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Daily Mindfulness Practice: Lifting Weights


Previous Audio        Next Audio Read: Why Are Meditative Relaxation and Mindfulness Important?

Mindfulness is a practice that will help you develop greater awareness and contentment by being in the present moment. Too often, people are focused either on the past or on the future and do not have a full focus on the present.

Mindfulness is not meant to be relaxation although at times it can be very relaxing, especially while practicing. Mindfulness is developing full awareness of the present even when the present may not be pleasant. Much of the time what makes the unpleasant even worse are the future or past-oriented thoughts negatively evaluating it. When we allow the full experience of the moment, no matter what it is, we allow the natural coping and healing to occur.

The following is part of a series of short mindfulness practice exercises to help train your brain to be more mindful or present focus. They are meant to be used frequently throughout the day. It is difficult to put mindfulness into words because it gives the impression that you should be saying the descriptions of the events to yourself. Actually, however, mindfulness is just being aware of these things without having to describe them. The audios are to help you get started by creating awareness. Eventually, you want to be able to be mindful without an inner verbal description.

Practice these exercises many times throughout the day with your different activities. If your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to your immediate experience.

These audios are not imaginal experiences. It is necessary to actually engage in the behavior described. The audio is for guidance only. You do not listen to the audio while practicing mindfulness. This exercise focuses on experiencing the different sensations when lifting weights. Try this exercise with different weights, at different speeds, for different lengths of time. Lifting weights can be tiring so this can also be useful for developing mindful awareness when you experience muscle fatigue.

Transcript of Audio: Lifting Weights.
Choose a weight that you can lift comfortably a number of times. Notice what the weight feels like when you grab it. Is it cool or warm to the touch? Notice the tension in your hands and your arms as you first lift the weight. What muscles are you using? Allow yourself to fully notice the muscle. As you change the position of the weight notice how the muscle changes as it contracts and as it stretches. Continue lifting the weight repeatedly and notice the changes in your muscle as it becomes more fatigued. Do you feel a “burning” in your muscle? Do you notice other changes in your body? Does your rate of breathing change? Do other muscles become involved as the primarily lifting muscle tires? Lift the weight until your muscle is exhausted and you can't lift anymore. When you put the weight down, do you hear a sound? What is the feeling in your muscle? Does is burn or sting? Do you feel a relief of the tension in your muscle? Allow yourself to fully experience the changes in your muscles as it relaxes after the tension of the lifting. Allow the muscle to completely relax so that it feels the same prior to lifting. Once it does try lifting the weight again and notice how it is different from the first time. You can also try lifting different weights and notice how they affect your muscles and your body.

"When you are in a state of mindfulness you are actually more aware and able to engage in tasks..."

Why are meditative relaxation and mindfulness important?

When I ask clients what they do for daily relaxation I usually get responses such as:

"I relax by watching TV every night."

"I have a glass of wine."

"I read a book."

"I go out with friends."

"I go to the gym and work out."

"I find gardening relaxing."

"I like to fish."

Although each of these activities may be perceived as relaxing and may even have an element of mindfulness, they don't provide the brain and body with the deep meditative relaxation we require. In fact, most of these activities are stimulating to the brain or the body rather than quieting.

What is Deep Meditative Relaxation?

When I refer to deep meditative relaxation, I mean the type that allows our brain to enter an "alpha" state for a period of time. An "alpha" state refers to our brain waves as measured by an EEG. When (non-invasive) electrodes are attached to our heads to measure our brain waves, we find several different types occur depending upon our degree of wakefulness.

The normal state of wakefulness in which we are fully aware and active is shown as "beta" waves. Beta waves on the EEG are very active, not very uniform, and not deep are slow. This makes sense as it is showing that the brain is active which includes thinking as well as physical activity which the brain must direct. So, most of the statements above can be described by a "beta wave state."
lotus flower
When we fall asleep our brain slows down, and the brain waves become deeper, slower, and more rhythmic as we progress through the deeper stages of sleep including theta and delta brain waves. However, when we cycle back into dream sleep or "REM" sleep then our brain approaches the wakeful state of the beta waves because our brain is active during dream sleep.

For most people who don't practice deep meditative relaxation, these are the primary brain waves that they experience. However, with deep relaxation, meditation, hypnosis, and mindfulness people experience the alpha brain wave state as well as the theta brain wave state (Chiesa, 2009; Lagopoulos et al, 2009) which have been shown to have significant health benefits. READ MORE

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