Training our Puppy Minds
Brain Workouts – with Kindness, Curiosity and Patience
Early morning breaths
- Before you get out of bed, take five deep breaths, feeling the sensations in your body; then let your breath return to normal, and focus on five more.
- When your mind wanders away, simply bring it back to feeling the breath, with kindness and patience.
- You could count the breaths, perhaps thinking ‘Breathing in’ as you do so, and ‘One’ as you breathe out; followed by ‘Breathing in’ and ‘Two’ on the out-breath; and so on up to ten.
- You might imagine you can follow the air coming in through the nose down to the lungs and then out again. Or imagine the lungs as a balloon inflating and deflating, or as if the breaths are waves on a beach.
Brushing Your Teeth
- We don’t usually focus on the experience of brushing our teeth. But this regular activity is a perfect chance to practise mindfulness. It can be a meditation in itself!
- Maybe notice what the toothbrush feels like in your hand. What does the toothpaste look and smell like? What does it taste like? How does the brush feel on your teeth and tongue? What sounds can you hear? And when your mind wanders off, simply come back to the sensations in your mouth.
- When you walk, even if it is just in your home, see if you can bring awareness down to your feet. Notice sensations in the soles of your feet as you move. Can you feel your heels or toes? Any sounds? Notice what your legs are doing to help you move.
- You could extend this to notice what you can see, touch, smell and hear? Research shows that moving (specifically walking) and mindfulness together help alleviate stress and anxiety.
- Another good way to practise coming to the present moment, and allowing our thoughts and feelings to be in the background, is when we’re having a hot drink.
- Hear the sounds of the kettle, perhaps look at the tea or coffee in your cup, explore any steam. What does the cup feel like if you close your eyes?
- See if you can do it without distractions, using it as a ‘push-up’ exercise for the mind, without the radio, or reading or looking at an electronic device. Just sit. Know that you are sitting, know that you are drinking.
- Curiosity is a great quality to help us rest in the present moment. What do you taste and smell? Can you drink each cup as if you have never had it before?!
- Every time you have other thoughts – as you will – you can either come straight back to your drink or take a moment to acknowledge the thought. Perhaps saying ‘Hello thought’. Or labelling what type of thought it was, such as ‘Planning’, ‘Worrying’, ‘Ruminating’ or ‘Judging’, and then bring your attention back to your actual experience.
Routine activities – cheaper than a gym membership!
Virtually any activity can be an opportunity to have a quick mindfulness practice – although I don’t recommend you do this when driving. But you can bring a mindful awareness and a friendly curiosity to activities like eating, washing up, taking the rubbish bin out, brushing your hair, ironing, having a bath or shower, cooking or cleaning. Bring awareness to your senses and make the most of these chances to train your mind and feel more relaxed. You might find pleasure and interest in surprising places!
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves –
slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”
―Thich Nhat Hanh
Do share your reflections in the comments below. Have you tried any of the techniques Catherine has shared? Let us know how you got on.
Catherine regularly runs live mindfulness classes at The Joy Club, find out more about joining her next session here.