Thursday, August 28, 2008

Just Breathe

Mindfulness is as simple as this most basic element of life. It's the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do before we die. It is the essence of life and the most suggested remedy for whatever ails you, be it physical or emotional pain, anxiety, fear, stress etc. - just breathe. The thing with breathing is it starts out so natural and easy and as we have life experiences we begin to change that. We may breathe more shallow, hold our breathe in tension, breathe faster or we sabotage our health to the point of inhibiting the ability to breathe. Breathing is the root of our well being. An analogy of how simple it can be to change our lives through awareness of our breath is an example from Caesar Millan, the dog whisperer. The position of a dogs tail shows its emotional state and when Caesar wanted to help a dog become less anxious he didn't try some deep psychological technique but simply physically raised the dog's tail from between it's legs. Consciously coming back to a natural state of breathing can change our emotional state in the same way no matter what is happening around us, that is why we know to just breathe in moments of stress. Just as natural breathing can bring us to a natural grounded relaxed state the opposite is also true, shallow or erratic breathing for no reason can send you into a stressful state, just like changing the position of the dogs tail.

One of the healthiest changes I have made in my life is to practice natural breathing throughout the day, just take a minute wherever you are, breathe in slowly through your nose and as your diaphragm drops, allow your stomach then chest to expand and then let it all out pulling your navel inward and repeat. This is the first lesson to be taught in the Kids Awareness Program, learning to focus on the breath. The activity will be to place their hands or an object on their stomach to watch it rise and fall and to feel the breathe as it enters and leaves and how they can come back to that relaxed state at any time by focusing on their breath.

Grow Your Roots Deep

An analogy of mindfulness and awareness as well as the importance they play in life can be seen by examining a tree. Awareness; knowledge and consciousness of what it takes to function at optimum levels through nutrition, fitness (activity & rest) and our relationship with the world around us is represented by the trunk, the main support of the tree where strength and solidness are needed to hold the tree upright. Mindfulness; being present in the moment with purpose and focus is represented by the roots from which the tree is nourished, as well as holding the tree in place and grounding it from external forces. The deeper we grow our roots the harder it is to uproot the tree, the stronger the trunk the bigger the tree can grow and expand for the fullest possible life. The branches, limbs, and leaves represent the many facets of our life. For many of us this is where we put most of our resources, in the top of the tree, while paying little or no attention to the roots and trunk, then wonder why we are prone to disease and topple over at the least external disturbance.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kids Awareness Program

Kids Awareness Program was created to develop or support a program to educate children, and by extension families, about mindful awareness. We strive to promote the implementation of a program in school systems and/or through community groups. Mindful awareness is a foundation for optimum living. It teaches, among other things, that life is a series of moments and how to be present for each one. Through mindfulness education, an individual learns to understand their emotions and thoughts, to be able to self regulate in any situation, to observe and respond rather than judge and react. As a result they are able to find the calm from within in the midst of any storm. By teaching this to children, we provide them with the tools to be more focused, to achieve a higher level of concentration, learning and retention. They will also gain a better understanding, respect and appreciation for themselves, others and the world around them. They will have the ability within themselves to live happier and less stressed lives.

The post to follow will illustrate different aspects to be taught in lessons and activities. These lessons will center on using all our senses to bring awareness to daily activities. The program will teach breathing and simple meditations to clear and refresh the mind and relax the body. Mindfulness will be taught as it pertains to eating and movement and a basic understanding of what the body needs through nutrition, exercise and rest. There will be activities to promote appreciation and respect by teaching that we are all interdependent and connected to one another and to the environment, that the health and welfare of one affects the whole.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mindful Awareness

When searching for the definition of awareness and mindfulness this is what I found. Awareness came up with different dictionary choices, the Merriam Webster definition is: having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge. defines it as: The state or level of consciousness where sense data can be confirmed by an observer. Mindfulness, however, came up with different sites by individuals or organizations rather than dictionaries. The definition of the root word mindful is attentive & careful. Most of the sites and programs promoting mindfulness have their basis in work done by Jon Kabat-Zinn and he gives a good understanding of mindfulness: "Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally." While the two are similar, awareness and mindfulness are both about being conscious, awareness is more about having knowledge and mindfulness is being in the moment and living on purpose. We live our lives so mindlessly that we are truly not present for it. If we learn just some basic knowledge of what we need and combine that with paying attention in this moment we can truly learn to live and not just drag from one thing to the next with no joy or purpose. Mindful Awareness to me is paying attention to knowledge gained, being conscious to what is happening now, living, truly living, each moment and finding peace with life.