are experiencing and feeling in this present moment. This is an adaptation of Francine Shapiro’s original Light Stream.

Advent Inspired Loving Kindness Centering Prayer

A loving kindness prayer uses words and images to evoke feelings of loving kindness toward oneself and others. According to the article, “18 Science-Based Reasons to Try Loving Kindness Meditation Today,” a consistent practice of a Loving Kindness meditation can decrease symptoms of PTSD, improve wellbeing, and bolster the immune system.

The following Loving-Kindness meditation is inspired by the virtues celebrated during the weeks of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. This form of a prayer focuses on God’s loving kindness toward us and how we then become a vessel of His love toward others.

The Power of Gratitude

Last week, I had a dream that I was caught in a blizzard. A blanket of swirling white surrounded me. My mind raced to discover some sense of direction. I was disoriented and frightened. Paralyzed. Where was I? Where was the path home?

And, then it was as if everything went into slow motion. Time slowed down. Way down. I began to notice individual snowflakes. Unique details of one snowflake. Its beauty. As my awareness shifted toward the structure of the snowflakes, I noticed my body beginning to relax. My mind settled. Gently. Slowly. I began to see areas of empty space open between each of the flakes. The spaces grew wider. The snowflakes began to lessen. I saw more clearly. The intensity of the blizzard that had seemed so overwhelming now calmed. Though still surrounded by the snow, I no longer felt afraid.

Since this dream, I have thought how much everyday life can at times feels like a blizzard. Time speeds up without warning. Daily tasks swirl around me: work tasks, family expectations, holiday chores, friendships, household duties, volunteering, etc. But then other things compound what might already be a blinding blizzard of activity. Thoughts, feelings, regrets from the past and “what ifs” of the future can surface to cloud my vision even more. My mind begins to race.

Where am I? Where is the path home?

Then I notice. Awareness. Gratitude.

  • The smell of the crisp autumn morning air
  • Listening to the laughter of my children as they watch silly videos
  • Seeing my husband’s eyes gently crinkle as he pushes the plate in my direction to let me have the last bite
  • Gently holding the hand of a dear friend who is grieving
  • Tasting a hot, gooey chocolate chip cookie
  • Feeling the sensation of a long hot shower after a satisfying day

Power of Gratitude

Take a deep breath. This is your life. Notice. Search. Find the moments of beauty sprinkled like beautiful snowflakes in the midst of the flurry of tasks and worries.

Time slows. Mind gently settles. I am still surrounded, but I am not afraid.

The power of gratitude.

Jennifer Christian CounselingJennifer Christian, M.A., LPC

Mark Williams Mindfulness Meditations

Mark Williams, a professor at Oxford University, offers a collection of free audio meditations. All of the meditations are taken from the book he wrote in collaboration with Danny Penman: Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World. 

I have used a number of these meditations with my own clients over the years. Many have commented on how the practice helps to calm their racing minds and feel more centered in the present moment.

Free Audio Mindfulness Meditations by Mark Williams

 

 

Be Thankful

Be ThankfulBe thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes.
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary,
because it means you’ve made a difference.
It’s easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who
are also thankful for the setbacks.
Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.
~Author Unknown

Mindfulness and Depression

Zindel Segal’s TED talk is an excellent resource for understanding depression and the beneficial impact of a mindfulness practice. The following is an excerpt of Segal’s talk:

“When people are depressed and they are feeling sad. This is a symptom. But, when they are no longer feeling depressed, sadness can function as an important context to bring to mind judgmental, critical, and harsh ways of viewing the self that can sometimes tip people over into a new episode of depression and cause relapse… Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we pay attention in a particular way. We are bringing our attention into the present moment and we are not judging what we notice… mindfulness enhances people’s ability to feel reward and to feel positive affect, positive emotions, in the course of their every day lives.”

Light Stream

The light stream is a relaxation meditation used to calm distressing sensations in the body. It is also a body scan that allows you to be compassionate and mindful of what you are experiencing and feeling in this present moment. This is an adaptation of Francine Shapiro’s original Light Stream.

Photo taken by Reese Christian

Breathing Space

A breathing space meditation is a brief meditation used several times each day to gently create a new habit of mindfulness. The four minute breathing space is simple and easy to use two to three times a day.

Breathing Space Practice:

  • Two or Three times each day
  • Each day, notice and jot down any differences