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Be mindful of spring

There are many forms of mindful meditations. Simply observing is one. At my Oklahoma bird feeder this morning I spy goldfinches joining local woodpeckers and chubby squirrels at the seed party. Tulip and daffodil bulbs are shooting up from the red soil. Even the most dormant looking trees have tight buds on the tips of their branches. Tapping into mindfulness, we are invited to open our eyes and heart to note signs of Spring. Slow down. Pay attention. Welcome to a mindful meditation month.

Mindfulness 101

I became aware of mindfulness in 2008, discovering the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. His book, Full Catastrophe Living, sparked a mind-shift that continues to inform my personal and professional life to this day. One of my treasured nuggets from this book is:

If we pay attention a little more closely to the way our mind actually works, … we are likely to find that much of the time our mind is more in the past or in the future than it is in the present.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

This reminds us that all that we have is now. How unfortunate that the busyness of life can distract us from the beauty of being in this moment. Kabat-Zin describes mindfulness as awareness that arises by paying attention, to the present moment, and non-judgmentally. We can care deeply and compassionately for all of the uncertainty in the world AND also be grounded in the truth that the seasons are evolving as they always have. Let’s notice.

I am dedicating Springtime to the pursuit of many paths of mindfulness. Sample some of these meditation practices to experience a mindful month.

Breath meditation

Breath is life. But we often take it for granted. Take one full minute to notice your breath. It occurs with total effortlessness. When you breathe in, think “In Breath” and as you breathe out, think “Out Breath.” Don’t try to adjust the length of your breaths, instead allow yourself to be aware of the breath coming in and going out. Maybe you notice your breath mostly at your nostrils, or your chest or belly rising and falling. Be still and pay attention for a timed 60 seconds. If you are interrupted by a sound or a thought, it’s okay, just begin again by placing your focus on your breath. “In Breath,” and “Out Breath.”

After the minute, observe how you feel in your body and in your mind. This easy mindfulness meditation can be done at any time, in any space. Even at a red light!

Sound meditation

Have you ever started a day with quiet? True quiet. A gentle tuning in to the sounds of your home space. This is an example of a sound meditation. Try it right now if you like. Close your eyes and be still. Listen. As I sit at my laptop I can hear the hum of my refrigerator, the screech of breaks from the trash collector truck, the push of wind on the windows, the click of my fingernails on the computer keys. The heater just kicked in and now I can hear the rush of warm air through the floor vents. There is a symphony of sound that I usually block out as I listen instead to my cluttered thoughts. Take five minutes to experience the sounds around you. Pleasant and unpleasant sounds are all apart of the “full catastrophe” of your life.

Walking Meditation

Thich Nhat Hanh (1926-2022) was a renowned Zen teacher and poet, who wrote literally hundreds of books. I have read only one, The Art of Mindfulness, and Silence is now on my to be read (TBR) pile. We can study for the rest of our lives and still have so much to learn about mindfulness. I look forward to walking this Spring and plan to add walking meditation to the intention of a mindful month. Here is a quotable from the renowned Zen teacher on walking meditation:

You are there, body and mind together. You are fully alive, fully present in the here and the now. With every step, you touch the wonders of life that are in you and around you. When you walk like that, every step brings healing. Every step brings peace and joy, because every step is a miracle.

Thich Nhat Hanh

To inspire you further, check out this wonderful short video of walking meditation from the master himself. Let every step “bring you home to the here and now.”

Five great Meditation Apps

It may seem strange to utilize technology to achieve a more mindful state, but there are some really good apps available that do that very thing. Verywell Mind is a website dedicated to mental health topics. They rated their favorite meditation apps for 2022 and I was pleased to see my favorite five make the list:

They are all just a little bit different. Consider sampling a bit to find one that is right for you. Click here to get the full list and reviews from the Verywell Mind source.

setting Mindful intentions

Yoga is one form of mindfulness, some consider it a moving meditation. In August of last year I set an intention to begin yoga teacher training, not sure of what would evolve from the experience. It deepened my practice and my passion for yoga, and I intend to incorporate some of the movements and breathwork into my clinical practice. As a person who tends to over-plan, it is refreshing to see what happens next by staying in the present.

I hope this post encourages you to be mindful this month. We have been through an ordeal these last two years and life continues to be hard, in new ways. It takes time and intention to begin healing. Spring is a wonderful reminder that healing is possible.

Health and Happiness,

Dr. Lisa Marotta