By observing the unfolding of your movements and sensations, you can train yourself to stop negative emotions in their tracks.
Practising mindful movement trains your brain to become more sensitive to the sequencing of mental and physical events in your body. For example, try mindful walking and notice how it takes you moment by moment through time: ‘First I shift my weight onto the right foot, then I lift the left foot, then I swing the left leg, then the left foot touches the floor …’ and so on. The more we practise walking mindfully, the more we engage fully with every moment.
We can also experience bodily sensations on a moment-by-moment basis, and these too give us a vehicle through which we can watch time unfold (for example, first the sensations of sitting in the seat of a chair, then of your back against the chair, then of the tactile sensations of your clothing, then of the temperature of your skin and so on). If you can practise this level of mindfulness regularly, you may be able to develop the ability to distinguish increasingly fine detail in the timing and sequencing of your mental events. And once you can do this, you’ll be in a position to catch unwanted habitual negative thoughts earlier in their development, so that you can eventually eliminate them altogether from your thinking.
This exercise helps you to notice the passage of time by observing how your breathing triggers a sequence of sensations in your body. You can practise the exercise anywhere and at any time, but it is most effective when you’re sitting or lying down and if you can practise for 5–10 minutes.
1 Focus on your torso (the region between your neck and tummy). Tune into any sensations you feel moving through you in this area.
2 Breathe in, and out, at whatever pace your breath is right now. Follow any sensations and movements in your torso. Where do you feel your breath as you breathe in – in the first instant, in the second and so on? What movement do you feel and where, moment by moment, as the breath moves through you? Close your eyes and connect to the movements and sensations in your body.
3 Place one hand on your chest and one on your tummy. Continue to breathe at whatever pace is natural to you. The breath may slow but it doesn’t have to do so for this or any of the other exercises. Move your awareness from the movement of your breath to the movement of your hands as they rise and fall. Now, focus on the movement of your breath through the front and back of your torso.
Mindfulness in Motion
Available from Watkins Publishing
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