Mindfulness Week 3: The Mouse in the Maze


I feel quite zen today writing this. A little sad, for reasons I won't go into, but fairly zen. This week has been fast and slow all at once, which I don't even really understand myself. I feel like I've barely done any meditation although I've stuck to the regiment almost exactly this week, but work and personal issues feel as though they've been going on for weeks. I'm exhausted, but I'm strangely at peace with it. Stress and worry and a hundred other things will bubble up to the surface, but I'm slowly learning the ability to breathe with it, understand what I'm feeling, assess what I can or can't do about it right now, and proceed accordingly.

 In that regard, this week has been a huge breakthrough for me. I'm really, really impressed with this book and quite proud of myself too.


 I had three whole meditations to do this week, plus a habit releaser. Two of the meditations didn't have a specified amount of times to be done, but I've been doing them every day to great success. The first is called Mindful Movement, and I've personally never equated meditation with movement so I was a little surprised by this one. It's a eight minute long series of stretches to relax your body and makes you aware of the sensations that stretching and not stretching create in our bodies. The immediate desire is to stretch as hard as you can, under the assumption that this will garner a better experience.
 ….that just sort of ends up hurting.
The important thing is just to move with the flow, be mindful of what your limit is and just listen to your breathing and your heartbeat and how you feel right then, even if that feeling is discomfort.

The second meditation was called the Breath and Body meditation, again eight minutes long, and it's supposed to be done directly after the Mindful Movement meditation. This one is about sitting still and practising being able to focus your thoughts. The audio direction is mostly full of long stretches of silence and little direction, other than to be aware of your body and your thoughts. It's very easy to get distracted and inwardly focused in these moments, but each time it's easier not to beat yourself up about it or want to quit. This is another one that allows you to explore discomfort, to understand what you're feeling and “breathe into” the part of you that is uncomfortable. The guidance in all of these different meditations over the weeks talks a lot about “breathing into” parts of the body. I interpret this as concentrating on this part of your body, imagining that you could fill it with air like you do your lungs and sort of imagining the sensation of that.

The final meditation is called the Three Minute Breathing Space, and this was specifically supposed to be done twice a day. This is my favourite of the meditations, and maybe the best little tool I will take out of this whole experience. It's designed for those high stress moments when we tend to forget all the relaxation techniques we may have learned in our lives. If you feel tense, panicked, angry, painfully sad, stressed or any overwhelming emotion this short exercise can bring you back to a more bearable level and all you have to physically do is breathe. In terms of what you're meditating on and your awareness it follows an hourglass shape. For the first minute you consider all your emotions, your thoughts, the “weather pattern” of your mind at that moment. The second minute narrows your focus down to nothing but your breathing, and the third widens the focus to the sensations in your body, your posture, your facial expression and the feelings on the surface of your skin and deeper. I have no idea how it works exactly, but it's incredibly effective at grounding you in a particularly volatile state of emotion.

Again, I won't go into detail, but there were some moments this week where I felt like I might just burst all together. There was one particular moment where I was so emotional I didn't feel like I would be able to get into work that morning. I used the Three Minute Breathing Space, attempted to mindfully get dressed and get ready for work, and walked rather than getting the bus. By the time I got to the door the emotions had not subsided necessarily, but I was coping with the feeling and ready to face the day. It honestly felt like magic, but it was that I was accepting my emotions rather than trying to fight them. The fighting and worrying and “why can't I just stop feeling this way” are what cause the pain.

Habit Releaser 

The habit releasing activity for this week is one I'm practising today. It was intended for television, the premise being to only have the television on when there is a programme you specifically want to watch on. Rather than using the television passively as a distraction or something to have noise on in the background, you actively use it as a source of entertainment, and turn it off when you have other things to. I don't really watch television so this would not have really had the desired effect, so I'm doing this with the internet. The internet is off on my phone, and if I don't need to check or look up anything the browser on my computer will stay off. The urge to constantly check social media as a distraction is lessened, and with nothing but music on I'm able to focus more on writing. I'm enjoying it so far, and I can see the relevance of the exercise in relation to the theme of this week.

The idea of “the mouse in the maze” references the way we run in circles and get nowhere when our minds are closed to other perspectives. We push and push at a problem we have rather than taking a step back and reviewing the whole situation, letting the things we want to happen happen rather than always pushing for them. It seems passive, but often it is the least stressful means of approaching a problem. If you can't force it: don't, let it be.

This constant pushing and worrying can exhaust us, therefore increasing the tense, trapped feelings in us and encouraging panic rather than solving anything. I learned that with the meditations this week especially, that taking a moment to assess your stress can put things into perspective. You stop thinking “I NEED to be happy and snap out of it”and start thinking “this is my objective, these emotions are here, if I focus on my objective and not fighting these emotions I can get to it quicker”.


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