Topic: Mindfulness and spirituality
This can be a sensitive topic for some, so please keep in mind that the purpose of this forum is to openly accept all beliefs and practices as they contribute to our learning, healing, and growth.
Spirituality is at the root of mindfulness, and many who study mindfulness come across practices and teachings from religion or spiritual beliefs. Prayer and meditation seem to go hand in hand to many people, and we’ve had prayer mentioned by several people in our own exploration these past weeks. While spirituality is getting a little away from our discussion of body listening, I think it bears mentioning as part of our conversation since it can be such a crucial part of how people experience their world and themselves.
In my reading up on meditation I became interested in some of the Buddhist practices that I came across, and one of them in particular, Tonglen, has stuck with me as I’ve developed my own mindfulness routine. Tonglen has become my favorite breathing exercise while I’m meditating or doing a progressive body scan. Simply put, it’s breathing in pain and suffering — from yourself and others — and breathing out warmth and compassion. Sending positive energy out into the world. I think what I like most about this practice is that it feels bigger than myself. It allows me take the focus off of my individual experience and think outwardly. It makes my pain seem less significant. Are there aspects of religious or spiritual practices that you have incorporated into your mindfulness?
If you have explored spiritual aspects of mindfulness, how has this exploration contributed to your mindfulness practice and your techniques for coping with your pain or illness?
#spirituality #prayerandmeditation #tonglen #mindfulbreathing
Stress has come up in many topics throughout our body listening exploration. It’s a problem that all of us deal with in some manner. Stress exacerbates our symptoms. Stress exacerbates everything! I had a realization a few years ago that the stress from my pain and from the frustration of searching for a diagnosis and an effective treatment was actually making me feel even worse. It was this vicious downward spiral of pain and stress, completely holding me back from moving forward and living my life. When I learned about the parasympathetic nervous system it really resonated with me how important it is to address stress . This might be old hat for you, but for me it was a revelation. The parasympathetic nervous system controls the body at rest and restores it to a state of calm. It is complementary to the sympathetic nervous system which controls stimulating activities, like our fight-or-flight response. I realized that when my parasympathetic nervous system can’t do it’s thing, I am living in a constant state of fight-or-flight!! No wonder my body couldn’t begin to heal when it was constantly in emergency-mode.
All that is to say that when I realized how critical it was to reduce stress, I began looking for ways that I can incorporate stress reduction into my regimen. My focus shifted from solely treating the area of my pain to working on restoring my body so that it could begin to treat itself.
I began learning more about Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Programs. I learned about the very first MBSR program that was started by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the U. Massachusetts Medical Center, and then I discovered that programs like this exist all over, like the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, or the MBSR Program through Duke Integrative Medicine. I was floored to learn about these programs, because here were doctors telling everyone that reducing stress really IS important and acknowledging that mindfulness is a legitimate and effective way to treat your body, not just some new age hokum. The idea is that meditation can be used to trigger the Relaxation Response. This term was coined by Dr. Herbert Benson to describe the mind’s ability to encourage the body to slow muscles and organs and increase blood flow to the brain, triggering your parasympathetic nervous system to kick in. With this new insight, I was on board and excited to ramp up my mindfulness practice.
Since I’ve started practicing mindfulness regularly I’ve noticed positive effects in all aspects of my life, but particularly on my pain and my approach to dealing with my pain. I think stress reduction was the key for me in moving forward and better managing my chronic pain. I can’t believe it took me so long to realize it!
#mindfulnessforthebody #stressreduction #MBSR
Does reduction of stress contribute to reducing your symptoms? Do you incorporate mindfulness based stress reduction into your treatment? How do you elicit your body’s relaxation response?
Topic: Mindfulness practices
This topic is to discuss other mindfulness practices that are not movement-based. This distinction between movement and non-movement is of my own construction, partly to try to organize the discussion and partly because of my own approach to mindfulness. As I mentioned in our previous topic, my first incorporation of mindfulness was through an introduction to yoga and tai chi about 15 years ago. When my movement became seriously limited with pain more recently, my desire to continue mindfulness work led me to explore more sedentary practices.
I have come to enjoy meditation, particularly guided meditations using a Youtube video or audio recording, and regularly use progressive body scans to calm and relax my body and mind. Progressive scans are my favorite practice, and I try to combine them with a breathing technique. In additional to relaxing me, these scans help me read my body and identify areas where I need to focus on releasing tension. Emotional Freedom Technique has come up before in our discussion of subtle energy, and it’s worth mentioning again here as it has the same qualities as other body awareness/mindfulness methods. EFT can be a helpful method for calming the mind and body together.
I think at the heart of any mindfulness practice is breath, and the effect of measured deep breathing on the mind and body. There are several breathing techniques that I’ve learned about. Just yesterday I was taught about a technique to alternate blocking one nostril and breathing through the other for deep breaths to calm down the mind and help fall asleep.
There are an abundance of ways to practice mindfulness, and it doesn’t take following a strict methodology. I would love to hear about how you practice mindfulness and which techniques you favor. How did you learn and choose a type of practice? Did you create something yourself that works best for you? How to do you incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life?
#mindfulpractices #progressivebodyscans #emotionalfreedomtechnique #breathingtechniques
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