Which mindfulness measures to choose to use?

Asked by Anonymous

Mindfulness is the practice of just being in the moment, embracing what is instead of what was or what will be.  There are various ways mindfulness can be implemented, including focusing on elements of experience within the body, outside of the body or a combination of both. 

Popular methods that focus on internal perceptions and bodily sensations are typically breathwork and body scanning.  Breathwork involves focusing on the sensations of inhaling and exhaling, whereas body scanning is about slowly noticing feelings occurring in the body from head to toe.  Focusing on the body and breath is usually best suited for those most comfortable with being internally receptive or those who would benefit from enhanced awareness of bodily feelings (i.e., building awareness of hunger signals, connecting to the self, etc.).  Sometimes focusing inward allows for a sense of grounding or stability in situations or circumstances in which external aspects of the environment are too overwhelming or bring stress.

Connecting to elements outside the body may be more helpful or appropriate for other people.  Practices here may include tuning into sounds, smells, sights, etc., bringing awareness to the external vs. internal environment.  Some people are not ready to confront feelings and emotions that can arise in focusing on the body, so putting the spotlight on the environment can be a helpful adaptation to being mindful.  Because there are so many things outside of us to pay attention to, the directions this technique can go in are endless. 

For some, a combination of both can be used and/or effective in connecting to the present moment.  No matter what process is used to implement mindfulness, the person should feel safe (enough) to use it without feeling destabilized or panicked.  One of the great things about mindfulness is that you can adapt it in any way you choose—so if you are worried about what it may feel like, you can start by using it in small increments (around 1-2 minutes) to test the waters.   If it feels doable, you can continue to use it however it feels best.  If it feels unsafe or overwhelming, you can either modify how you use it or use a different technique altogether.  You always have the power to choose what fits your life best!