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: Feeling Helpless
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.
Be sure to listen to or read Understanding Mindfulness: Step 3--Mindfulness and Unpleasant Emotions
prior to practicing this
audio exercise. This exercise is to help you develop tolerance of emotions. The audio provides guidance for being mindfully present with helplessness. However,
the actual practice of mindfulness is to allow yourself to be fully aware of your experience when feeling helpless. Although trying to create the emotion of
helplessness would not be mindful, it may be possible to create the conditions that might cause you to feel helpless. If it is not reasonable to create the conditions for helplessness to occur, you need to be aware of when you might feel helpless so as to practice mindfully experiencing it.
Transcript of Audio: Feeling Helpless.
Allow yourself to fully experience the feeling of helplessness. But instead of trying to get rid of this feeling by doing something, just let yourself “be” with the experience of helplessness. When thoughts about the helplessness come into your mind, refocus yourself to the actual experience of the sensations associated with helplessness. Notice how you experience helplessness. What does it feel like it? Where do you experience it in your body? Does your body feel tired/fatigued? Do you feel agitated? Is your breathing faster or slower? Do your muscles feel tense or heavy? Allow yourself to fully experience whatever the sensations might be for you. When thoughts of demanding things should be different or blaming yourself or others come into your mind, allow those thoughts to be and refocus back to the sensations you experience with helplessness. Let the sensation of helplessness flow over you without the demands or blame. Let yourself “be” with the feeling of helplessness however you might experience them.
"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
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