The inspiration for the reflection this week came from another one of my classes, Psychotherapy and Counseling. In class, our professor taught us about the therapy technique mindfulness based stress reduction. This program assists people in learning how to love more fully in the present rather than ruminating about the past or being overly concerned about the future. The skills taught in the practice include sitting in meditation and mindful yoga, aimed at cultivating mindfulness. It is ideal for cultivating greater awareness of the unity of mind and body, as well as the unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that often undermine emotional or physical health. Research has shown that the meditation this therapy utilizes has been shown to positively affect physiological processes, like lowering blood pressure and reducing emotional reactivity. Also, the yoga used in MBSR helps to reverse the prevalence of atrophy from sedentary lifestyles, or pain from chronic illness. In this way, MSBR can be used for many people suffering from many different ailments. Overall, this therapy emphasizes experiential learning and self-discover.
After learning about mindfulness, I wanted to experience its effects first hand, so I decided to try a meditation exercise that I found on Youtube. I closed the door to my bedroom, turned off the lights, and sat on the floor. The soothing voice of the narrator talked me through how to sit comfortably and close my eyes. As I listened, I was instructed to listen to my breathing and focus on my inhales and exhales. When I noticed my thoughts drifting to plans, worries, daydreams, I was reminded to center on my breathing again in that moment. I was guided to feel the pressures on my body, and how in interacted with the floor and with other parts of me. The narrator asked me to imagine my worries and anxieties in my soul, and not to try to push them away. Instead, I was to see how they fit in and just let them be, acknowledging their presence. Even when I experienced discomfort, I was directed to stay with that discomfort, and really try to understand it. I was never asked to change anything I was thinking or feeling, but just be aware of myself at the present moment. The purpose was not to make myself feel better, but to becoming better at feeling.
During this exercise, I felt very much at peace. It was difficult at first to not control my thoughts and stay in the moment. However, it began to get easier for me to feel the sensations of my body without trying to manipulate them or turn them into something else. As this started to happen, I felt as if I was growing taller. It is a difficult experience to describe, but I felt like my back was straightening, vertebrae by vertebrae, and I felt no pressure on my joints at all. I am inclined to describe this ‘light’ feeling as the beginning of flowing out of my body. After opening my eyes, I felt much calmer and at peace. My mind was not racing like it often does, and I had a great feeling of awareness. I was aware of the sensations of my body, but at the same time I felt separate from it. In that separation was knowledge and openness. Unfortunately, as soon as I began to think about other things, I lost this feeling of utter relaxation. However, this technique can be very useful in the future and hopefully I can begin to utilize these exercises when I feel disconnected from myself. I look forward to learning more about mindfulness and practicing it regularly!