“Do you meditate, Penni?”
This is a common question asked of me. As a health and wellbeing coach who presents mindfulness training, the connection is not hard to make.
The short answer, though, is “No,” not in the traditional, sit for an hour with my eyes closed, formal meditation.
However, if comfortably jogging for an hour pondering a topic, or lying for 10 minutes to feel my body relax into the floor, (especially with a warm weighted blanket!) or to give my full attention to activities that rock my boat such as photography, beekeeping or doing a puzzle, then yes, I do a ‘type of’ meditation by way of informal mindfulness practices.
I’ll leave the conversation on the various types of meditation practices and benefits until another time. Today, I’ll focus on one element of mindfulness practice – attention to the here and now – the place where the past is done and the future is simply a projection of your thoughts.
The goal of attention to the here and now in a mindful practice is to become aware of body sensations, thoughts, and emotions and to relate to them with an open, nonjudgmental attitude (Shapiro, Astin, Bishop, & Cordova, 2005). One activity I particularly enjoy is to do a body scan – 10 odd minutes of lying flat on my back with a blanket, consciously cruising over my body, breath and thoughts –the word, “delicious” springs to mind!
Practising a body scan can teach you how to recognize and experience physical sensations within your body, to become aware of your bodily sensations and signals and to create familiarity. It is an exercise designed to experience how strong, but not necessarily how loud, the noise of your thoughts are.
You will experience an approach which teaches you how to repeatedly draw your attention to a certain point, and how to detect when your attention wanders – a critical component of successful self-control and attention regulation. What you may notice is the recurring themes of your thoughts, or realise how some thoughts are played over and over again on repeat, which is a great thing. From here you can find the space between the trigger and event, and between your response or reaction should you prefer a more resourceful outcome or thinking pattern.
If you’ve attended my Mindful Me, “How to Catch a Curve Ball” session, you will recall me saying that some elements of being mindful aren’t easy. It may happen that you get distracted during an activity. During a body scan, for instance, your mind may wander and think of other things. That’s okay, if (let’s be honest,) when it happens, it is a part of the exercise and a challenge of the exercise. There is no right or wrong when it comes to conducting a Body Scan.
A moment may come when you realise that you are not present in the exercise. In fact, to be able to make that observation means you are already present. Simply realising that you are not present is a success and the non-presence makes success possible.
You’ll soon experience the benefits of a body scan. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, if you arrive home grumpy and unable to let past conversations and events pass by, or even if simple distractions cause you to be flustered or disoriented on a regular basis, you will find a body scan will have a calming effect on your emotions. Once you are able to focus on being calm in the face of your triggers, then a body scan becomes a preventative exercise and benefits your wellbeing much in the same way that daily water, vegetables and heart-raising bone-building exercises benefit you.
One obstacle often presented to me about conducting a body scan is the difficulty, or even the impossibility, of finding 8-10 minutes to spend lying down, focusing on the breath with eyes closed – (cue, team member/children/partner/phone ringing/ email ping notification wanting an immediate answer in the waiting wings etc.). The good news is that once you’ve done a few, you can adapt a body scan to wherever you are, and the time available, even if putting up an ‘out of office’ notice is not yet possible. Till that time, gently remind people around you of what you are doing and the benefits you receive from this self-care practice – everyone will benefit, I promise.
Here’s your invitation to lay with the falling rain, where you will find guided instructions to help you experience and enjoy your body scan.
Another beneficial experience you might like to add to your wellbeing collection is ‘Weird but Effective Breathing in the Workplace‘ – another activity to enhance your general wellbeing.
Penni Lamprey is an internationally recognised lifestyle, food and wellness coach, NLP practitioner and an experienced business manager. Through her uniquely designed, holistic health and wellbeing programs, she aims to inspire the health & wellbeing of employees within Australian businesses, enabling absenteeism and presentism to be replaced by supported, engaged and productive teams replaced with supported, engaged and productive teams of staff.
She is also the author of ‘How to encourage your staff to engage in their Health & Wellbeing’