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What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is all about managing thoughts and emotions. In this mindfulness training, learn how to recognize them, understand them and let them go.

What is Mindfulness?

Estimated watch time: 51 mins 

Available credits: none

Presentation Materials:

Welcome to the Community Education Series hosted by The Recovery Village and Advanced Recovery Systems. Hi everyone, my name is Kevin Kraska. I’m a mental health therapist and a mindfulness facilitator based in Columbus, Ohio. Today I’d like to spend some time introducing you to mindfulness, which I’ve been practicing for many years now, and I would have to say the longer I practice mindfulness, the deeper it has informed my life and the way that I live. My hope is to give you kind of a taste or an introduction of mindfulness today. A couple of things that we’ll do: We’ll take just a peek at some of the outcomes research on mindfulness-based interventions and programs. We’ll also look at how mindfulness works and how — when you apply mindfulness — it can both decrease stress as well as deepen connections and insight, connections physically, connections emotionally and connections in relationships interpersonally. I like to say the reason for that is because mindfulness is all about getting to know ourselves more intimately and on a deeper level through mindfulness practices. So I welcome you, and I’m glad you’re here.

What you’ll find we’ll start with (and throughout this presentation) is you’ll be introduced to a couple of different mindfulness practices that are pretty seminal. Ones that both beginners can be introduced to and that you could work with, really, for a lifetime. At this point, if you have any distractions around you, it would be a good time to minimize them — turn off your cell phone for the next 35, 40 minutes to let people know you’re not available. Create a space for yourself to be able to really engage in the practices and in this work of mindfulness. Alright, so welcome. I’d like to begin with a short practice here, so really, you don’t need anything other than where you’re sitting right now. Although if you are in a couch or a chair, bring yourself up to the edge of the chair, the edge of the couch, and just place your feet flat on the floor. Your hands can just rest wherever you’d like them to, and if it feels comfortable to you, close your eyes; I will have mine closed.

If that’s not comfortable for you, just kind of maintain what we call soft eyes, which is eyes mostly closed, keeping your focus just in one place right in front of you. Mindfulness is all about becoming present, so we start by just “sweeping the body,” we’ll call it. Notice your feet on the floor. Notice the feeling. Notice the contact of the feet on the floor. Notice also kind of where your body meets the cushion, where you’re sitting on the chair and the impact of gravity weighing you down. Maybe an awareness of a tactile sense of slight breeze or anything in the room, if you have air moving. Just bringing your attention more to what it is here and now in the body on a sensation level. So, scanning the body and sweeping up from toes all the way up to the head. Noticing other sensations in your body could be comfortable, uncomfortable, full, empty, tight, loose, pain, ease, comfort — not judging anything, but just seeing what’s there noticing it

As you sit now, also notice what’s going on in your thoughts. If your thoughts are like a traffic jam right now, have a to-do list, things that have happened, various stressors. Notice the speed of thoughts — have a lot of them right now, or fewer? Whatever you see is okay. No need to judge. So, pay a little attention to thoughts — just the state of mind right now that you bring to this moment. With curiosity, also noticing now your emotional landscape, so matters of the heart. Is there joy? Is there sadness? Is there anxiety? Peace? A heavy heart or a light heart? Open or closed? Just noticing in this heart, what you bring into this moment — what’s here? Seeing, observing, just noticing — that is at the essence of mindfulness. Also, now you might incorporate sound. Noticing sound — sounds in the room, maybe sounds outside where you are, what room you’re in, sounds of silence. Just hearing. And then, you can take a deep breath and let it out.

Exhale when you’re ready; you can open your eyes. I’d like you to just note one or two things that you are aware of now that you were not aware of prior to that brief mindfulness exercise. I would say for instance, paying attention to sound, I noticed the sound of a noise machine outside the door. Paying attention to emotions, I noticed a bit of a sense of calm resting, and in the body, maybe something you notice. So just taking note of something that you are aware of now you weren’t aware of prior.

So, how do we define mindfulness? I’d like to start first with a look at mindlessness, and I have a couple examples of that that I think everyone can relate to. The first is, most of us who drive have had the experience of driving on autopilot and being on the highway, driving whatever speed, arriving at your destination. You’ve been in thoughts the whole time, and you don’t maybe even remember being on the highway — don’t even remember driving. In those moments, you could say we’re practicing mindlessness of driving. Another favorite example that Jon Kabat-Zinn mindfulness teacher often gives is when you’re in the shower in the morning, are you really in the shower or are you already in your first meeting of the day? Big difference between being present to all of the elements that are there in the moment in the shower, the hot water, the temperature, all of it, versus being lost in thought.

Now, we all go into mindlessness all the time; it’s part of the human experience. It’s not a failure or a bad thing, but with mindfulness, we learn to cultivate a different type of paying attention in the moment. I’ll read a short example from mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh about mindlessness. He writes, “There’s a story in zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man standing alongside the road shouts, ‘Where are you going?’ And the first man replies, ‘I don’t know, ask the horse.’” So this is also our story, and he goes on to say we’re riding a horse and we don’t know where we’re going. Sometimes, we can’t stop that horse — it’s our habit, energy mindlessness pulling us along, and sometimes we’re powerless.

This is a little about me. You can look at that later if you like, but I’ve been practicing for a long time here as a therapist and introducing lots of people to mindfulness. So, back to what mindfulness is not. Some items here: It’s not relaxation spelled backwards, it’s not guided imagery or hypnosis subliminal conditioning. These are all fine practices that are used for a number of reasons, but it’s a common misnomer that mindfulness is about doing something to get a certain outcome, doing a practice to achieve relaxation or peace. Ironically, these often are outcomes that are seen, but they’re not because people are trying to achieve an outcome. Because the moment you’re trying to do something to attain a goal — even though that’s often why people come to mindfulness — you’re out of the moment. You’re not in the moment when you’re thinking and evaluating, “Is it working? It’s not working. Is it working? Maybe it’s working.”

Mindfulness is not a means to an end. It’s being present in the moment. Mindfulness is not something that can be learned quickly in a book. In this 40-minute seminar, you can learn about it, but really it’s a much, much deeper experience that grows and grows over time. As I’ve mentioned earlier, that’s happened in my life and many others. Mindfulness is not about avoiding what we don’t like or holding on to what we do. Mindfulness teaches us the ancient teaching that the root of suffering is attachment and aversion — you know, grasping what we want, pushing away and trying to avoid, self-medicating to get away from what we don’t want. Mindfulness is not about that, and I will add one more thing about what it’s not about. There’s a term that’s recently been coined called “McMindfulness,” which is something to watch out for — facilitators claiming that they can teach mindfulness in one or two sessions or teach how to facilitate it in one or two sessions. In truth, those are really shallow attempts at ancient, fundamental teachings that have been around for thousands of years, and the more you practice, the more you gain a real personal, deeper understanding of mindfulness and then are able to present it at that level in your life with loved ones or with whoever.

Let’s go to what mindfulness is — some good definitions here. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who I mentioned earlier, writes, “Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose without judgment in the moment and with compassion.” I’d like to just break that down for a little bit if we could. Paying attention — first of all, how many of us are paying attention? This as a factor in life is necessary, but how often are we in the moment noticing something without judging it? Without making a good, bad, right, wrong, don’t impression. Mindfulness teaches us to suspend that and see that as a product of mind — of thought — and instead tune in to the raw data of what we’re experiencing. For instance, a sound is just a sound. To one person, it might be really annoying; to another person, it might be comforting to hear it. So we noticed we see the judgment in mindfulness, but we also see what we call the raw data of what’s underneath it — what’s underneath the thought. We do all that in the moment. Not past, not future, what’s really here in this moment, and with compassion. We can often be pretty hard on ourselves, sometimes extending that into being pretty hard on other people.

Mindfulness often puts us in touch with seeing things that require some compassion for ourselves and others. Engaging the moment with compassion, present moment awareness — these are other ways of pointing it where mindfulness is. As I mentioned earlier, observing things as they are without adding the layers to them. It said that when you hit your thumb with a hammer, that’s pain, but all the stories you tell yourself about that, “Why, why did I do it? Is it going to need stitches? How come I can’t be the carpenter like my uncle was? I can’t believe I screwed that up again, now I’ll never get the project finished,” or any sort of things or commentary. That’s the suffering; the pain is just the raw pain of the thumb getting hit by the hammer. Mindfulness and lists are encouraged, and moving toward what is in their lives rather than moving away, stepping toward. It’s also a way of being that ultimately creates space. You may experience this in one of the practices I show you today, but we often live in a very constricted — if there’s anxiety involved, even more constrictive — kind of space where we might feel like there’s just not enough time, no room to move. Trapped. Mindfulness opens that up; you tend to experience more space. Not because we’re trying to make that happen. It just seems to happen.

So, how does mindfulness work? The key word here is regulation. If you look at how many different disorders — both the body and brain — work, they’re related to dysregulation. Dysregulation of attention or emotion or some system in the body somatically. Mindfulness — there’s a term called “steady-state awareness” that a mindfulness teacher, Jack Kornfield, writes about. It really is bringing a new type of awareness in the moment that helps create a more steady state. So if our attention is all over the place, one of the outcomes we often see with mindfulness practice after a while is more regulated attention, and similarly on down the line. The more we’re regulated through mindfulness, the more that changes our perspective of ourselves and how we kind of connect with and regulate our interpersonal relationships and communications. Really how that works — you could say in mindfulness — is we get in touch with what we call phenomena: the breath, the body and things I touched on earlier. Thoughts, emotions, impulses, urges, sounds. We get in touch with these things that we call phenomena and we see, in the moment, what’s our relationship to this sensation in my body right now. What’s my relationship to this difficult feeling I’m having or this stuck thought? Is it one of resistance — trying to push it away, get rid of it — or is it one of moving toward one of accepting? The nature of that relationship is what really affects regulation or dysregulation. So it will look a little bit more at how this mindfulness practice can create resilience in all sorts of disease states and stress areas, even down to a cellular level. I’ll give an example of this in a bit.

Here’s some of the reasons why people seek out mindfulness. They come in with a goal — in some of the courses that I teach, the people come in with a goal. They want to reduce stress, they want to be happier in their life, improve their life, get rid of or decrease certain mood states. Sleep, pain often factor into why people show up for mindfulness training. In general, medical condition or their general health, more self-awareness — these are all reasons people will seek out mindfulness. Now, some of the research outcomes. Before I go into these, I want to give a specific example on a cellular level that I mentioned earlier regarding mindfulness and cancer. I’ve done some work with oncology groups in mindfulness, and in my preparing for those, I found many studies on mindfulness-based interventions and cancer.

One that I’m just want to touch on here is that in 2017, they did a study — looked at 13 studies, a kind of a meta-review out of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine magazine. Over a thousand participants. What they were looking at is what is the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on specific biomarkers, cytokines, neuropeptides, C-reactive protein in both healthy subjects and cancer patients. Basically, what came out of this was greater regulation equals greater resiliency, and less stress equals less inflammatory disease. That’s what I would put over top of this. People who were healthy, who practiced particularly yoga and sitting meditation — they had an increase afterwards of a particular neuropeptide, IGF1, which is a very important biomarker related to cancer prevention and other clinical conditions. They also posed there was a plausible hypothesis that came from this study that mindfulness-based interventions appear to help the immune system to normalize, which increases the production of TH2 cytokines while reducing proinflammatory TH1 cytokines. Those are the ones which can make various treatments of cancer less effective by allowing more cancer cells to evade treatment, and also can increase toxicity of chemotherapy drugs in the organs.

All that to say we know that inflammatory processes in the body create all sorts of issues, and we know that stress creates inflammation. This is where the steady-state awareness I mentioned earlier comes in, or you could say the regulatory function of applying mindfulness. The more regulation we have from practicing, the less stress and greater resiliency we’re going to have, and the less inflammation we’re going to have, which has an impact even down to the cellular level. Now, also in terms of neuroscience, we found that from Psychology Today, a brief piece that came out a few years ago, researchers found that meditators showed a pronounced shift in activity to the left frontal lobe. The meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex, which decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety. So once again, we’re regulating. In this case, brain activity in the lobes, weakening some neural pathways that might not service, as well and creating and strengthening newer neural pathways that allow us more choice. Choice to respond versus react to so much in our lives.

Now, these slides just indicate different conditions that have been impacted by mindfulness, and certainly we won’t go down each one, but you can maintain these slides and look at them later to just see how meditation impacted heart disease, hypertension, chronic pain, on down the line. Similarly, here’s some more: IBS, anxiety, all sorts of disorders, even dermatome. Some of the first research that was done in the medical field on mindfulness was found around dermatological conditions being impacted, which surprised them at the time — pretty well-known now. So, those are some of the outcomes of research.

Now, practice — I promised you some practices in this brief introduction, and I would like to introduce you to two more. The first one we did was a very short version of the body scan, or a body sweep — you could say much briefer than the body scan. Mindfulness meditation. There’s all sorts of different kinds of meditation, and mindfulness meditation is the kind that we’ll focus on today. I have a quote here to read, and just to say a few words about the date from Michael Singer, “The day you decide that you were more interested in being aware of your thoughts than you are in the thoughts themselves — that is the day you will find your way out.” When I considered that, my thoughts went to “find your way out of what?” Again, out of our habitual ways which sometimes has been called habit energy — mindlessness — but finding our way out of habitual ways of how we relate to everything, including our thoughts. We are so used to following and relating, following and being directed by our thoughts, our beliefs, our opinions. You expand that to emotions and body states and impulses and urges. Either craving and attaching to certain ones or pushing away other ones, which causes so much suffering.

In meditation, we begin to kind of tune our attention the way you would tune a musical instrument by aiming our attention like how you could aim a flashlight in one area. We’re aiming our attention toward one of these particular phenomena, and when our mind wanders, we bring it back. That’s the training. I’m going to lead you through an experience of that today. Before we do that, one quote that I love — Zen proverb, “You can’t help that birds will fly over your head, but you can stop them from building nests in your hair.” So when we’re practicing mindfulness meditation, or any mindfulness practice, we’re seeing where we get stuck. We can’t stop thoughts, we can’t stop uncomfortable feelings or sensations — that’s part of the human process of being human. But you can see where we get stuck, and we can shift our relationship in these moments, free us from some suffering in that moment. What I’d like to do with this practice is encourage you, again, to have some words about posture. If you’re in a chair, if you’ve been meditating for a while, come up to the edge of the chair. You can rest in that way, but if you’re new at meditation, you’ve never done it before or you might have some back issues or where you might need a little more support, feel free to sit back in a chair as I am now. Just allowing the back to the back of the chair to support you; that’s what it’s there for.

Either way, feet flat on the floor, your hands can be palm down or palm up, or perhaps even kind of cradled at the belly. I’ll hold them up higher so you can see at the heart center, but also all sorts of palms up or down or cradled at the belly — whichever you prefer. We want to have an alert and awake spine, but not a real stiff soldier spine and also not kind of the American slump spine. So with some dignity, sitting with some honor as if these moments actually mattered, which the present moment is the only thing that does matter, and it’s always that way. It’s just that we miss it a lot. So, feet flat on the floor, and let’s just inhale, bring up the shoulders and then exhale them down the back blades. Again, maybe a deep inhale, relaxing, let your eyes drop closed.

Definitely would kind of coach the cervical spine, the back of your neck, up just a little bit. Sensing vertebrae — between the space between each vertebra, between the discs, and bring your attention somewhere to your breath. For some people, noticing your breath in your belly is most accessible; for others, it might be the base of the nostrils or the throat. So when I say bring your attention there, it’s like I was mentioning before how we can cultivate this mental muscle of mindfulness — this new type of awareness, like a flashlight. Aim that flashlight of your attention now, wherever you can most easily feel your breath. On an inhale, it might help to anchor your attention if you say the words in your mind, since the breath is in and arising, and then the out breath you might gently let out or let it go.

We’re going to spend some moments in meditation, moving from one phenomenon to the next, the first being awareness of your breath. Just this breath. Feel the arising, the inhale. Feel the letting go, the exhale. Just at whatever pace it is — not trying to effort or do anything to change or alter the breath. Feeling, sensing the breath and the qualities of where the breath expands with the body. Noticing some subtle differences between each breath, breathing. Pretty soon, you’ll notice the mind wants to wander to all sorts of things — usually, some type of judgment or thought or like, “Why am I doing this? Am I doing it right? I don’t like this. I do like this.” Whatever the thoughts are, just notice them. Then, like you would bring up feedback when you’re training the puppy, gently with compassion, bring your attention — that flashlight of your attention — back for breath. It’s in the valley or wherever you’re noticing your breath — be in this breath; you don’t get it back.

Be in this moment, this breath; it’s the only time you can be in it. Developing that deeper intimacy with yourself I mentioned earlier. Noticing how you can be in your life in this way, paying attention on purpose, without judgment, in the moment and with compassion. And we’ll turn it, this flashlight of our attention, to sensations. Similar to how we began at the very beginning, but perhaps informed a bit more now. Just noticing what sensations are alive and in your body right now. Some you might like; some of you might be really familiar with that you don’t like — discomfort and pain. Certainly, if you’re sitting in such a way that’s causing pain, you can adjust your posture, but if you’re experiencing discomfort — not the sharp edge of pain — see if you can approach the discomfort. Notice it with curiosity, noticing judgment you have attached to it or strong emotion. Let’s see if you can let that go and just be with the discomfort. Allow it to be here as it is. Breathe with it. It might even be possible for you to even extend a little compassion to discomfort.

Now, we’ll slide the focus of our attention again. This time, we’ll bring it to thoughts. Referencing the Michael Singer quote from earlier, become aware of the thoughts themselves — not so much interested in the content of them, but seeing the proliferation of them. Where do they come from? Notice how a thought, one might be stronger than the other. Call your attention — others might just fade in and out of your field of awareness, much like clouds across the sky. It’s been said that thoughts are like clouds in the sky, but mindful awareness is like the sky itself is big enough to hold all of the clouds, and yet it’s not any one of them. So bringing this metacognitive scene, you notice the thought — a belief, opinion, a judgment, whatever — and when you see it, you might gently note it, name it, judgment.

See it, label it gently, let go of it if you can, return to the breath until you notice another thought.
“Creations of the mind,” Jon Kabat Zinn says, which we take so seriously often. Now, let’s bring our attention to a particular form of kind of a combination of sensations and emotions and thoughts, all combined. Urges, impulses, craving. As you sit, you might notice some urge, some craving or some impulsive thought or desire. Just see it, breathe with it and return to the breath.
Practicing mindfulness is like weaving a parachute; practices eventually weave that parachute. So sometimes, when we’re in a situation in life, we need it and it’s there to save us. So a craving or an impulse could be even just an impulse to itch or scratch or move comes up. Really sit on the exhale as much as you can and rest in your breath.

Finally, we’ll release our attention on that phenomenon. While we could do a more extended practice, aim it at various other phenomena, sounds, emotions, thoughts. More specifically, we’ll just come back to the breath for today, knowing that this has been a healthy introduction or dose of mindfulness meditation, which can require a sustained attention that builds over time. Just settling in on your breath. I do have one reading about meditation to give you. Just let these words kind of fall like a distant waterfall as you continue to bring the primacy of your focus on just feeling your breath, allowing yourself to be in this moment in your breath. Nowhere to go, nothing to do, just breathe. Daniel Goldman writes, “Meditation takes advantage of the mind’s wiring, how we’re wired to wander, and creates an opportunity for mental training.” Researchers at Emory University used brain imaging while people meditated and found four basic moves. You focus on one thing — say, your breath — your mind wanders off.

You notice it wandered, and you shift attention back to that one thing — in this case, breath — again, and you do this over and over again. It turns out that this simple movement of mind strengthens connections among the brain circuits for concentrating; the more you practice, the stronger the connections. This is the basic raft in our mental gym, quite akin to lifting free weights. The idea is not to stop our mind from wandering. The point is to be mindful of its wandering and shift to where you want it to be. In meditation, mindfulness refers to that move where you notice your mind wander. With mindfulness, you monitor whatever and what goes on in the mind, and when your mind wanders, you can bring it back to that one focus.

From here, I’m going to encourage you to exhale and let your eyes come open. We just have a little bit of time left to do another mindfulness practice. You’ll be doing a bit of mindful movement. I’d like to invite you to stand up wherever you are and just bring yourself and wherever you’re standing to inhaling those shoulders up again and exhaling them down the back blades. Bring them up, exhale, release. Before we move, let’s just stand for a moment. Unlock the legs if the knees are locked, and just feel your body rooting up from the ground below. The ankles and the lower legs rise out of the feet, and feet are firmly planted on the floor, providing stability, and the rest of the lower trunk and the upper trunk rises out, head and neck supported on top of the body. Close your eyes for a moment, standing just in stillness. Sense what you notice in your body now. For whatever that is that you’re noticing, let’s just begin with some gentle movement.

We’re going to place our left hand on the left hip and then inhale with the palm up. We’re going to reach for the sky, but exhaling, dropping that left ear down to the left shoulder, right arm over the right ear, noticing sensations here in the right side of the body, the right side of the arm. Then, we’re going to bring that arm back up on an inhale, palm facing out, and feeling each muscle opening, oxygenating through the bloodstream and found in the stretch on the right arm. You bring both arms down to your side, and let’s take that right arm, right hand on the right hip. Again, inhale up, reach toward the ceiling, exhaling, dropping the left, the right ear down to the right shoulder, left arm over left ear. Opening in the left side of the body, the left side of the rib cage, and then inhaling back up, turning the palm out and feeling muscles, ligaments, bones, all opening, releasing, creating space in the body. Now, we’ll drop your chin down to your chest. Just on an inhale, clockwise, we’re going to just make some large circles with the head. Coordinating so that your exhale occurs halfway through the circle, so inhaling the first half of the circle, exhaling second half. Opening on the neck, body. Not trying to achieve anything or effort. Just being with and allowing yourself to read reverse direction, now counter-clockwise. Then, bringing your head and neck back to neutral.

From here, we’re going to do just a little bit of Chi Gong, and Chi Gong’s main focus is to bring energy from the inner to the outer. Let’s begin by just bringing our hands up, right at heart space. On an inhale, we’re going to bring the energy up, we’re gonna exhale down as far as you can with your knees, safely. Then, inhaling back up through the core, releasing down on the exhale at your own pace. Washing the windows. And then, when we get back to heart-center here, we’ll pause for a moment. Those sensations in the body now, and now we’re going to reverse the direction and send the energy down the spine on an exhale, and then gather it back up for the inhale. Exhaling down through the heart space and through the spine, back up.

Then, we’ll drop the hands down at the side for a moment. This movement comes from Thich Nhat Hanh’s council — of entry being really any movement, including walking. Running can be mindfulness practice — done mindfully, a form of meditation of its own. One of these movements that I really like begins with hands right here on shoulders. I find this really helpful for depression, so if you or anyone you know has some heaviness and depression. Like a flower in the morning knows to open, we inhale the petals. On our exhale, when wisdom of the flower knows at night to close, we open and we inhale, open to the sunlight, the energy of the day nourishment. Close on the exhale. We’ll do this maybe two more times at your own pace.
Let’s drop your arms down to your side, and you can shake them out and we will come back to your chairs.

For this final brief practice, we will ground everything that we have looked at today. So we’re going to do just a very brief sitting meditation again. Close your eyes, alert, relaxed spine. Again, to hear the words of one definition of mindfulness, “Paying attention in the moment, on purpose, without judgment, with kindness and compassion.” Notice what you see in your body right now — what you see in your mind and your heart — and whatever you see what your relationship to it is. Is it one of resistance and pushing away? Is it one of grabbing on to the next moment or whatever you like? Or might there be an acceptance of just who you are, how you are, in this moment? Letting be of things as they are. From this place of mindfulness today, might you be able to go forth from this place so that whatever you’re doing comes out of this place of being, rather than the other way around. When you’re ready, you can open your eyes. So, one of my favorite quotes here from Thich Nhat Hanh, from The Art of Power — mindfulness teacher and around forever: “If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life.” It’s so clear. Mindfulness is the energy and practice that helps you go back to the here and now so that you encounter life.

I sincerely thank you for your presence today and would like to make you aware of some things that I’m involved with if you’d care to join me. The first and third Wednesday of every month from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. Eastern, we have a nice group that’s meeting over Zoom for what’s called mindfulness hour, a different theme every week. One week, it might be for newer people; another week, it might be whether you’re new or experienced, the theme is letting go. Another theme could be cultivating the heart. Different theme each time. It’s free. All of these classes are offered free of charge thanks to the cancer support community of Central Ohio, which is actually an international organization that I’m proud to be working with. Also, I am blessed to be working with Ohio Health’s mindfulness program in Columbus, Ohio. And as you can see from this flyer, there is all sorts of mindfulness opportunities going on. I don’t facilitate all of them. I facilitate some of them different times throughout the year, but they are everything available online right now. A very intensive eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program to many breaks you can drop in on over Zoom at various times throughout the week. So, ways to both build and support mindfulness practice. These should all be available for your download if you’d like to see them further.

Finally, I created a loving-kindness meditation about three years ago called “Coming Home to Yourself,” and you can get it pretty much anywhere you can get downloadable music. It’s a loving-kindness practice, particularly for people who struggle with codependency or have difficulty taking care of themselves, even though they might take care of everyone else. So you’re welcome to check that out. There’s a lot of other teachers that would be wonderful to check out online. Jon Kabat-Zinn, I mentioned earlier — Thich Nhat Hanh, I’ve also mentioned. Several of my favorites: Tara Brock, Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield and many others. You can go on YouTube or online and search for their teachings on mindfulness and so many different areas of life.

I would like to thank you for being here today and also say that if you do, there is a Google form for evaluations. I appreciate if you’d fill that out, and it was a question on there for an email sign-up if you’d like to get — about two a month is all that goes out on email from me, with all of these different opportunities and how to connect. I would love to have your information. So, thank you again for being here today, and I’m so thankful for The Recovery Village having me. I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your day and perhaps hopefully a bit more of a mindful one.

Thank you for watching this video. We hope you enjoyed the presentation.

Objectives and Summary:

This webinar will introduce participants to the ancient and timeless path of mindfulness, brought forth in contemporary Western society by way of modern medicine and science. We will touch upon basic tenets of mindfulness, including where, how and why mindfulness practices are applied, as well as ample time for guided exploration of introductory practices involving body, breath, heart and mind.

After watching his presentation, the viewer will:
  1. Gain an introductory understanding of mindfulness and outcomes research of mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) and programs.
  2. Be aware of the ways in which mindfulness practice can help develop alternative responses to stress and how applied mindfulness can cultivate deeper insights and connections somatically, emotionally and in relationships.
  3. Have the opportunity to experience mindfulness practices that are proven to positively impact multiple disease processes.

Presentation Materials:

Welcome to the Community Education Series hosted by The Recovery Village and Advanced Recovery Systems. Hi everyone, my name is Kevin Kraska. I’m a mental health therapist and a mindfulness facilitator based in Columbus, Ohio. Today I’d like to spend some time introducing you to mindfulness, which I’ve been practicing for many years now, and I would have to say the longer I practice mindfulness, the deeper it has informed my life and the way that I live. My hope is to give you kind of a taste or an introduction of mindfulness today. A couple of things that we’ll do: We’ll take just a peek at some of the outcomes research on mindfulness-based interventions and programs. We’ll also look at how mindfulness works and how — when you apply mindfulness — it can both decrease stress as well as deepen connections and insight, connections physically, connections emotionally and connections in relationships interpersonally. I like to say the reason for that is because mindfulness is all about getting to know ourselves more intimately and on a deeper level through mindfulness practices. So I welcome you, and I’m glad you’re here.

What you’ll find we’ll start with (and throughout this presentation) is you’ll be introduced to a couple of different mindfulness practices that are pretty seminal. Ones that both beginners can be introduced to and that you could work with, really, for a lifetime. At this point, if you have any distractions around you, it would be a good time to minimize them — turn off your cell phone for the next 35, 40 minutes to let people know you’re not available. Create a space for yourself to be able to really engage in the practices and in this work of mindfulness. Alright, so welcome. I’d like to begin with a short practice here, so really, you don’t need anything other than where you’re sitting right now. Although if you are in a couch or a chair, bring yourself up to the edge of the chair, the edge of the couch, and just place your feet flat on the floor. Your hands can just rest wherever you’d like them to, and if it feels comfortable to you, close your eyes; I will have mine closed.

If that’s not comfortable for you, just kind of maintain what we call soft eyes, which is eyes mostly closed, keeping your focus just in one place right in front of you. Mindfulness is all about becoming present, so we start by just “sweeping the body,” we’ll call it. Notice your feet on the floor. Notice the feeling. Notice the contact of the feet on the floor. Notice also kind of where your body meets the cushion, where you’re sitting on the chair and the impact of gravity weighing you down. Maybe an awareness of a tactile sense of slight breeze or anything in the room, if you have air moving. Just bringing your attention more to what it is here and now in the body on a sensation level. So, scanning the body and sweeping up from toes all the way up to the head. Noticing other sensations in your body could be comfortable, uncomfortable, full, empty, tight, loose, pain, ease, comfort — not judging anything, but just seeing what’s there noticing it

As you sit now, also notice what’s going on in your thoughts. If your thoughts are like a traffic jam right now, have a to-do list, things that have happened, various stressors. Notice the speed of thoughts — have a lot of them right now, or fewer? Whatever you see is okay. No need to judge. So, pay a little attention to thoughts — just the state of mind right now that you bring to this moment. With curiosity, also noticing now your emotional landscape, so matters of the heart. Is there joy? Is there sadness? Is there anxiety? Peace? A heavy heart or a light heart? Open or closed? Just noticing in this heart, what you bring into this moment — what’s here? Seeing, observing, just noticing — that is at the essence of mindfulness. Also, now you might incorporate sound. Noticing sound — sounds in the room, maybe sounds outside where you are, what room you’re in, sounds of silence. Just hearing. And then, you can take a deep breath and let it out.

Exhale when you’re ready; you can open your eyes. I’d like you to just note one or two things that you are aware of now that you were not aware of prior to that brief mindfulness exercise. I would say for instance, paying attention to sound, I noticed the sound of a noise machine outside the door. Paying attention to emotions, I noticed a bit of a sense of calm resting, and in the body, maybe something you notice. So just taking note of something that you are aware of now you weren’t aware of prior.

So, how do we define mindfulness? I’d like to start first with a look at mindlessness, and I have a couple examples of that that I think everyone can relate to. The first is, most of us who drive have had the experience of driving on autopilot and being on the highway, driving whatever speed, arriving at your destination. You’ve been in thoughts the whole time, and you don’t maybe even remember being on the highway — don’t even remember driving. In those moments, you could say we’re practicing mindlessness of driving. Another favorite example that Jon Kabat-Zinn mindfulness teacher often gives is when you’re in the shower in the morning, are you really in the shower or are you already in your first meeting of the day? Big difference between being present to all of the elements that are there in the moment in the shower, the hot water, the temperature, all of it, versus being lost in thought.

Now, we all go into mindlessness all the time; it’s part of the human experience. It’s not a failure or a bad thing, but with mindfulness, we learn to cultivate a different type of paying attention in the moment. I’ll read a short example from mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh about mindlessness. He writes, “There’s a story in zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man standing alongside the road shouts, ‘Where are you going?’ And the first man replies, ‘I don’t know, ask the horse.’” So this is also our story, and he goes on to say we’re riding a horse and we don’t know where we’re going. Sometimes, we can’t stop that horse — it’s our habit, energy mindlessness pulling us along, and sometimes we’re powerless.

This is a little about me. You can look at that later if you like, but I’ve been practicing for a long time here as a therapist and introducing lots of people to mindfulness. So, back to what mindfulness is not. Some items here: It’s not relaxation spelled backwards, it’s not guided imagery or hypnosis subliminal conditioning. These are all fine practices that are used for a number of reasons, but it’s a common misnomer that mindfulness is about doing something to get a certain outcome, doing a practice to achieve relaxation or peace. Ironically, these often are outcomes that are seen, but they’re not because people are trying to achieve an outcome. Because the moment you’re trying to do something to attain a goal — even though that’s often why people come to mindfulness — you’re out of the moment. You’re not in the moment when you’re thinking and evaluating, “Is it working? It’s not working. Is it working? Maybe it’s working.”

Mindfulness is not a means to an end. It’s being present in the moment. Mindfulness is not something that can be learned quickly in a book. In this 40-minute seminar, you can learn about it, but really it’s a much, much deeper experience that grows and grows over time. As I’ve mentioned earlier, that’s happened in my life and many others. Mindfulness is not about avoiding what we don’t like or holding on to what we do. Mindfulness teaches us the ancient teaching that the root of suffering is attachment and aversion — you know, grasping what we want, pushing away and trying to avoid, self-medicating to get away from what we don’t want. Mindfulness is not about that, and I will add one more thing about what it’s not about. There’s a term that’s recently been coined called “McMindfulness,” which is something to watch out for — facilitators claiming that they can teach mindfulness in one or two sessions or teach how to facilitate it in one or two sessions. In truth, those are really shallow attempts at ancient, fundamental teachings that have been around for thousands of years, and the more you practice, the more you gain a real personal, deeper understanding of mindfulness and then are able to present it at that level in your life with loved ones or with whoever.

Let’s go to what mindfulness is — some good definitions here. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who I mentioned earlier, writes, “Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose without judgment in the moment and with compassion.” I’d like to just break that down for a little bit if we could. Paying attention — first of all, how many of us are paying attention? This as a factor in life is necessary, but how often are we in the moment noticing something without judging it? Without making a good, bad, right, wrong, don’t impression. Mindfulness teaches us to suspend that and see that as a product of mind — of thought — and instead tune in to the raw data of what we’re experiencing. For instance, a sound is just a sound. To one person, it might be really annoying; to another person, it might be comforting to hear it. So we noticed we see the judgment in mindfulness, but we also see what we call the raw data of what’s underneath it — what’s underneath the thought. We do all that in the moment. Not past, not future, what’s really here in this moment, and with compassion. We can often be pretty hard on ourselves, sometimes extending that into being pretty hard on other people.

Mindfulness often puts us in touch with seeing things that require some compassion for ourselves and others. Engaging the moment with compassion, present moment awareness — these are other ways of pointing it where mindfulness is. As I mentioned earlier, observing things as they are without adding the layers to them. It said that when you hit your thumb with a hammer, that’s pain, but all the stories you tell yourself about that, “Why, why did I do it? Is it going to need stitches? How come I can’t be the carpenter like my uncle was? I can’t believe I screwed that up again, now I’ll never get the project finished,” or any sort of things or commentary. That’s the suffering; the pain is just the raw pain of the thumb getting hit by the hammer. Mindfulness and lists are encouraged, and moving toward what is in their lives rather than moving away, stepping toward. It’s also a way of being that ultimately creates space. You may experience this in one of the practices I show you today, but we often live in a very constricted — if there’s anxiety involved, even more constrictive — kind of space where we might feel like there’s just not enough time, no room to move. Trapped. Mindfulness opens that up; you tend to experience more space. Not because we’re trying to make that happen. It just seems to happen.

So, how does mindfulness work? The key word here is regulation. If you look at how many different disorders — both the body and brain — work, they’re related to dysregulation. Dysregulation of attention or emotion or some system in the body somatically. Mindfulness — there’s a term called “steady-state awareness” that a mindfulness teacher, Jack Kornfield, writes about. It really is bringing a new type of awareness in the moment that helps create a more steady state. So if our attention is all over the place, one of the outcomes we often see with mindfulness practice after a while is more regulated attention, and similarly on down the line. The more we’re regulated through mindfulness, the more that changes our perspective of ourselves and how we kind of connect with and regulate our interpersonal relationships and communications. Really how that works — you could say in mindfulness — is we get in touch with what we call phenomena: the breath, the body and things I touched on earlier. Thoughts, emotions, impulses, urges, sounds. We get in touch with these things that we call phenomena and we see, in the moment, what’s our relationship to this sensation in my body right now. What’s my relationship to this difficult feeling I’m having or this stuck thought? Is it one of resistance — trying to push it away, get rid of it — or is it one of moving toward one of accepting? The nature of that relationship is what really affects regulation or dysregulation. So it will look a little bit more at how this mindfulness practice can create resilience in all sorts of disease states and stress areas, even down to a cellular level. I’ll give an example of this in a bit.

Here’s some of the reasons why people seek out mindfulness. They come in with a goal — in some of the courses that I teach, the people come in with a goal. They want to reduce stress, they want to be happier in their life, improve their life, get rid of or decrease certain mood states. Sleep, pain often factor into why people show up for mindfulness training. In general, medical condition or their general health, more self-awareness — these are all reasons people will seek out mindfulness. Now, some of the research outcomes. Before I go into these, I want to give a specific example on a cellular level that I mentioned earlier regarding mindfulness and cancer. I’ve done some work with oncology groups in mindfulness, and in my preparing for those, I found many studies on mindfulness-based interventions and cancer.

One that I’m just want to touch on here is that in 2017, they did a study — looked at 13 studies, a kind of a meta-review out of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine magazine. Over a thousand participants. What they were looking at is what is the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on specific biomarkers, cytokines, neuropeptides, C-reactive protein in both healthy subjects and cancer patients. Basically, what came out of this was greater regulation equals greater resiliency, and less stress equals less inflammatory disease. That’s what I would put over top of this. People who were healthy, who practiced particularly yoga and sitting meditation — they had an increase afterwards of a particular neuropeptide, IGF1, which is a very important biomarker related to cancer prevention and other clinical conditions. They also posed there was a plausible hypothesis that came from this study that mindfulness-based interventions appear to help the immune system to normalize, which increases the production of TH2 cytokines while reducing proinflammatory TH1 cytokines. Those are the ones which can make various treatments of cancer less effective by allowing more cancer cells to evade treatment, and also can increase toxicity of chemotherapy drugs in the organs.

All that to say we know that inflammatory processes in the body create all sorts of issues, and we know that stress creates inflammation. This is where the steady-state awareness I mentioned earlier comes in, or you could say the regulatory function of applying mindfulness. The more regulation we have from practicing, the less stress and greater resiliency we’re going to have, and the less inflammation we’re going to have, which has an impact even down to the cellular level. Now, also in terms of neuroscience, we found that from Psychology Today, a brief piece that came out a few years ago, researchers found that meditators showed a pronounced shift in activity to the left frontal lobe. The meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex, which decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety. So once again, we’re regulating. In this case, brain activity in the lobes, weakening some neural pathways that might not service, as well and creating and strengthening newer neural pathways that allow us more choice. Choice to respond versus react to so much in our lives.

Now, these slides just indicate different conditions that have been impacted by mindfulness, and certainly we won’t go down each one, but you can maintain these slides and look at them later to just see how meditation impacted heart disease, hypertension, chronic pain, on down the line. Similarly, here’s some more: IBS, anxiety, all sorts of disorders, even dermatome. Some of the first research that was done in the medical field on mindfulness was found around dermatological conditions being impacted, which surprised them at the time — pretty well-known now. So, those are some of the outcomes of research.

Now, practice — I promised you some practices in this brief introduction, and I would like to introduce you to two more. The first one we did was a very short version of the body scan, or a body sweep — you could say much briefer than the body scan. Mindfulness meditation. There’s all sorts of different kinds of meditation, and mindfulness meditation is the kind that we’ll focus on today. I have a quote here to read, and just to say a few words about the date from Michael Singer, “The day you decide that you were more interested in being aware of your thoughts than you are in the thoughts themselves — that is the day you will find your way out.” When I considered that, my thoughts went to “find your way out of what?” Again, out of our habitual ways which sometimes has been called habit energy — mindlessness — but finding our way out of habitual ways of how we relate to everything, including our thoughts. We are so used to following and relating, following and being directed by our thoughts, our beliefs, our opinions. You expand that to emotions and body states and impulses and urges. Either craving and attaching to certain ones or pushing away other ones, which causes so much suffering.

In meditation, we begin to kind of tune our attention the way you would tune a musical instrument by aiming our attention like how you could aim a flashlight in one area. We’re aiming our attention toward one of these particular phenomena, and when our mind wanders, we bring it back. That’s the training. I’m going to lead you through an experience of that today. Before we do that, one quote that I love — Zen proverb, “You can’t help that birds will fly over your head, but you can stop them from building nests in your hair.” So when we’re practicing mindfulness meditation, or any mindfulness practice, we’re seeing where we get stuck. We can’t stop thoughts, we can’t stop uncomfortable feelings or sensations — that’s part of the human process of being human. But you can see where we get stuck, and we can shift our relationship in these moments, free us from some suffering in that moment. What I’d like to do with this practice is encourage you, again, to have some words about posture. If you’re in a chair, if you’ve been meditating for a while, come up to the edge of the chair. You can rest in that way, but if you’re new at meditation, you’ve never done it before or you might have some back issues or where you might need a little more support, feel free to sit back in a chair as I am now. Just allowing the back to the back of the chair to support you; that’s what it’s there for.

Either way, feet flat on the floor, your hands can be palm down or palm up, or perhaps even kind of cradled at the belly. I’ll hold them up higher so you can see at the heart center, but also all sorts of palms up or down or cradled at the belly — whichever you prefer. We want to have an alert and awake spine, but not a real stiff soldier spine and also not kind of the American slump spine. So with some dignity, sitting with some honor as if these moments actually mattered, which the present moment is the only thing that does matter, and it’s always that way. It’s just that we miss it a lot. So, feet flat on the floor, and let’s just inhale, bring up the shoulders and then exhale them down the back blades. Again, maybe a deep inhale, relaxing, let your eyes drop closed.

Definitely would kind of coach the cervical spine, the back of your neck, up just a little bit. Sensing vertebrae — between the space between each vertebra, between the discs, and bring your attention somewhere to your breath. For some people, noticing your breath in your belly is most accessible; for others, it might be the base of the nostrils or the throat. So when I say bring your attention there, it’s like I was mentioning before how we can cultivate this mental muscle of mindfulness — this new type of awareness, like a flashlight. Aim that flashlight of your attention now, wherever you can most easily feel your breath. On an inhale, it might help to anchor your attention if you say the words in your mind, since the breath is in and arising, and then the out breath you might gently let out or let it go.

We’re going to spend some moments in meditation, moving from one phenomenon to the next, the first being awareness of your breath. Just this breath. Feel the arising, the inhale. Feel the letting go, the exhale. Just at whatever pace it is — not trying to effort or do anything to change or alter the breath. Feeling, sensing the breath and the qualities of where the breath expands with the body. Noticing some subtle differences between each breath, breathing. Pretty soon, you’ll notice the mind wants to wander to all sorts of things — usually, some type of judgment or thought or like, “Why am I doing this? Am I doing it right? I don’t like this. I do like this.” Whatever the thoughts are, just notice them. Then, like you would bring up feedback when you’re training the puppy, gently with compassion, bring your attention — that flashlight of your attention — back for breath. It’s in the valley or wherever you’re noticing your breath — be in this breath; you don’t get it back.

Be in this moment, this breath; it’s the only time you can be in it. Developing that deeper intimacy with yourself I mentioned earlier. Noticing how you can be in your life in this way, paying attention on purpose, without judgment, in the moment and with compassion. And we’ll turn it, this flashlight of our attention, to sensations. Similar to how we began at the very beginning, but perhaps informed a bit more now. Just noticing what sensations are alive and in your body right now. Some you might like; some of you might be really familiar with that you don’t like — discomfort and pain. Certainly, if you’re sitting in such a way that’s causing pain, you can adjust your posture, but if you’re experiencing discomfort — not the sharp edge of pain — see if you can approach the discomfort. Notice it with curiosity, noticing judgment you have attached to it or strong emotion. Let’s see if you can let that go and just be with the discomfort. Allow it to be here as it is. Breathe with it. It might even be possible for you to even extend a little compassion to discomfort.

Now, we’ll slide the focus of our attention again. This time, we’ll bring it to thoughts. Referencing the Michael Singer quote from earlier, become aware of the thoughts themselves — not so much interested in the content of them, but seeing the proliferation of them. Where do they come from? Notice how a thought, one might be stronger than the other. Call your attention — others might just fade in and out of your field of awareness, much like clouds across the sky. It’s been said that thoughts are like clouds in the sky, but mindful awareness is like the sky itself is big enough to hold all of the clouds, and yet it’s not any one of them. So bringing this metacognitive scene, you notice the thought — a belief, opinion, a judgment, whatever — and when you see it, you might gently note it, name it, judgment.

See it, label it gently, let go of it if you can, return to the breath until you notice another thought.
“Creations of the mind,” Jon Kabat Zinn says, which we take so seriously often. Now, let’s bring our attention to a particular form of kind of a combination of sensations and emotions and thoughts, all combined. Urges, impulses, craving. As you sit, you might notice some urge, some craving or some impulsive thought or desire. Just see it, breathe with it and return to the breath.
Practicing mindfulness is like weaving a parachute; practices eventually weave that parachute. So sometimes, when we’re in a situation in life, we need it and it’s there to save us. So a craving or an impulse could be even just an impulse to itch or scratch or move comes up. Really sit on the exhale as much as you can and rest in your breath.

Finally, we’ll release our attention on that phenomenon. While we could do a more extended practice, aim it at various other phenomena, sounds, emotions, thoughts. More specifically, we’ll just come back to the breath for today, knowing that this has been a healthy introduction or dose of mindfulness meditation, which can require a sustained attention that builds over time. Just settling in on your breath. I do have one reading about meditation to give you. Just let these words kind of fall like a distant waterfall as you continue to bring the primacy of your focus on just feeling your breath, allowing yourself to be in this moment in your breath. Nowhere to go, nothing to do, just breathe. Daniel Goldman writes, “Meditation takes advantage of the mind’s wiring, how we’re wired to wander, and creates an opportunity for mental training.” Researchers at Emory University used brain imaging while people meditated and found four basic moves. You focus on one thing — say, your breath — your mind wanders off.

You notice it wandered, and you shift attention back to that one thing — in this case, breath — again, and you do this over and over again. It turns out that this simple movement of mind strengthens connections among the brain circuits for concentrating; the more you practice, the stronger the connections. This is the basic raft in our mental gym, quite akin to lifting free weights. The idea is not to stop our mind from wandering. The point is to be mindful of its wandering and shift to where you want it to be. In meditation, mindfulness refers to that move where you notice your mind wander. With mindfulness, you monitor whatever and what goes on in the mind, and when your mind wanders, you can bring it back to that one focus.

From here, I’m going to encourage you to exhale and let your eyes come open. We just have a little bit of time left to do another mindfulness practice. You’ll be doing a bit of mindful movement. I’d like to invite you to stand up wherever you are and just bring yourself and wherever you’re standing to inhaling those shoulders up again and exhaling them down the back blades. Bring them up, exhale, release. Before we move, let’s just stand for a moment. Unlock the legs if the knees are locked, and just feel your body rooting up from the ground below. The ankles and the lower legs rise out of the feet, and feet are firmly planted on the floor, providing stability, and the rest of the lower trunk and the upper trunk rises out, head and neck supported on top of the body. Close your eyes for a moment, standing just in stillness. Sense what you notice in your body now. For whatever that is that you’re noticing, let’s just begin with some gentle movement.

We’re going to place our left hand on the left hip and then inhale with the palm up. We’re going to reach for the sky, but exhaling, dropping that left ear down to the left shoulder, right arm over the right ear, noticing sensations here in the right side of the body, the right side of the arm. Then, we’re going to bring that arm back up on an inhale, palm facing out, and feeling each muscle opening, oxygenating through the bloodstream and found in the stretch on the right arm. You bring both arms down to your side, and let’s take that right arm, right hand on the right hip. Again, inhale up, reach toward the ceiling, exhaling, dropping the left, the right ear down to the right shoulder, left arm over left ear. Opening in the left side of the body, the left side of the rib cage, and then inhaling back up, turning the palm out and feeling muscles, ligaments, bones, all opening, releasing, creating space in the body. Now, we’ll drop your chin down to your chest. Just on an inhale, clockwise, we’re going to just make some large circles with the head. Coordinating so that your exhale occurs halfway through the circle, so inhaling the first half of the circle, exhaling second half. Opening on the neck, body. Not trying to achieve anything or effort. Just being with and allowing yourself to read reverse direction, now counter-clockwise. Then, bringing your head and neck back to neutral.

From here, we’re going to do just a little bit of Chi Gong, and Chi Gong’s main focus is to bring energy from the inner to the outer. Let’s begin by just bringing our hands up, right at heart space. On an inhale, we’re going to bring the energy up, we’re gonna exhale down as far as you can with your knees, safely. Then, inhaling back up through the core, releasing down on the exhale at your own pace. Washing the windows. And then, when we get back to heart-center here, we’ll pause for a moment. Those sensations in the body now, and now we’re going to reverse the direction and send the energy down the spine on an exhale, and then gather it back up for the inhale. Exhaling down through the heart space and through the spine, back up.

Then, we’ll drop the hands down at the side for a moment. This movement comes from Thich Nhat Hanh’s council — of entry being really any movement, including walking. Running can be mindfulness practice — done mindfully, a form of meditation of its own. One of these movements that I really like begins with hands right here on shoulders. I find this really helpful for depression, so if you or anyone you know has some heaviness and depression. Like a flower in the morning knows to open, we inhale the petals. On our exhale, when wisdom of the flower knows at night to close, we open and we inhale, open to the sunlight, the energy of the day nourishment. Close on the exhale. We’ll do this maybe two more times at your own pace.
Let’s drop your arms down to your side, and you can shake them out and we will come back to your chairs.

For this final brief practice, we will ground everything that we have looked at today. So we’re going to do just a very brief sitting meditation again. Close your eyes, alert, relaxed spine. Again, to hear the words of one definition of mindfulness, “Paying attention in the moment, on purpose, without judgment, with kindness and compassion.” Notice what you see in your body right now — what you see in your mind and your heart — and whatever you see what your relationship to it is. Is it one of resistance and pushing away? Is it one of grabbing on to the next moment or whatever you like? Or might there be an acceptance of just who you are, how you are, in this moment? Letting be of things as they are. From this place of mindfulness today, might you be able to go forth from this place so that whatever you’re doing comes out of this place of being, rather than the other way around. When you’re ready, you can open your eyes. So, one of my favorite quotes here from Thich Nhat Hanh, from The Art of Power — mindfulness teacher and around forever: “If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life.” It’s so clear. Mindfulness is the energy and practice that helps you go back to the here and now so that you encounter life.

I sincerely thank you for your presence today and would like to make you aware of some things that I’m involved with if you’d care to join me. The first and third Wednesday of every month from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. Eastern, we have a nice group that’s meeting over Zoom for what’s called mindfulness hour, a different theme every week. One week, it might be for newer people; another week, it might be whether you’re new or experienced, the theme is letting go. Another theme could be cultivating the heart. Different theme each time. It’s free. All of these classes are offered free of charge thanks to the cancer support community of Central Ohio, which is actually an international organization that I’m proud to be working with. Also, I am blessed to be working with Ohio Health’s mindfulness program in Columbus, Ohio. And as you can see from this flyer, there is all sorts of mindfulness opportunities going on. I don’t facilitate all of them. I facilitate some of them different times throughout the year, but they are everything available online right now. A very intensive eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program to many breaks you can drop in on over Zoom at various times throughout the week. So, ways to both build and support mindfulness practice. These should all be available for your download if you’d like to see them further.

Finally, I created a loving-kindness meditation about three years ago called “Coming Home to Yourself,” and you can get it pretty much anywhere you can get downloadable music. It’s a loving-kindness practice, particularly for people who struggle with codependency or have difficulty taking care of themselves, even though they might take care of everyone else. So you’re welcome to check that out. There’s a lot of other teachers that would be wonderful to check out online. Jon Kabat-Zinn, I mentioned earlier — Thich Nhat Hanh, I’ve also mentioned. Several of my favorites: Tara Brock, Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield and many others. You can go on YouTube or online and search for their teachings on mindfulness and so many different areas of life.

I would like to thank you for being here today and also say that if you do, there is a Google form for evaluations. I appreciate if you’d fill that out, and it was a question on there for an email sign-up if you’d like to get — about two a month is all that goes out on email from me, with all of these different opportunities and how to connect. I would love to have your information. So, thank you again for being here today, and I’m so thankful for The Recovery Village having me. I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your day and perhaps hopefully a bit more of a mindful one.

Thank you for watching this video. We hope you enjoyed the presentation.

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