Extract from Mindfulness in Motion by Tamara Russell.
In BMT (Body in Mind Training) we seek to discover what we can do right now – in the midst of our busy everyday lives – to train our attention, using the moving body as our main learning tool. The face, connected to a complex brain region, is particularly helpful as an area of focus.
The first step in learning how to train our attention is to understand how we can choose to move it around the body, learning as we do so more about what captures our attention. Eventually, it’s possible to gain mastery over our attention system. The following exercise will help you to start training your attention. By engaging with them, you will get to know your body at a much deeper level, as well as learn more about the signature of your mental movements – the times when you allow things other than the bodily sensations to capture your attention.
Let’s practise: mindfulness of the face
This exercise, which should take 5 to 10 minutes, is intended as a formal practice, but actually you could practise it anywhere and at any time: try for five or six times a day (that adds up to 25–30 minutes of mindfulness a day!). You’ll notice that each time you practise, your ability to maintain your focus increases and the exercise becomes easier. Whether you try it at work, on the bus, in the park or at home, slow down and before you begin set your intention as to whether you’re using it as formal attention-training practice or informal ‘checking in’.
1. Sit in a comfortable position allowing your hands to rest on your lap to support the weight of your arms and shoulders. Ideally, close your eyes, but you can leave them open if closing them isn’t safe (if you’re driving, for example). Take three smooth and continuous breaths, setting your intention for your mind to be alert and your
2. Deliberately focus your attention on your forehead. Scan this region with your ‘mind’s eye’, either horizontally (between your hairline and your eyebrows) or vertically (across your forehead from left to right).
3. See if you can feel your eyebrows from the inside – can you determine where they start or stop? Are there more sensations toward the middle of your brows or more toward the outsides? If you can’t feel any sensations at all, slowly raise your eyebrows up and down. Focus on the sensations in your eyebrows as you move them, then stop moving them and focus your attention on them. Keep your focus on your eyebrows, even if sensations are weak or absent.
4. Now attend to your eyes and the region of your face around your eyes, including your eyelids, lashes and eyeballs, and the small muscles around the outsides of your eyes. Can you sense these muscles dropping or relaxing? Focusing your attention on your eyes themselves, do they feel dry or watery? Are they sore or tired? Try some mindful blinking.
5. Move your attention to your cheeks and ears. Can you detect sensations in the fleshy part of your cheek? Can you feel your cheek bones? What can you notice about the sensations on the insides and outsides of your cheeks – focus on one cheek and then the other, observing how you need to shift (orient) your attention to one side or the other. Release and relax the muscles that lie just below your ears, where your jaw begins, allowing your mouth to open slightly if this feels natural.
6. Deliberately move your attention to your mouth and chin. What can you notice that is hard or soft on the inside of your mouth, and then on the outside of your mouth? Can you notice where the inside portion of your lips becomes the outside portion? Where is there moisture? Dryness? Can you detect any difference in the hard sensations of your teeth contrasted with the soft sensations from your tongue and lips?
7. Finally, move your attention to your nose, engaging with the sensations of your nostrils (can you feel the air against them as you breathe?), as well as those of the inside and outside parts of your nose. Finish the exercise by paying attention to three smooth continuous breaths, then open your eyes.
In this exercise you deliberately moved your attention around the face. Next time, try moving your attention from the bottom of your face to the top, or from the left to the right, or even from the front to the back (travelling from your face through your head and brain to the back of your head). The aim is to train your attention to go where you want it to go.
Mindfulness in Motion
Available from Watkins Publishing
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