Mindfulness of the Breath ……
Here you can try an exercise that will walk you through the four stage mindfulness model that was used to inform the sewing practices in the Weaving a New Story project. If you are not standing in front of the amazing Exhibition at Guy’s Hospital Atrium 1 right now, please go and check it out! The Atrium is open to the public.
You can also join the #whatismindfulness Facebook page where you will find postings to inspire you to explore mindfulness in all areas of your life.
The diagram below shows how we used the sensory feedback from the sewing as the primary object to train focused attention. Participants were asked to focus on the colour and textures of the fabrics, the speed and force of the sewing movements, and the creative intention.
Of course, the mind wanders (as it can do when we are doing any focused attention task). When we are in the creative mode, much of that mind-wandering relates to comparing our work with others, judging ourselves against some internal or external standard, or just getting lost, thinking about other stuff.
On noticing this (either independently, or with the help of some guidance from a facilitator), the task is to release from that chain of thought and re-focus on the sewing experience.
This process trains the same three neural networks that we need to engage to develop mindful awareness – the attention network (focusing attention), the default mode network (when we starting thinking about “stuff”) and the salience network (the network that alerts us to the fact we are no longer focusing on the thing we intended).
We re-engage the attention network by checking in with our intentions and then gently but firmly get back to the task at hand. Just the color, just the texture, just the sound of the needle “popping” through the fabric.
This is the exact same sequence of events that happens in any focused attention mindfulness practice, including mindfulness of the breath. The creative application allows a softer entry point to engaging with judging, comparing and mind-wandering of any sort. It has the additional bonus of producing beautiful pieces of art. A living manifestation of that mindful movement/moment.
The Four Stage Model as Applied to Mindfulness of the Breath
Mindfulness of the breath is a common starting point for many meditation and contemplative traditions. You cannot attend to a breath from the past or the future, so if you are observing or attending to your breath then you are in the present moment.
Looking at the diagram below you can see that we start with the intention to attend to the breath. Two seconds later the mind wanders, then after some time, we notice the mind has wandered. Then we have a choice…stay with what the mind wants to do, or re-engage the attention network, drop the thinking chain and get back to the breath. Being with BREATH was the intention, not thinking about breath or analysing breath, or changing breath, or thinking about emails/future/past. Just pay attention to the breath. Sounds easy, but is actually quite a challenge.
You can read more about this model in Dr.Tamara Russell new book #whatismindfulness.
Try a mindfulness of the breath exercise here.
Or this short Alert/Relaxed Body in Mind Meditation here