My Mindfulness Toolkit
This is my “mindfulness toolkit”. It includes practices that I use on a daily basis to find stillness. Over the years I’ve been learning and working with these practices to suit my mind and body. If you’d like guidance to develop a practice for yourself, email me! firstname.lastname@example.org
I generally do my pranayama practice prior to meditating. “Prana” is the life force energy present in all living things. “Pranayama” is the extension of the dimension of prana. We do this by controlling our breath as we inhale and exhale, as well as by retaining the breath in/out. Pranayama increases lung capacity and oxygenates the blood, and specific practices generate heating/cooling/calming/energizing affects on the body and mind. I’ll tailor my pranayama practice depending on how I am feeling, the weather etc.
This is the best way to start my day. It also features throughout the day whenever I feel the need to be grounded. In meditation we focus on a specific object, the intention being to find stillness. I repeat mantra (word/group of words) to myself as a point of concentration. Whenever my mind wanders or thoughts arise, I acknowledge them and gently bring my focus back to my mantra.
”Asana” is a posture that is held without movement. While we initially move to get into the asana, the idea is to find stillness in the position. A lot of yoga classes in the west focus on asana practice. There are many asanas and they all have different benefits and effects. Some asanas generate heat in the body, while others have cooling effects or calm the mind etc. As with pranayama, my asana practice varies from day to day. For example if my mind is racing with thoughts, I will focus on balancing asanas as they provide a calming effect on the mind and body.
Singing and Chanting
This is associated with Bhakti Yoga (yoga of devotion). It doesn’t matter what you sound like, the idea is to focus your attention on repeating the words and on the vibrations in the body. In doing so, your mind is less likely to wander elsewhere. I’ve always enjoyed singing, but using it as a form of meditation is a recent addition to my mindfulness practice. I discovered it through kirtan circles, which are events where people sing/meditate together in a group. It’s super therapeutic! Usually I’ll spend sit and spend about 30 minutes each day singing my favorite kirtan songs.
To practice Karma Yoga means to do actions selflessly and without attachment to the results. It encourages me to be mindful throughout the action, which can make something seemingly mundane (such as washing the dishes) an act of meditation. This idea is transferable to all things we do in our daily lives. If we can do everything with our full attention rather than focusing on the next thing, then we are truly living. I’m quite fond of this Thich Nhat Hanh quote:
“If while washing the dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes.”