Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Simple Practice

I wanted to return to an earlier post and present again a simple meditation technique that anyone can practice.  It’s called the Twenty Breaths Practice and I learned it at the Penn Program for Mindfulness.  It only takes a few minutes, can be performed almost anywhere, and can yield great stress relief.

Sit comfortably but with good posture.  Let your hands fall naturally onto your legs or into your lap.  Close your eyes.  Focus your mind on your breath and feel the rise and fall of your abdomen.  Begin counting.  On each exhale count one, then two, and up to ten.  Then count exhales down from nine to zero.  Your mind will certainly wander.  Don’t chase your thoughts, just let them go.  You may lose your place.  Just return to a number, to the breath, and continue.  When you reach zero sit for a moment longer, hearing the sounds around you, again sensing your breath.  Then open your eyes.

Try this three times each day for a few weeks.  I stuck with it and found that it helped me to focus and to relax.  If you find benefit from this practice too, come back.   I’ll keep putting up posts to help you deepen your practice.  I do believe that mental illness can be managed, and that mindfulness is key to successfully living with a mental illness.  Thanks for visiting here, and Happy New Year.

“The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will.”
                                                                                                -William James

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Stepping Up

It’s impossible to write a blog about mental illness without confronting the violence that has descended on this country all too often.  Too many innocent victims have fallen at the hands of too many offenders to set the issue aside.  My heart bleeds for the victims lost and the loved ones remaining.  Nothing written can take away the pain of the survivors.  But a call to action may help to prevent such crimes from continuing.

Monday, December 17, 2012

When Do I Start?

We’re getting close to the date when people make resolutions for the New Year.  A great one would be to begin a regular mindfulness practice.  Just a few minutes of mindful meditation each day could set you on the course to wellness and better management of mental, or any, illness.  I’ve written about how to begin, and encourage you to start as soon as possible.

One caveat is presented by Williams, Teasdale, et al. in their book The Mindful Way Through Depression.  If you are currently in the throes of an episode of major depression, you should wait until things are more settled and stable to begin.  I think this applies to an episode of full-blown mania or psychosis as well.  Mindfulness can help us recognize that our negative thoughts are not a true definition of ourselves.  It enables us to focus on non-judgmental awareness of our current situation.  Few things help us to better deal with a mind that drags us down, or alters what we know to be real. But this takes some practice.  This practice is best undertaken when things are relatively smooth.