Jon Kabat-Zinn has defined mindfulness meditation as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. By focusing on the breath, the idea is to cultivate attention on the body and mind as it is moment to moment, and so help with pain, both physical and emotional. As adults, most of us are prone however to doing most routine tasks on autopilot. For example, we make tea without thinking, or wash our hands without noticing how we’ve done it.
It is important to be aware of a few considerations regarding how to do this.
You may benefit from attending a local 8 week mindfulness course. I did one at the Buddhist Centre in Glasgow which I would recommend, but at the time of Coronavirus in person courses are not operating. You can still opt to try an app such as Headspace or Smiling Mind for guided audio meditation though, and this may be helpful. If you are currently experiencing any trauma reaction to a pregnancy loss, it may be hard to sit or lie down to learn mindfulness, as you could find yourself sitting with overwhelming feelings or intrusive memories. If that’s you at the moment, it may be gentler to try some mindful walking or mindful yoga, where you aim to tune into your body sensations and what you can see, hear, feel and touch around you initially. It’s about finding what works for you rather than shoehorning yourself into an ideal.
What am I aiming for?
The aim is to be able to get to a point you can more objectively stand back and observe your passing thoughts, feelings and ideas without reacting to them. The aim is not to change your mental state, for example to be more relaxed or happy, but just to notice where you’re at and in time, work on being more open to your inner experiences like thoughts and feelings and more accepting of them.
What resources are there to support traditional mindfulness meditation?
Various centres normally offer 8 week courses or retreats over weekends, but these are not running at present due to coronavirus. There are various apps with audio guides to try, such as Headspace and Smiling Mind.
There are also various books written on mindfulness. For example a critically acclaimed book is Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression by Segal, Williams and Teesdale – although this one is aimed at clinicians it is accessible.
Mindful activity ideas
Mimdful baking – There are lots of soothing aspects of baking for me, including happy childhood memory associations. There are also soothing rhythms, routines and processes as well as lots of sensory experiences. As you work through the recipe steps, pay attention to changes in the mixture, scents, sounds (crackle or rustle of foil, snapping of broken chocolate?) and – if you’re like me – the taste when you lick the bowl at the end. My favourite part is the warm scent of apple and cinnamon drifting through my house as we like making apple muffins.
Mindful toothbrushing – Focus on brushing each individual tooth. What does the paste taste like? How does your mouth taste before vs after? What sounds go with toothbrushing?
Mindful plant watering – Nature has wonderful healing powers for me. Whatever is happening in my life, the seasons keep changing and plants keep growing and requiring care. What colours, shapes and sizes are your plants? How does your body feel as you stretch to water them? Does the water pour fast or slow? If you use the hose, can you see a rainbow if you move it in a curve shape? Rainbows are such a sign of hope for me – since you need both rain and sun to make them, they remind me that joy and pain go hand in hand, and that if I’m hurting, joy will be along again soon.
Music and movement – It can be helpful to match your mood to music, and then choose one aspect to listen in for – perhaps chord changes, the drum beat or lyrics.
Mindful painting, sculpting or crafting – I find art and craft support me to be more mindful – there’s something settling about the ability to express inner experiences through a different medium to both gently acknowledge thoughts and feelings and explore what’s there.