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2. Developing your Mindfulness

  

Focus

 

Mindfulness can be cultivated by exercises encouraging close attention to simple elements of experience – such as, sensations in the body, sounds in the environment or thoughts as they pass through the mind. Once the object of attention has been selected, the aim is to maintain attention to this item. The mind will usually wander, and each time this happens, then attention is to be gently brought back to this primary focus. Understandably, when this happens repeatedly, a variety of feelings may be experienced, including frustration, uncertainty and boredom. These exercises need to be practiced regularly to develop the 'muscle of attention'.

 

In the MAP programme the children are asked to focus on their breathing 2-3 times a day, for two or three minutes. In addition, the children have opportunities to practice further at home using the longer downloadable guided meditations. The class teacher is also provided with guided meditations to practice at home, so they can keep pace with the children and develop their own attention skills. With practice we can learn to pay more attention to what is happening now with curiosity and openness, and not get so absorbed in worries about the future and rumination about the past. We can develop an increased ability to deal with difficult emotions as they arise.

 

   

 

 

Thoughts and Feelings

 

As the mind wanders from its focus, the constant guiding aim is to return your attention to the focus, and to be kind to yourself, accepting whatever is happening as best you can - whether feelings of frustration, fatigue or restlessness. We become aware that our minds constantly pull at our attention and that it is rather difficult to allow our attention to rest in one place. In managing this pull and being kind to ourselves, we are developing a capacity to tolerate some negative feelings and to keep on gently encouraging ourselves in our original intended endeavour. Learning to 'go easy' on ourselves, be  more accepting and tolerate some discomforts is as important, if not more, than the ability to focus or broaden our attention. By bringing some curiosity and openness to these situations, we are learning that we can choose to relate to our experiences in a different way. We notice typical automatic ways that we react, and the typical stories we tell ourselves about recurring situations. Often through these repeated experiences, and the increasing recognition of the details of our thinking process, we feel less attached to these stories. Just as we might sometimes look back with disbelief at how much we worried about something, or how much an event bothered us earlier in the day, with practice mindfulness can help us see these events with less emotional charge even as they arise - to let the worrying thoughts go. And instead of feeling sucked into emotional situations, we begin to feel some genuine curiosity about what is happening, and more kindness to ourselves as we do our best to respond.

 

 

 

 If you would like to try a formal guided meditation for yourself click on the link below. Remembering the key instructions:

 

  1. As best you can try to place your attentional focus where requested and explore the sensations with curiosity - what does it actually feel like right now?
  2. Each time your mind wanders, gently bring it back. Minds always wander - that's not a failure. Just try to continue to be kind and encouraging to yourself. 

 

 Try our guided meditation The Body Scan (WMA format)