Over the last several weeks I have been working on some relaxation and mindfulness techniques using an app I downloaded on my phone. I haven't really ever done much in the way of mindfulness practice or intentional relaxation but it's becoming an important tool at this stage of my life.
The particular app I use is geared towards pregnancy and birth but the reflections I've been having on my success with these practices I think translates to anyone who might be new to this type of practice. You see I decided these practices would be good in helping me remain calm and relaxed during pregnancy, help me prepare for labor and birth and also be a tool that I can rely on as I move into the newborn stage as well when I'm adjusting to a new schedule, or lack thereof, minimal sleep and other unfamiliar territory. The app assigns 3 or 4 "activities" for each day and these are a combination of breathing exercises, guided meditations for mindfulness, relaxation exercises (that they qualify as hypnobirthing sessions) and affirmations.
Here's what I've found:
- I can rock the breathing exercises.
- I love the hypnobirthing sessions- as I inevitably am so relaxed I fall asleep.
- The affirmation sessions are always a great pick me up or great way to start the day.
But the mindfulness ones? Those are much much trickier for me. And they're usually the shortest ones! Am I the only one that has a hard time staying in the moment? Not letting my mind drift? Certainly not.
The woman who leads the meditation often reminds listeners that the mindfulness practices are a bit more challenging because unlike the relaxation sessions where you are welcome to let your mind drift, wander, or even shut off (ahem...take a nap), the mindfulness sessions require you to be relaxed but present. They require you to focus and make your brain do a bit of work that its just not used to do. The goal of these sessions is to remain focused on your breath and on the sensations in your body right at that moment. And as other thoughts/emotions/memories come into your brain, just acknowledge them and then go back to your in the moment focus.
I comically find that my brain never has more thoughts than when I'm trying to focus on not having thoughts. I think you often hear about how great women are at multitasking and I think teachers are particularly good at doing multiple things at once and having several scenarios working out in your head while also doing something completely different at the time. But I think in regards to mindfulness this does a disservice because it's such a hard habit to turn off. It's like my brain sees the relaxation and calm as an opportunity for more work. Oh look, her brain is quiet...what a perfect opportunity to remind her of x,y, and z rather than let her soak in the moment.
No wonder so many adults are exhausted, burnt out, overly stressed and anxious. I think a lot of us have lost or never developed the ability to stop and rest. To focus on just this one moment in time without worrying about the next one.
So I am definitely not an expert in this. As I said, its the hardest part of the practice. Sometimes I can't even finish them because my brain just won't cooperate. But each day I keep trying and keep practicing and I think that decision in itself is a mindful moment.