2.0 Mindfulness is awareness. 

When you walk the path of awareness, you are bringing a systematic consciousness to the experience of living that only makes living more vibrant, more real.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living   

Being fully aware is a powerful response, that can open up new opportunities for growth as you learn to use the wisdom of your body and mind to face your stress, pain and even illness.

How do we bring mindfulness into our daily lives moment by moment?

There are numerous strategies for bringing mindfulness into our daily lives such that we are not just reacting mindlessly to the external world but moving inwards to tap the resources within us. 

You can tune in to your breathing…You can tune in to your standing, walking, listening, speaking, eating and working…You can tune in to your thoughts, moods or emotions…You can tune in to your bodily sensations like the air on your skin or the sounds of nature, light, color, form or movement…

In our last session, we tuned in to our breathing. The exercise was an invitation for us to pay attention to the flow of our breath as we inhale and exhale and to notice how it made us feel. Paying attention in such an intentional way often leads to deep relaxation which will help us centre ourselves calmly and respond consciously in the world instead of reacting automatically and mindlessly. 

This week, we will tune in to both our breath (as we did last week) and to sounds far and near in order to bring mindfulness and greater awareness to our living experience. 

Let’s begin by sitting and being with our breath and sitting and being with sounds

1. Sit comfortably and Relax

Find a comfortable position to sit down. Sit upright and make adjustments if necessary. Prepare yourself for mindful meditation. 

2. Tune in to your breath and meditate

Drop your gaze and close your eyes gently. 

Bring your mind to your breath. Watch your breath. Follow the rhythm of your breathing as you inhale and exhale. Notice your breath moving through your nostrils, nasal cavities, throat and down your chest. 

3. Pay attention to your body

Pay attention to your body. As you breathe in do you feel the gentle expansion of your breath? As you breathe out do you feel the gentle contraction of your abdomen? Continue to watch your breath as you exhale, feel the air move up your torso and out of your mouth or your nose. It doesn’t matter. As you breathe in and breathe out, keep observing the passage of air. 

Each time you notice that your mind is no longer on your breath, just notice what is on your mind. Just observe as an outsider, without judgment. There is no right or wrong way. And gently bring your mind back to your breath.

Do this about 6 X without expectation. Just follow your breath. Sit and be with the natural rhythm of your breath for a little longer.

4. Keep calm and listen to distant sounds

B) Become aware of sounds coming from far away. Move your attention from one sound to the other…hearing what is there moment by moment. Without judging or thinking about what you are hearing.

5. Bring your attention to sounds closer to you

Now bring your attention closer to you. Become aware of sounds just outside your room or building. Take your mind to each sound moment by moment.

6. Develop awareness of sounds in the immediate surroundings

Then become aware of sounds inside your room without trying to analyse where they are coming from or what they are. Take your mind to the sounds one by one. Sit and be with the sounds for a little longer. When you are ready reach out for your journal and pen.

2.1 Mindful Journaling

Mindful journaling is a powerful tool that supports heartwriting. Writing about what you are sensing right now, right here in the quiet of your mind, may excavate deep seated emotions like joy, sadness, fear, grief, anger, frustration, shame…Writing about what you are sensing in this moment in an honest way will help you acknowledge and accept rather than resist and push away those negative thoughts and emotions festering within you. This acceptance is an important first step in easing internal struggles or conflicts. It will help you let go and move on by opening up new opportunities for growth. 

Prepare yourself for mindful journaling, journal and pen within reach. Tell yourself “I am ready to write, and in order to write I just need to start writing…without expectation and without worry.” This approach to writing is called freewriting or heartwriting. This is an invitation to go on an adventure to discover what is embedded deep within you. Just give yourself permission to write without worry.

1. Read the poem below to yourself

Read the poem below in a tone loud enough for yourself to hear. Read slowly. Let the sounds of the words come to you without trying too hard. Hear the rhythm of the lines…without analyzing…just let them come to you like waves…if there are words or lines that puzzle you…it doesn’t matter keep reading…and enjoy the feel of the sounds of the words and lines.

Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

1. Write freely for 10 minutes

When you are ready reach out for your pen and write. Begin to write freely without lifting your pen from the paper for 10 minutes. You may write in response to the poem or write whatever comes up for you. Just write without thinking too much about what you want to say. If uncertain just keep writing “I don’t know what to write” until something blossoms for you. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or choice of words. Keep writing whatever comes up from within you without fear and without judgment.

2. Read what you have written to yourself without judgement

Once you stop writing…take your time and read aloud what you have written without judgement and kindness to yourself. You must be able to hear your voice and the sound of your words, phrases and sentences.

3. Select ONE idea to write about

Go over your writing again and highlight ONE idea, sentence or phrase that you would like to further write about or think about. Continue to write on the selected topic for 5 minutes.

4. Share your thoughts

You may share this piece of writing on your blog or social media or just with your close family and friends. If sharing is not your thing, that is also fine. 

5. Reflect on what you have written 

What emotions did you feel while writing? What surprised you? What did you discover about yourself? What did you discover about your writing? How did it make you feel overall? You may write your response to these questions in your journal or blog about it.

Please feel free to share your writing or thoughts. I will be happy to read some of your writing or answer any questions you may have.

Shalini Damodaran
Shalini Damodaran is passionate about writing and coaching others to write. She was a teacher educator, specialised in the teaching of writing at the English Language Institute of Singapore.
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Shalini Damodaran
Shalini Damodaran is passionate about writing and coaching others to write. She was a teacher educator, specialised in the teaching of writing at the English Language Institute of Singapore.
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