Posts Tagged ‘focus’

Unleash Your Inner Bob Ross: Coloring Meditation

Coloring Meditation

As host of the PBS show The Joy of Painting, Bob Ross had the ability soothe babies to sleep with his calm voice and effortless brush strokes.

If you haven’t experienced the tranquil aura of Bob Ross, check out the first episode of The Joy of Painting, where he gently guides you through simple steps to create a majestic picture of the woods. I can guarantee you’ll smile a few times throughout the half hour segment.

The benefits you walk away with from watching Bob Ross paint (happiness, positivity, mindfulness, imaginative creativity…) are similar to the benefits you walk away with from coloring. The activity reminiscent of childhood has been recognized as a relaxation technique, one that can distract one from stressful thoughts in order to stimulate a positive mindset. Coloring has also shown to increase communication between different areas of the brain.

Coloring as meditation goes back to ancient times. Traditionally, mandalas are used as patterns to color. Mandalas are circular shapes with no beginning or end made of elaborate shapes and designs that are open to being filled with beautiful colors. Using mandalas for an active coloring meditation provides a time to relax, create balance in the body’s energies, and enhance creativity and self-awareness. Below are pictures of a mandala I recently colored for a meditation:

Blank mandala

Coloring Meditation in Progress

Coloring meditation is a casual way to achieve mindfulness. Coloring is a fun activity that easily absorbs your full attention to filling in lines with attractive colors. There really is no wrong way to color, and it is done freely by the individual participant. As you color, take slow breathes in through the nose and out through the mouth. Relax as you focus on the mandala in front of you. Choose any coloring utensil you would like — crayons, pencils, markers, or even paint. Use your senses to become aware of your present surroundings: What sound does the marker make on the paper? How does the pencil feel as it moves across the design? How marvelous are the colors you were drawn to use? Enjoy the motions of the meditation!

The Finished Product!

Once you are finished coloring, meditate on what you have created. Appreciate your work, and remember to bring this mindful focus to your other methods of meditation.

At the end of this post are a few websites where you can find printable mandalas to color, or you can check out a site like Amazon that has a collection of mandala coloring books available to order.

As you proceed with your coloring meditation, remember the wise words of Bob Ross: “Believe that you can do it, because you can do it.”

Happy meditating!

“Wherever You Are…”

Dr. Richard Alpert, otherwise known as Ram Dass, offers a positive reminder to be mindful of current surroundings and situations.

Excited to be home with the family for Thanksgiving? Can’t wait for Friday to roll around again? Wish it was summer on the beach once again? None of that matters right now. There is no need to live in anticipation for the future, yearn for an experience built upon imaginary expectations, or long for the past.

All that is important is being mindfully immersed in the great things the present moment has to offer. Be aware of and appreciate all things that contribute to make up the here and now.

 

Basic Breathing Meditation for Beginners

Pick a space with little distraction. Sit comfortably: back straight and gazed fixed. Breathe.

Starting a breathing meditation is as simple as these three steps similar to this beginner’s guide for meditation. Sometimes, the act of beginning a project is the hardest part, and meditation is no exception. However, the following tips to make meditation a habit and achieve its benefits are helpful for an easy transition into a mindful practice.

Setting

Whether you prefer the great outdoors or your cozy indoor living space, where you meditate is up to you. Three elements to keep in mind when choosing a setting include lighting, cleanliness, and quiet. Depending on whether you thrive in natural sunlight or prefer a dim, candle-lit room, pick somewhere that will provide a calming atmosphere. Additionally, since the goal is to clear your mind, it only makes sense to do so in a space that is also clear of unnecessary clutter. Finally, it is best to choose a setting that will shut out as much noisy distraction as possible. Notice that “as much” is not “all.” It is quite unlikely that one can find a space that will be perfectly silent for the desired time to meditate. If any potentially distracting sounds arise during the meditation, be aware that the sounds are present, then let them be. It is best to experience our surroundings as they are and accept the present state without attaching meaning to whatever goes on around us.

Sitting and posture

The position of your body is crucial to creating a comfortable meditation experience. Typically, meditation is done sitting on the floor or in a chair. You can stretch your legs out, sit cross-legged, or even kneel – whatever will make you feel most comfortable is best. Feel free to use extra cushions, pillows, or blankets, too.

Whichever way you sit, mindful.org recommends sitting stable and erect: ‘straighten–but don’t stiffen–your upper body to the spine’s natural curvature. Your head and shoulders can comfortably rest on top of your vertebrae.’ Keep your upper arms at your sides and let your hands rest in front of you. Then, lower your chin and fix your gaze on a fixed point just below your direct line of vision. From here, you may choose to keep your eyes closed for the meditation if you wish, though it is not necessary.

Breathing

Breathing is the most important part of the mindful meditation practice, as it “trains your brain to stop jumping around and stay focused in the present.”  Focusing on the in-an-out pattern of the breathe brings our attention to the current moment. Beginning a meditation practice, it is likely that your mind will occasionally wander to thoughts surfacing in your head or create scenarios to pair with sounds. This drifting is completely fine and even expected. The important thing is to acknowledge it, then return to the breathe as an anchor of awareness, or a ‘mental focal point to keep your attention on the physical sensation that accompanies each inhale and exhale.’

Keep breaths long and slow. I find it helpful to count each breath to begin my focus. After some cycles of counting to seven for each inhale and seven for each exhale, my focus becomes steadily fixed on the present, and I begin to enter a comfortable state of mindfulness.

One last tip to consider for beginning this breathing meditation is to fix a short time for the practice. It has been proven that ‘meditating for short times can still catalyze beneficial changes in the brain.’  To start, meditate between two and ten minutes. It is best to set a timer or an alarm so your mind isn’t burdened with an extra distraction, or you don’t get so lost in the meditation that you pass more time than you anticipated! Then, make this short period of meditation a daily activity for a few days. According to Psychology Today, ‘beginner meditators who practiced for 11 days were over 90% likely to continue meditation.’ As you feel more comfortable meditating, gradually lengthen the time of the practice, working your way up to as much time as you can make for mindful meditation during your day.

Choosing a clean, quite setting, sitting comfortably and erect, and focusing on a slow pattern of breath are the basics to beginning a successful breathing meditation. For a short time of your day, over the course of a few days, it is likely you will experience the benefits meditation has to offer. More importantly, you will develop a strong sense of mindfulness and awareness of your present surroundings.

Best of luck beginning the breathing meditation, and look forward to the mindfulness that comes with it!

 

Free Guided Meditations

I just discovered that UCLA has its own Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC).

From scanning over the site, I gather that it is run by UCLA Health. MARC assists in research on mindfulness, is cited in notable publications (The New York TimesTime Magazine, and The Los Angeles Times, to name a few), and lists countless professional resources for extensive information on mindful topics.

Additionally, MARC offers a range of Mindful Awareness Practices classes, workshops, retreats, mindful opportunities for youth and Spanish-speakers, and even online meditation classes.

As if all of this and more wasn’t impressive enough, MARC offers over 60 minutes worth of free guided meditations.

The guided meditations that are offered range from as short as 3 minutes to as long as 19 minutes. Some meditations are basic and focus simply on breathing and awareness of the senses. Other meditations dive a little deeper to focus the senses more intensely in preparation for a state of mindfulness involving sleep, loving relationships, and working out difficulties.

Led by a female’s steady voice occasionally accompanied by an instrument played in the background to set a tranquil mood, the instructions are given in a soothing manner. They are announced slowly so the listener can participate in the meditation at a comfortable pace.

Aside from giving the basic instructions, the speaker will remind the listener that it is okay for the mind to occasionally wander. She acknowledges that when using, for example, the sense of hearing, one may get distracted and pair a sound with a scenario in their own head. If a truck honks its horn on the street outside the window, it could be caused by a pedestrian crossing when she does not have the right of way, a car cutting the truck driver off, or a signal to get somebody’s attention to prevent a disaster from occurring. The mind’s imagination can easily be distracted by such a sound, and that is absolutely acceptable. The important thing is for the listener to return focus on breathing, and the use of the senses in the present moment.

What I found surprising about the guided meditations was the idea of breathing at one’s own pace. In my experiences meditating, I always found breathing deeply to a count of five to seven seconds was more helpful than following my breath at a natural pace. When I first began practicing basic meditation, especially, I would sometimes feel anxious or uneasy. Such feelings were accompanied by fast, unsteady breathing that was hard to transform into a more relaxed pattern. I find that beginning a meditation exercise with a structured breath makes for an easier transition into a state of mindfulness.

If right now you have a spare five minutes, below is a basic, guided breathing meditation from MARC. If you have a little extra time, you can download the full selection of guided meditations on iTunes for free here.

I will be adding the MARC website to my blogroll in the very near future.

Happy meditating!

To Clarify: The Meanings of “Mindful Meditation” and “Mindfulness”

I would like to take a quick moment to talk about some words that are important to this blog.

Meditation is a practice; it is the foundation on which one begins his or her path to a calm state. The act of meditating, in most cases, uses breath as an anchor to bring one’s focus on the present moment. Paying attention to the senses (seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, and feeling) one at a time while breathing deeply focuses concentration to where one currently is in his or her surroundings. When one is finished meditation, the hope is that he or she has reached a state of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the state one experiences after completing a meditation practice. Mindfulness is being aware of oneself in a physical surrounding, and being more conscious of that surrounding. It is realizing oneself existing purely in the present moment.

To meditate one must be mindful. One must be mindful (fully aware) of breath and the senses to be immersed in the practice of meditation. To be purely focused on the movement of air in and out of one’s body, and to be purely focused on noticing what each sense can interpret is the act of mindful meditation.

So to participate in meditation, it is a given that one must be mindful. When I say meditation in my writing, it is implied that one needs to be mindful while practicing meditation. Meditation is not always easy, especially when the mind feels super cluttered and busy with different thoughts flying around aimlessly. Specifying meditation as “mindful meditation” provides that nice little reminder of why one is meditating in the first place: to reach the state of mindfulness, where thoughts are settled down in the mind so focus can be dedicated on the present moment.

In short, [mindful] meditation is the the cause, and the state of mindfulness is the effect. Mindful meditation is the action, and the state of mindfulness is the result.

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