Mind won’t stop ruminating? Take your shoes off to encourage a state of mindfulness

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A state of mindfulness is when you are entirely in the present moment… this means that 100% of your attention is on your sensory, cognitive, and emotional ‘unconditionally accepting’ observations of the moment that is happening (as opposed to being distracted by focusing your attention on the past or the future). To encourage a state of mindfulness I often try and remove anything that would be an obstacle or a distraction from the present… sometimes my shoes are such a distraction… so I remove them and free my feet to observe the present moment.

When I take my shoes off I must focus on my present surrounding so as to not avoid injury… there is intention to my steps… patients. If I am to get too caught up on my destination I will surely be left with blisters… and so with my shoes off I pay attention to the tactile wonder of walking…

I find myself walking in the environment… instead of simply walking through the environment.

The path gains intrinsic value… I take interest in each step

Sometimes it will be uncomfortable on your feet… walk slower… learn to appreciate the fact that you are able to feel a diversity of sensations.

 I never hike with cell phones, music players, work etc… many have asked if I think that it is dangerous to not have a cell phone… I believe that it is quite dangerous to always be with one… it is a buzzer that can force you away from your current setting at any point… stress is dangerous… peace and mindfulness is healing and wonderful.

I hiked my first 13er barefoot this year (I brought boots just in case).

I was so much more in tune with the mountain.

Life slows down… happiness replaces ruminations…

My feet are free… my mind is free

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Mindfulness Exercise – notice your senses without judgment =54321 present

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Quick overview: I will be offering my favorite mindfulness exercise that will help you to get into the present moment (as opposed to being in your head, which is usually concerned with the past and the future). The technique is very simple and I call it the senses 5 4 3 2 1 – it probably has many different names (I did not develop it). The point is to try and observe or to notice what your senses are sensing without placing judgment on the stimulus. I tend to use sight, tactile (feeling), and hearing… smell and taste can also be used in more specific settings. You will start by listing 5 things you see, then 5 things that you feel, then 5 things that you hear – then 4 of each… then 3 of each etc.

You can do this exercise anywhere and I prefer to do it in nature. 

I have blog posts concerning why a mindfulness state is great for wellness – click on the mindfulness category to your right and the articles will pop up.

Start by engaging in a breathing exercise (read my blog on breathing if you would like more information)

  • Take a deep breath in for about 5 second and a breath out for about 4 seconds (or whatever taking deep breaths means to you).
  • Notice the feeling of the air as it passes down your throat.
  • Feel the air as it glides in and out of your nose.
  • Let you abdomen (stomach) expand to take in a belly full of air.
  • Notice the touch of your clothes on your skin as your body expands and contracts with your breathing. 

It is your choice in relation to what words your mind uses as you notice a sense. There is no correct way to notice your senses – you are simply asked to notice without placing your individual beliefs, thoughts, feelings, opinions, judgments and/or other automatic reactions etc on the sense.

  • Your words can be sounds.
    •  For wind I often say ‘whhhhshhhuu’ in my head instead of ‘wind’.
  • You can state the color or another objective adjective instead of the object.
    • Ex. you could say ‘green’ or you could say ‘leaf’ for the same stimulus.
  • You may acknowledge without labeling – for feelings I visualize where I am having a sensation without adding an internal narrative
    • Ex. I will visualize my hair instead of saying “wind rustling my hair.”
  • You can be as specific or as un-specific as you choose.
    • you may say ‘ten foot aspen tree with autumn colors’ or simply ‘tree’
  • When judgments and unwanted thoughts pop up… allow them to be… do not resist them… they will pass.

 

Seeing – Let your eyes scan the environment and list 5 things that you notice without using judgments or other descriptors which are more influenced by your subjective perception (the way you individually and uniquely view the world ex. good is more subjective while ‘purple’ is more objective).

–         Example: tree, blue, little bird, my dog, and path

–         Remember to continue to breath and if a judgment or an unwanted thought comes into your mind – notice it without resistance… as the thought arrived without reason so will it leave without reason if you kindly allow it to be.

 

Tactile (feel) – Let you awareness turn to what you literally feel (ex. wet, dry, hot) as opposed to what you emotionally ‘feel’ (ex sad, glad, mad). Notice 5 things that your body is sensing.

–         Example: wind on forehead, pulse in my foot, tightness of my belt, moisture in my hair, and dry air on the top of my mouth.

–         Remember to continue to breath and if a judgment or an unwanted thought comes into your mind – notice it without resistance… as the thought arrived without reason so will it leave without reason if you kindly allow it to be.

Audible – turn your awareness to what you hear – sounds in your presence. List 5 things that you hear.

–         Example: the wind rustling the tree, my dog breathing, the crickets hopping in the grass, the air leaving my lips, and the snow falling from the tree.

–         Remember to continue to breath and if a judgment or an unwanted thought comes into your mind – notice it without resistance… as the thought arrived without reason so will it leave without reason if you kindly allow it to be.

 

You can do this with smell and taste… you will often have to set up the situation differently.

  • Example – eat something and notice its’ different tastes, the texture, the water content – etc.
  • Example – open your refrigerator and close your eyes while smelling some of the food that you have.

 

You may now continue the exercise this time notice 4 things for each of the three senses…then notice 3 things each… then two…. then one… you are done.

You may use the same sense twice or more if you so desire (you are not required to come up with 45 different senses though you could)

You have just spent a little bit of time doing your breathing exercises –which have been studied to have significant positive impacts on your health (many studies say just 15 minutes a day has a statistically significant positive impact).

You just spent time focusing on the current moment and your current surroundings.

 

You just learned how to give yourself a moment to notice and to give full appreciation to your senses – sometimes your body knows how you are emotionally feeling before you are aware of those feelings.

You just gave your mind something to do so that you could stop ruminating, or thinking about the past and the future for a little while.

 

How do you feel? Perhaps it is hard to articulate what a mindful state feels like… is wellness present?

 

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.