Adventures in Mindfulness
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Adventures in Mindfulness

Being aware of yourself can be life-changing. It can also be really hard.

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Adventures in Mindfulness
Huffington Post

I am a very distractible person. My attention flits from activity to activity, thought to thought within a moment. I've always been this way on some level, whether because of my autism or some other quirk of my brain. I can often use this to my advantage, learning something new and interesting from my class reading or while surfing the net. However, more and more I feel that my tendency to lose focus and get lost in my thoughts is a hindrance, keeping me from using my time well and fueling the tempest of self-contempt swirling in the back of my mind.

While talking about these issues with my therapist, he mentioned I should try mindfulness meditation. He said it would be good for someone who gets trapped in their thoughts and worries like I often do. I was all for it. If it was anything like that leaves on the stream exercise my therapist back home led me through, it couldn't be bad for my state of mind.

So, I signed up for a 3-session mindfulness seminar the Counseling Center runs. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, mindfulness meditation is the practice of bringing your attention into the present moment, focusing on what your body is feeling and not judging your thoughts. For someone who pretty much judges everything that pops into her head, this is a major challenge. While the research is still in process about these techniques, early evidence shows that mindfulness does help reduce stress levels, anxiety, and increase focus and mental resilience. I need those things. Let's give it a try.

One of the simplest exercises I've learned is a simple breathing exercise. Lie back in a comfortable position, and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing, the way your stomach moves in, and out. Slowly, and steadily. If you ever catch yourself thinking about something else, acknowledge the fact, and refocus in on your breathing. Don't try to do this for fifteen minutes straight, as the first exercise you try for the required practice after your first seminar, without a guided recording. It will go horribly wrong. Fortunately, unlike a nap, my preferred method of relaxation after classes before I tried this mindfulness thing, going horribly wrong has relatively few consequences, besides an askance look at your strange, strange mind.

I've been practicing mindfulness meditation for about two weeks at this point. I don't feel especially more aware of myself or my body. If I manage to do it right, however, it's just as restful as a good solid nap. Also, sometimes, I find myself happy and relaxed hours later. I plan to keep it up, if only for those beautiful moments.

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