practices for being in the here and now

Here are 16 mindfulness exercises to help you arrive in the here and now

* Stopping Still
Just stop still. What are you noticing? Are you hot, warm, or cold? Can you notice you are breathing?

 * Weather Wonders

At different times of the day or year, when you are outdoors, stop and close your eyes or avert your gaze. What is the weather on your face? Sunshine, rain, wind, cold or warm? What is here now?

* What’s here?

Look around you and popcorn words for whatever you see in the room you are inside or the place you are outside.

* Belly and Chest Breathing

With one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, what movement can you find in these parts of the body, as you breathe?
Say to yourself: my body breathing this breath right now.

* Simply Be

Pause and move out of doing mode to just be. Noticing what’s here now. Can you just simply be? Sensing the connections of the body against the floor through the feet/legs and through the chair, if sitting down.
Bring curiosity and friendliness in the noticing of this experience of being here.

* Sounds

Listen to sounds. The sounds may be naturally occurring or chosen, such as the emergence of birdsong or traffic noise, or recording of sounds. Just listening to what is heard. Notice sounds as they arise. Notice the length of sounds: long sounds, short sounds. Notice sounds within sounds. Let yourself receive sounds. Notice where sounds land in the body. Notice thoughts triggered by sounds. Be curious about how sounds trigger your thoughts.

* Soles of the feet on the floor

Notice the sensations of your feet on the floor as you stand or sit. Maybe look at your feet or move them, perhaps rocking them side-to-side or back-to-front to help yourself tune into feeling them. Explore whatever sensations and name them.

* Sensing sound

Listen to specific sounds e.g. sirens, bells, waves breaking on a beach, the wind in the trees. Explore the texture of each sound. Move your fingers to sense the music/sound or draw or paint whilst listening to each sound, expressing what you are hearing and feeling.

* Whole Body Breathing

Lying down or sitting on a chair, seeing and feeling where the body moves as you breathe. Can you find any place in the body that doesn’t move, even a little bit, as you breathe? Just breathe normally and just watch and feel things as they are, right now.

* 5-4-3-2-1:

Tuning in to sensing five things we see, four we hear, three we touch, two we taste and one we can smell.

* Are you busy?

Are you busy switching between activities and moving at a fast pace? At a moment of your choosing, stop and observe, experience your busyness. Are you rushing? Are you focused on what you need to do? Noticing what is here now, inside and around you. Pause to feel your feet in this place before continuing what you are doing. What is that like?

** Heart-Focused Breathing.

Focus your attention in the area of the heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual

Suggestion: inhale on five, exhale on five.

Now say to yourself, may I be kind to myself and kind to others. May I have compassion for myself and compassion for others. May I have confidence and joy in myself and be confident and joyful with others.

*** FOFBOC (Feet on Floor, Bum on Chair)

As you sit, begin by bringing your attention to the feet. Really tuning into the sensations of the feet as they touch the floor, noticing what that feels like, which parts of the soles of the feet are in contact with the floor and which are not, exploring and investigating these sensations with patient, kind curiosity.

Now including all the sensations of the feet, noticing what it’s like to be wearing socks and shoes.

Feeling now the weight and the texture of the legs, the lower halves, and the upper halves, really letting yourself explore what legs feel like from the inside.

Now, let your awareness expand up to include the sensations of sitting, tuning in to what it feels like to be in contact with the chair. What does sitting feel like from the inside? How is your weight distributed? Where exactly is the body actually touching the chair?

And now including in your awareness all the sensations in the lower half of the body… almost as if you’re anchored there -Feet on Floor, Bum on Chair-listening to the lower half of your body… receiving its textures as they change moment by moment.

Staying grounded in the lower part of the body.

Now, if you’re comfortable with it you might try including the sensations of breathing in your awareness. Without trying to change your breathing in any way, just notice what it actually feels like. You might notice the movement in the chest or the belly as you breathe in and out, whilst still being aware of the weight of your body in the chair, and the contact of your feet on the floor.

is Feet on Floor, Bum on Chair, but if you find it helpful you might bring your awareness to include the whole of the body as it quietly sits here, breathing. And then, when you’re ready, gently allowing your eyes to open.

*** 7/11

You start, as with a FOFBOC, feeling your feet on the ground…and then expanding to feel all the sensations of the lower half of the body. Then, in your head, count up to 7 as you breathe in, and then count up to 11 as you breathe out. Just breathe how you normally breathe. There is no need to change your breathing in any way.

Fit the numbers to the breath, rather than the other way around.

If you have to speed up the counting in order to get to 7 or to 11 by the end of the in-breath or out-breath, that’s fine.

What this exercise does is to take your focus away from the worry and to place it on the counting and the sensations of breathing.

It may also have the additional effect of lengthening both your in-breath and especially your out-breath. This can have the effect of slowing your heart-rate and taking you more in the direction of a sense of calm.

*** .B (dot-be)
Here is a signature practice from the Mindfulness in Schools Project. It’s called a .b (pronounced ‘dot-be’). It’s a portable practice you can drop into any time. It’s described as follows:

Doing a .b is a quick way to help your brain change mode – from being busy and thinking and doing to sensing/being. The basics of mindfulness are summed up in this practice. Shifting mode, or changing the gear of the mind is the “Core Skill” of mindfulness.

Doing a “.b” is the way to achieve this. It goes like this:
1. STOP whatever you are doing, maybe noticing you’ve been in auto-pilot or caught up in thoughts.
2. FEEL YOUR FEET on the ground. Let this ground/anchor you.
3. FEEL THE SENSATIONS OF BREATHING as it moves through your body.
4. Practise BEING – relaxing into the present moment, BEING HERE NOW.

**** Connect and Redirect: When your child is upset, connect first emotionally, right brain to right brain. Then, once your child is more in control and receptive, bring in the left brain lessons learned, or consequence.

***** Social Media meditation
Find a comfortable, alert, and ready posture. Shrug your shoulders, take a few breaths, and bring awareness to your physical and emotional state in this particular moment. Now open your computer or click on your phone. Before you open up your favorite social media site, consider your intentions and expectations. As you focus on the icon, notice what experiences you have in your mind and body. Why are you about to check this site? What are you hoping to see or not see? How are you going to respond to the different kinds of updates you encounter? By checking your social media, are you interested in connecting or in disconnecting and distracting? Close your eyes and focus on your emotional state for three breaths as you wait for the homepage or the app to open. Opening your eyes now, look at the first status update or photo, and then sit back and close your eyes again. Notice your response—your emotion. Is it excitement? Boredom? Jealousy? Regret? Fear? How do you experience this emotion in the mind and body? What’s the urge—to read on, to click a response, to share yourself, or something else? Wait for a breath or two for the sensations and emotions to fade, or focus on your breath, body, or surrounding sounds, perhaps with a mindful moment practice. Try this practice with one social media update, or for three or five minutes, depending on your time and your practice. Technology does not define us, despite social media trying to put us into categories and reduce us to a series of likes and interests. A Zen koan asks, “What did your face look like before you were born?” Today we might ask, “What did your Facebook page look like before you signed up?” It’s the deep question of who you really are, beyond a series of quantifiable interests and algorithms. Examining and changing our own relationship to technology opens the door for us to teach through example and to practice new ways of making technology spiritual. We can even consider ways to make spiritual technology for the young people who are growing up natives in the connected world.

***** Single Task:
With your eyes open or closed, place one finger gently in the center of your forehead. Just feel your finger against your forehead. And feel the sensations of your forehead against your finger. You might notice temperature, texture, moisture, even detect your pulse. Stay with this awareness a moment longer. If the mind wanders, just gently bring it back to the sensation of your finger on your forehead. Then open your eyes, take your hand down, and notice how you feel.

Books worth checking out:

Stephen Porges. The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) 1st Edition

Kirke Olson. The Invisible Classroom: Relationships, Neuroscience & Mindfulness in School (The Norton Series on the Social Neuroscience of Education) Illustrated Edition

Louis Cozolino. The Social Neuroscience of Education: Optimizing Attachment and Learning in the Classroom (The Norton Series on the Social Neuroscience of Education)

Daniel Siegal & Tina Payne. The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind

Oren Ergas. Reconstructing 'Education' through Mindful Attention: Positioning the Mind at the Center of Curriculum and Pedagogy

Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World

Rollin McCraty. Transforming Stress for Teens: The HeartMath Solution for Staying Cool Under Pressure

Jan Chozen Bays. How to Train a Wild Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness

References for mindfulness exercises:

* 'The Present' curriculum. Copyright, 2018, Silverton, Dorjee and Sawyer

** 'Transforming Stress for Teens': the HeartMath solution for staying cool under pressure'

*** .B Curriculum, the Mindfulness in Schools Project.

**** 'The Whole-Brain Child', Siegel & Payne.

***** Growing Up Mindful: Essential Practices to Help Children, Teens, and Families Find Balance, Calm, and Resilience, Christopher Willard

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