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.
Daily Mindfulness Practice: Drifting to Sleep
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 when you are drifting off to sleep. It may seem odd to be aware when your awareness is decreasing, but it
is an interesting experience. Some people find it even helps with falling asleep.
Transcript of Audio: Drifting to Sleep.
As you are falling asleep, notice the changes your body goes through. Notice the feel of the pillow, the bed, or the chair that you are on. Allow yourself to get in a comfortable position. Notice how your breathing slows down. Notice each breath becoming slower and slower. Notice how your body begins to relax. Feel the sensation of relaxation flowing through your body. Notice the feeling of sleepiness and your body becoming heavier as you drift off more and more. Notice how it becomes more and more difficult to be aware as you become sleepier and drifting off to sleep.
"When you are in a state of
mindfulness you are actually
more aware and able to
engage in tasks..."
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
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
Copyright © 2010 by Excel At Life, LLC
Permission to reprint this article for non-commercial use is granted if it includes this entire copyright
and an active link.