Living mindfully requires a lot of practice with the help of Mindfulness exercises. You don’t start with perfect awareness and attention. First, you must understand what you are doing, why you are practicing, and how to practice. As you learn about the practices, try to apply them to your everyday life as much as you can. Mindfulness calls for action. It calls for personal investigation.
People all over the world discover mindfulness as a tool to help with anxiety, anger, grief, and many other difficult experiences humans go through. This ancient practice has evolved over millennia and is now more accessible than ever. Every day, we understand more about what it means to be mindful and how mindfulness impacts the brain.
By understanding what mindfulness is, how it may be beneficial in your life, and how to get started, you are laying a foundation for deep awareness and growth.
Table of Contents
I. What is mindfulness?
You have heard the word mindfulness before; it’s featured on magazine covers, mentioned in fitness classes, and touted by top business leaders across industries as a tool to enhance productivity. But as mindfulness practice has become more mainstream, the meaning of the word has become clouded.
People may encourage mindfulness, or “being present,” but what exactly does this entail? Mindfulness is often described as the practice of simply “being in the present moment.” But this is only one aspect of the practice.
Resting in the present moment is an important piece—it’s the first step in bringing your attention to whatever is happening here and now, whether it’s a thought, a difficult emotion, a task at work, or the breath—but it’s just the beginning. When you limit your definition of mindfulness to the practice of just being present, you overlook several other important aspects.
As you move through the mindfulness exercises in this article, you will see the terms mindfulness exercises and meditation used interchangeably at times. The idea of sitting silently in meditation can be scary if you’ve never done it before. It is helpful to understand that the word meditation refers to anytime you are putting dedicated effort forth to be mindful.
This may be in a sitting practice or while you are washing dishes. Remember that mindfulness is practiced not just on a meditation cushion; you can introduce mindfulness into any daily activity. Mindfulness may be more completely understood as being present with clarity, wisdom, and kindness.
If you bring your awareness to the present moment with judgment and anger, is that useful? To build a healthy, beneficial mindfulness practice, it’s necessary to cultivate several different behaviors, attitudes, and skills. As you dive into mindfulness practice, you will likely discover a deep well of personal strengths—and a few places where you have room to grow. I call these places the growing edges.
Try not to be discouraged by these edges—we all have them. Acknowledging and exploring them is how you work toward growth. Every one of your growing edges offers an opportunity for you to decrease stress and discomfort in your life.
Also Read: Breathing Techniques for Anxiety
II. Mindfulness Quiz
Before getting started with mindfulness exercises, it’s essential to determine how mindful you are at the moment. Take this mindfulness quiz to find out “how mindful you are right now” and after taking the test, start with your mindfulness practice with the help of the below-mentioned mindfulness exercises.
III. What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation is the internal art and science of tuning in to our inherent inner mighty cosmic power, to develop and harness the capabilities of the soul, mind, and brain, to bring about physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health and wellbeing, in a unified and holistic manner, for impeccable happiness and fulfillment.
The concept of meditation is based on the truth that humans are inherently endowed with spiritual resources contained in the inner chambers of our being. Meditation is renowned for its multitude of health benefits. There are numerous stories of meditation practitioners who experienced substantial improvement in their health.
Meditation is highly effective in improving human health because humans are endowed with natural healing power within themselves. Intensive meditation then makes it possible for the meditator to reach a deeper layer of consciousness that has natural healing and regenerative power.
When this natural healing power is triggered by meditation, it naturally releases its healing and regenerative energy upon the body, giving rise to episodes of miraculous healing. Meditation can prevent diseases, as well as heal existing bodily dysfunctions. The following are verified and scientifically-proven ways, in which meditation can help improve physical health:
Benefits of meditation?
- Meditation greatly enhances cardiovascular health
- Meditation significantly reduces the risk of cancer
- Meditation significantly reduces the risk of diabetes
- Meditation is effective in lowering high blood pressure
- Meditation greatly strengthens the Immune system
- Meditation greatly enhances the health of the liver
- Meditation is proven to boost reproductive health
- Meditation is effective in maintaining kidney health
- Meditation greatly boosts the health of the lungs
IV. What are some examples of mindfulness exercises?
Mindfulness starts with learning how to be present. The practices contained in this part offer simple, traditional methods of bringing your awareness to the present-time experience.
The below-mentioned exercises in this article will help you cultivate the ability to be here and now with patience, clarity, and strength. We will discuss how to bring the mind back when it wanders, let go of self-judgment, and respond with gentleness. Through dedicated effort, you will learn to train the mind in the art of awareness.
Some examples of mindfulness exercises are as follows:
- Finding the Breath: The body is always breathing, and the breath is constantly moving. Your breath is not only the best place to start; it’s a constant you can return to anytime you need a little centering. In these mindfulness exercises or practice, you will gently find the breath in the body. There is nothing to figure out, there are no problems to solve, and there’s nothing special you need to do. Constantly return to your direct experience of the body breathing. You are training the mind to be with one experience without distraction.
- Points of Contact: The body is always in contact with something, whether it is a chair, the ground, your bed, or the air around you. This offers a powerful way to tune in to your present-time experience. You can be mindful of these points of contact anytime—in meditation or throughout your daily life. The sensations are generally easy to feel, making this an ideal practice for beginners to mindfulness.
V. When and how often should I practice mindfulness exercises?
Aim to practice mindfulness or mindfulness exercises every day for about six months regularly with determination. Over time, you might find that mindfulness becomes effortless. Think of it as a commitment to reconnecting with and nurturing yourself.
Mindfulness-based clinical interventions such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) typically recommend practicing meditation for 40-45 minutes per day. The Transcendental Meditation (TM) tradition often recommends 20 minutes, twice daily.
VI. How to practice mindfulness?
Your first few times meditating or practicing mindfulness may not feel very relaxing. It’s incredibly hard to sit still and observe the mind, especially when you first start, and like any other new habit, it will take time to see results. It’s called a practice because it’s not meant to have an ending—like crossing a finish line or cooking all the recipes in your favorite cookbook.
Mindfulness is not meant to be a quick fix; it will keep you company throughout the rest of your life. As you progress, notice the moments of mindfulness that begin to pop up during your days. You can also tune in to any cravings for results (or a “cure”), and try to view these with curiosity instead of impatience. The early phases of your practice will help you learn to let go and trust the process.
VII. Meditation Exercises?
A few very well-known meditation exercises are as follows:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Relaxation exercises
- Guided Imagery and Visualization
- Focused Attention Meditation
- Loving-kindness Meditation
- Progressive Relaxation Meditation
- Body Scan Meditation
- Mindfulness Meditation
VIII. Mindful Moment?
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Take a mindful moment by IFEBP
IX. Mindfulness Worksheets
Acting with Intention – Mindfulness Worksheet by Mindfulness exercises
X. Mindfulness Exercises
Whether or not you have an existing mindfulness exercise or meditation practice, a few minutes of mindfulness during the day is beneficial. Incorporate a practice every day. That consistency will encourage the building of a habit and help deepen your practice.
If you have a busy day, find a short mindfulness exercise in the article—and remember, the long ones aren’t better than the short ones; any practice is a good practice. The five-minute exercises will be especially useful as your practice grows. They help refocus you when you start to drift, and they can be a great way to reconnect with your original intention.
1. Mindfulness Exercises #1: Mind Your steps
TIME: 10 Minutes
Walking meditation is a common practice in many Buddhist traditions, yet it has been largely lost in Western meditation culture. Acclaimed Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield says, “The art of walking meditation is to learn to be aware as you walk, to use the natural movement of walking to cultivate mindfulness and wakeful presence.” Just as you bring awareness to the body that is sitting in meditation, you can bring awareness to a body that is moving.
Mindfulness Exercises #1: Steps
- To practice walking meditation, start by finding 10 to 15 feet of space. You can walk inside your home, outside in your yard, or anywhere you can access enough distance.
- Stand still for a moment and close your eyes. Feel the body’s posture, the feet on the ground, and any movement you experience.
- Open the eyes. Choose which leg will be stepping first. As you lift the foot, feel the bottom of the foot lose contact with the ground. Moving it forward, observe the sensation of the foot coming back into contact with the ground.
- Lift the other foot and attend to the experience with the same awareness. Remember that this is both a mindfulness practice and a practice in cultivating concentration. When the mind wanders, come back to the feeling in the feet.
- Walk 10 or 15 feet, and mindfully turn around. As you turn, notice how the hips, legs, and torso adjusts to turn the body. Walk slowly, taking a step every three or four seconds.
- You may try incorporating a simple verbal noticing practice, similar to a mantra. As you lift the foot, think (or say), “Lift.” As you move the foot forward, think, “Move.” As you place the foot down, think, “Place.”
- When you are done with the period of practice, stand still for a few moments. Moving out of the period of meditation and back into daily life, you can retain some of this mindfulness of the body.
Note: Follow Your Path
You can do this practice barefoot or with shoes on. Either way is correct; just see what works for you. If you plan on practicing for a longer period, try incorporating awareness of other parts of the body. Notice the muscles in the legs or hips, or feel the abdominal muscles working. When the mind begins focusing on something else, note where it went. If you are thinking, note “Thinking”; if something catches your eye, “seeing”; when a sound distracts you, “Hearing.”
To encourage the habit of mindful walking, begin tuning in to the experience of walking during your daily life. feel the feet when you’re walking to the bus or your car, around your workplace, or in your home. Walk slowly—slower walking requires more concentration. When you find yourself speeding up, use it as a cue to slow down and return to the practice.
2. Mindfulness Exercises #2: Caring for Yourself
TIME: 10 Minutes
The practice of metta, or loving-kindness, can help you respond to your mind with friendliness. unfortunately, our thoughts don’t always do what we want them to, and the body may have discomfort. loving-kindness meditation encourages us to meet those experiences with a caring and gentle heart.
This helps us see more clearly in our practice and daily life. In loving-kindness practice, you are not inviting in something from outside yourself; you are tuning in to the capacity for care and love that is already present in your heart.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
Mindfulness Exercises #2: Steps
- Sit in a comfortable posture and gently allow the eyes to close. From the beginning, try to bring kindness to the practice. Think of the body with friendliness. Listen to it and see if you can move to get more comfortable. You don’t want to fall asleep, but you can allow yourself to be more at ease during this exercise.
- Begin by recognizing your desire to be happy. Don’t dig into stories about what might make you happy. Find this natural wish for ease and comfort for yourself. Try saying to yourself, “Yes, I want to be happy.”
- With this intention in mind, begin offering yourself phrases of lovingkindness. As you offer the phrases in your head, say them slowly. Connect with the intention behind the words, even if you don’t feel them entirely at this moment. Use these phrases:
May I be happy?
May I be healthy?
May I be safe?
May I be at ease?
- Find a rhythm with the phrases. You may try offering one phrase with each exhales or with every other exhale. As you offer the phrases, use them as the object of your concentration. Rest your awareness fully on the phrases and the deeper intention.
- When the mind wanders, come back to the phrases in your head. Notice any feelings or thoughts of self-judgment or resistance to self-care.
- Stay with the phrases for as long as you feel comfortable. I recommend starting with 10 minutes.
Note: No feeling It
You may not really “feel it” while cultivating kindness for yourself. In other moments, you may have overwhelming feelings of love and care. Release any judgment and continue to open the heart. This is a practice that helps us cultivate a quality. If the quality of kindness is not present in your meditation session, know that you are taking action to create this caring feeling in the future.
3. Mindfulness Exercises #3: Unhooking from Thoughts
TIME: 15 Minutes
Thoughts are part of everyone’s human experience. You don’t need to push them away to practice—learning to bring your mind back from its thoughts is the practice. But how do you let go of the thoughts once they’ve pulled you in?
This exercise offers one way to “unhook” yourself from those thoughts and simply let them be. Without pushing the thoughts away or denying their presence, you can be aware of the thinking mind while remaining unattached.
Mindfulness Exercises #3: Steps
- Settle into a seated posture and close your eyes. Notice the energy in the mind and body. As you come into a period of mindfulness practice, you may notice the energy of your day resting in the mind and body. The mind may be active, the body may feel worked up, or you might notice a bit of lingering anxiety.
- Think of a shaken snow globe, with all that energy swirling around. As you rest, the little snowflakes fall gently to the ground. Think of yourself as a snow globe, and every snowflake as a thought. In this way, watch as every snowflake falls to the ground. Do not force yourself to calm down; let it happen slowly and organically.
- After a minute or so, bring your attention to the breath in the body. Choose one spot where the breath is felt easily. It may be the center of the chest, the abdomen, the shoulders, or the nostrils. Observe the physical sensation of the body breathing. You may use the counting practice, Every Breath Counts if you find it helpful.
- Observing the breath for a few minutes, bring the mind back when it wanders. Stick with the snow globe visualization, and as thoughts begin to rise, observe as they slowly settle back down.
- After a couple of minutes of focusing on the breath, open your awareness to include your thoughts and your general mental state. Instead of returning to the breath when the mind wanders, notice what the mind is doing. You may notice yourself planning, fantasizing, “figuring out,” or replaying past experiences. Whatever you observe the mind doing, let it be.
- When you recognize a thought, what happens? Try not to encourage the thought, but don’t push it away, either. Allow it to be, and allow it to go on its own. See if you can watch the passing of the thought as it follows its natural trajectory and leaves the mind.
- Return to the breath and patiently wait until another thought arises. Notice it, watch the thought, and come back to the breath again. Continue with mindfulness of the breath and the thoughts.
- Notice when you’re lost in thought or when the mind wanders for some time. If self-judgment arises, notice that just as you would any other thought. You can always return to the breath for a few moments to ground yourself back into the practice.
MINDING YOUR MENTAL STATE: Notice your mental states when they arise. If the mind grows anxious or frustrated, acknowledge that it has done so. Mental states like these may be present with or without concrete thoughts arising.
Note: Seductive and tricky thoughts
The thinking mind can be cunning and seductive, and certain thoughts (or patterns of thought) have the power to pull us in immediately. Although you may be able to “unhook” from certain thoughts with ease, others may be too powerful. Recognize these patterns and what types of thoughts continually control your awareness. When you find yourself grasped by one of these thoughts, smile at the trickster mind and just keep trying.
4. Mindfulness Exercises #4: Energizing the Mind
TIME: 10 Minutes
During meditation practice, the mind can grow dull or sleepy. In this short practice, you will examine a few ways to bring energy and alertness to your mind. You can incorporate these methods into your other practices, inviting clarity into your meditation.
Mindfulness Exercises #4: Steps
- Allow the eyes to close, and find a comfortable meditation posture. Begin by tuning in to the experience of the body breathing. Rest with each inhale and exhale as you feel the movement in the body.
- To energize the mind, you will start with the breath. With the inhalation, breathe in a sense of energy and awareness. Reach the body upward, straighten the spine, and open the chest. With the exhale, let go of sleepiness and distraction.
- After a minute or two, allow the eyes to open—letting light in can help us stay awake and clear. Continue practicing with the breath and notice any sights that grab your attention.
- Allow a few minutes to pass, and stand up. With your eyes open, standing on your feet, you are inviting increased alertness into your practice. It’s much harder to fall asleep standing up than sitting down!
- As you complete this exercise, take a moment to shake out your body and get some energy moving. Feel the warmth in your muscles as you move and go back to your day.
Note: Resisting sleepiness
During formal meditation, you may notice the mind growing sleepy. Practices like this one can be woven into your daily practice to help induce a more wakeful state of mind. If you notice sleepiness arising, do not deny that it is present.
Recognize that your mind is tired, and try to refrain from judgment. Also know that the more opportunities you give the mind to rest in stillness, the less sleepy you’ll become over time.
5. Mindfulness Exercises #5: The Attitude of Gratitude
TIME: 15 Minutes
This exercise comes from the Buddhist practice of mudita, which means “appreciative joy.” It can be understood as simply “showing up” for happiness with a caring presence.
As you train the mind to rejoice in happiness, you gain many benefits. You feel more fulfilled by joy, recognize happiness more easily in your life, and train the mind to treat happiness as an important experience.
“Every time you take in the good, you build a little bit of neural structure. doing this a few times a day—for months and even years—will gradually change your brain, and how you feel and act, in far-reaching ways.”
—R ICK HANSON
Mindfulness Exercises #5: Steps
- Find a comfortable posture and invite in relaxation from the beginning of your practice. As you breathe, appreciate the life offered from each inhalation. With the exhalation, let go of any tension in the mind or body.
- Bring to mind a time in which you recently experienced happiness. It may be something small, like seeing a friend, watching the sunset, or the simple joy of lying down at night. When you have something, allow yourself to feel the experience of contentment.
- To cultivate gratitude, offer yourself a few phrases of appreciative joy. Keep the memory in your mind, and offer these phrases:
May my happiness continue.
May my happiness grow.
May I be present for the joy?
May I appreciate the joy in my life?
- If your experience feels more like contentment or ease, you can substitute the words that resonate with you. You know your own experience, so be true to yourself.
- Offer the phrases silently in your head, finding a rhythm with the practice. Focus your attention on the words, the intention of appreciating the happiness, and the feeling of contentment from your memory.
- After five minutes, release the memory and the phrases from your mind. Bring to mind somebody else in your life who has experienced some happiness recently. Picture this person in your mind, smiling as you observe their joy.
- As you did with yourself, offer phrases of gratitude. Rejoice as much as possible in their happiness. Offer these phrases:
May your happiness continue.
May your happiness grow.
May I be present for your joy?
I’m happy for you.
- When the mind wanders, come back to the phrases. You can return to the visualization of this person smiling to bring up the happiness, and start with the phrases again. Continue this for five minutes.
Note: Why Gratitude Matters
In our daily lives, we often do not truly appreciate the moments of contentment, whether they’re small or significant. Instead, the brain latches onto the difficult and painful moments or becomes obsessed with solving problems.
With this appreciative-joy practice, you can retrain the mind to give weight to your pleasant experiences, however small. By continuing to practice gratitude, you’ll notice happiness more often in your life.
6. Mindfulness Exercises #6: Resting the Mind
TIME: 10 Minutes
Throughout these exercises and during your daily routine, you may notice the mind growing restless or agitated. Although you cannot always control the mind, you can encourage it to be more at ease. learning to do this will help you respond rather than react to your thoughts and emotions.
This practice allows you to train the mind to slow down when it becomes overactive, and helps you practice ease and relaxation instead of perpetuating those difficult mental states.
Mindfulness Exercises #6: Steps
- You can sit upright or lie down for this practice. If you are experiencing anxiety or stress at this moment, lying down may encourage relaxation.
- Take a few deep breaths. Inhaling, fill the lungs. Hold the breath for just a second or two, and exhale slowly. As you let the breath go, try to empty the lungs slowly and completely.
- Recognizing that you cannot control every thought that arises, connect with your intention to relax the mind. If thoughts are present, just leave them be. Offer yourself two simple phrases of kindness toward the mind:
May my mind be at ease.
May I be at ease with my mind?
- Synchronize these phrases with your exhale, offering one phrase every time you breathe out. Hear each word and try to connect with your intention to care for the mind.
- When the thinking mind starts up, come back to the breath and the phrases. Even if you can say only one phrase before the mind wanders, you are still moving toward relaxation by continuing to practice.
- Completing this exercise, allow the eyes to open, and return to the activity of daily life. Watch the mind during your day, noticing when it becomes uncomfortable or agitated.
SWITCHING TO COMPASSION: The mind and its thoughts can become painful in certain moments. You may experience guilt, anxiety, or grief. In these times, the above phrases may not be appropriate. Switch instead to mantras of compassion. Recognize that it hurts, and tend to your pain with care. Try this simple sentiment: “May I care for this pain.”
Note: The stubborn Mind
Sometimes, the mind just won’t settle down. The harder you strain, the more agitated it grows. If your mind is overactive and won’t slow down, try instead to change your response to that experience. Instead of stressing to calm the mind, focus your energy on accepting that the mind is working overtime and on responding with compassion.
7. Mindfulness Exercises #7: The judgment-free Zone
TIME: 15 Minutes
The practice of noting is a foundational aspect of mindfulness. Popular in MBSR and insight meditation, noting allows us to observe what is happening without getting hooked into the experience. This “non-judgmental noting” exercise will help you practice separating your judgment of your experiences from the experiences themselves. When you begin to untangle the two, you start training your mind to let go.
Mindfulness Exercises #7: Steps
- Sit in an upright position and let the eyes close. Using the breath, invite both awareness and relaxation into the body and mind. Breathing in, reach the spine upward and bring energy into the body. Breathing out, let everything go. Let the jaw go slack, drop the shoulders away from the ears, and soften the muscles of the belly.
- Start opening your awareness to include any sensations in the body. Note wherein the body a feeling is present. Mindfully observe that feeling for a few moments; then open yourself up to other experiences in the body.
- After settling into this practice for a few minutes, notice when the mind begins judging. The mind may label some experiences or feelings as good or right, and others as bad or wrong. Don’t encourage or discourage these judgments; just notice them when they come up. Continue like this for a few minutes.
- Invite the sense of hearing into your practice. When you hear a sound, recognize that you are hearing. If a judgment arises about the sound, recognize it but don’t try to do anything about it.
- Continue practicing with openness. Whether you are hearing, feeling something in the body, or hooked into a thought, remain aware of your experience. Whenever a judgment is present, name it and leave it be. Resist the tendency to push it away, but do not engage with it any further.
- Finish with a few deep breaths, settling the awareness back into the body before opening the eyes.
Note: Judging Yourself for Judging
With this practice, you are tuning directly into your judgments. The moment you see judgment arising, you may habitually respond by judging yourself for having the judgment. (It’s that trickster mind at work again!) One of the most useful things you can do when this happens is to laugh at yourself. The mind is a funny thing. Try not to take yourself so seriously.
8. Mindfulness Exercises #8: The Four Elements
TIME: 20 Minutes
This practice dates back over 2,500 years and provides a different lens through which you can examine the body. Because this practice may feel awkward at first, try to take some extra time with it. Give yourself space to drop in and deeply investigate these elements in your body.
Try to bring an open mind, and see what you can learn about yourself. Remember that mindfulness is about seeing clearly, and looking at things from a new perspective can often bring that clarity.
Mindfulness Exercises #8: Steps
- Settle into a relaxed position. Close the eyes, and bring your awareness to the places in the body where you experience contacts, such as the feet on the floor, the hands in the lap, or the body sitting in the chair.
- Begin with the element of earth or solid form. Without thinking too hard about what this means, openly examine where and how you can feel solidity. This might be the structure of your skeleton, the chair you’re sitting on, any places of tension in the body, or the weight of your muscles as they relax. Don’t rush through these sensations or try to force them. When you feel the earth element in the body, stay with it for a few deep breaths. Continue this seeking, recognizing, and feeling for a few breaths.
- After five minutes, switch to the element of air or wind. An obvious place to start is in the form of body breathing. Where can you feel the air of the breath? You may also look for places in the body where you can feel space—the nostrils, the mouth, and the ears can offer insight into the air element.
- When another five minutes have passed, shift your awareness to the water element. Tune in to any sense of liquidity you can feel. There may be moisture in the eyes, saliva in the mouth, or sweat on the body—or you can feel the flexibility of your muscles, the flow of your breath in and out, or even the pulsing of your blood.
- Next, bring your attention to heat or fire in the body. This element is open to interpretation, so look for yourself to see what you notice. Perhaps it’s the temperature of the air touching your skin, or certain spots on the body that are warmer or cooler than others. Watch for any experience of temperature, either externally or internally.
- To wrap up the practice, spend a few moments in awareness of the body as a whole. As you breathe, feel the four elements working together to support and fuel your body.
Note: Creating A Quick Four-Elements Practice
To create a quicker practice from this exercise, pick one of the four elements to focus on. If you’ve been feeling especially anxious and scattered, the earth element can help ground you. If you’re feeling stuck or stubborn, air or water will help loosen things up. And if you’ve experienced any situation where you feel powerless, try connecting to the fire inside.
This practice also works as an active meditation to use throughout the day. Connect to the air element through the breath or the breeze. While walking, notice the element of heat as the movement warms you up. All four elements are always present in our bodies and the world at large. Give yourself the freedom to explore different ways of identifying and experiencing them.
9. Mindfulness Exercises #9: Tuning in to feeling Tones
TIME: 20 Minutes
Whenever an experience comes into your awareness, you can look at it more deeply by acknowledging its feeling tone. feeling tones are not emotions. A feeling tone describes what you’re experiencing as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. A feeling tone can be attached to anything you perceive through the senses, including a thought. By noticing the feeling tone, you continue to deepen your insight into the nature of your experience.
Mindfulness Exercises #9: Steps
- Settle into a comfortable sitting posture. As you allow the eyes to close, focus on the sensations of the body breathing. You may use the counting exercise to focus the mind. Concentrate on your breath for the first few minutes, dropping into a state of grounded mindfulness.
- Include the whole body in your awareness. As you did in the previous exercise, Body Awareness, spend a few minutes just noticing what arises in the body. Don’t judge anything as good or bad; just pay attention to the experience of feeling in the body.
- Once you are present with the bodily sensations, expand your awareness to include feeling tones. Acknowledge the feeling in the body, and consider whether the experience is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. If you like, you can do a body scan and notice the feeling tone for each place in the body.
- After five minutes, including the sense of hearing in your practice. As sound arrives in your awareness, note that you are hearing, and observe the feeling tone. Continue with awareness of the body and sound for five minutes.
- Finally, include your thoughts. You don’t need to dive into exactly what you’re thinking—recognize when thought is present and if there is a feeling tone attached. Then open back up and wait for the next experience to arise.
- Resting in open mindfulness can leave space for mental wandering. Remember that you can always return to the breath as your anchor during this practice. Don’t hesitate to return to it for a minute or two to collect the mind.
- Take a few deep breaths and open your eyes. Moving through your day, see if you can notice feeling tones attached to what you see, hear, and feel.
BE OPEN TO CHANGE: Feeling tones are not stable or fixed. In one moment you may find an experience to be pleasant, and in the next, it may feel unpleasant. Remember to practice beginner’s mind, remaining curious and open.
Note: Not Knowing
some experiences may not have a clear feeling tone. Although we generally work with pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, there are other options you can play with, as well. If you do not know the feeling tone, say, “I don’t know.” If it feels mixed, say, “Mixed.” There’s no use in straining if the feeling tone is not clear. Be honest, honoring your own experience.
10. Mindfulness Exercises #10: The Emotional Experience
TIME: 15 Minutes
Emotions are complex occurrences that can be most simply understood as a combination of physical sensations and thought patterns. When you mindfully tune in to your emotional experience, you can begin to break it down and separate yourself from its power. With wisdom and care, you’ll become able to let go of your feelings rather than allowing them to rule you.
“You have a unique body and mind, with a particular history and conditioning. No one can offer you a formula for navigating all situations and all states of mind. Only by listening inwardly freshly and openly will you discern at any given time what most serves your healing and freedom.”
—T ARA BRACH
Mindfulness Exercises #10: Steps
- Find a posture that feels both comfortable and conducive to mindfulness. Although you may know what works for you in general, be open to any adjustments that can be made. Take a few moments to examine the body and what is present.
- Bring to mind a recent experience of joy or happiness. Try to recall as many details as you can about this event. Visualize the experience, and give it space to be present in the mind and body.
- As this emotional experience is with you, investigate it closely. What is this joy? Notice what you feel in the body. You may notice a relaxing of the shoulders, gentler or deeper breaths, or a warmth in the chest. There’s nothing you should or should not be feeling; just recognize your own experience of joy.
- Tune in to the mental state that accompanies this physical sensation. As you rest with the memory of joy, what is happening in the mind? Notice if it is calm, active, agitated, or at ease. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. Familiarize yourself with the experience of joy.
- Now, do the same with a recent unpleasant experience. It may be a time in which you were stressed, anxious, frustrated, or sad. Steer clear of experiences that are powerfully charged, like an intense argument or workplace conflict. Instead, start with something minorly unpleasant, like sitting in traffic or navigating a crowded grocery store.
- Investigate this experience in both mind and body, resting with each for a few minutes.
- Return to the body and the breath for a minute at the end of your practice. Allow the mind to relax for a few deep breaths before opening the eyes.
Note: WORKING WITH OPEN EMOTIONs
Instead of intentionally calling up past emotions, you can do this practice with open awareness and work with any emotion arising as you sit. If you patiently wait with mindfulness, you have an opportunity to observe how emotions come and go.
Recognizing the transient nature of your feelings can help you become less attached to them over time. You may also pause to do this during your day whenever you notice yourself having an emotional experience.