In speaking to clients in counseling, as well as students in yoga, one of the subjects that has come up several times as of late is that of mindfulness. I get questions about how to stop ‘racing thoughts’, how to ‘be here now’, and how to ‘worry less’. My answer to all of these is usually to begin with grounding techniques on our way to a mindfulness practice.
If we were to define what a grounding technique does, it brings the practitioner back to the present moment and to exactly what they are experiencing in that moment. I doubt I would be wrong in stating that everyone, at some point, has experienced what I call an “Out of Body Experience“. Wait, not the kind you think. I am referring to those times when our body is in one place, but our minds are miles away thinking, worrying, planning, or just wrapped up in something else. Some people seem to be living in this state.
You should also know that when we attempt to be mindful and fully present to every moment, our minds will jump around and try to distract us. The moment we sit for quiet meditation, the brain amps up and thinks of random errands, items for the grocery list, magnificent ‘what if’ scenarios, etc. In yoga, we call this “chitta vritti” or monkey mind.
To remind myself to be present and to avoid an OoBE (Out of Body Experience), I have been using an affirmation that came out of a Yoga for Balancing Mood training I led at a YogaFit Mind Body Fitness Conference recently. It works perfectly for me and you may like it too:
I am where my feet are.
Matt Tenney, co-author of The Mindfulness Edge, points out that mindfulness can be practiced on the walk to the bathroom. It doesn’t have to be a big production, ya’ll. He states that as we are walking to the bathroom, if we ask, “Am I awake in this step?”, “And now am I awake in this step?”, that we can mindfully walk to the bathroom in wakefulness. He also reminds us that situations are neutral, but our thoughts about the situation can make it nearly unbearable. His example is of sitting in the car in a traffic jam. He points out that it is really the same as when we choose to sit in the car voluntarily- maybe just to take a break, but that we so often assign negative thoughts to the situation when we don’t choose it, making it into a negative experience.
Simply by grounding ourselves into the present moment, changing our perspective, and taking a few big breaths, we can totally change our experience.
The following grounding techniques may help to provide a time-out from thoughts and help you to tune in to this moment:
- Close your eyes and take several deep breaths, noticing how the air feels as it enters and exits through the nostrils, how your breath sounds, and how your body feels as it expands and contracts with the breath.
- Look around the room you are in and list every color you can see in your head.
- Feel every texture you can find in the room.
- Check in with your senses: list 1 thing you can taste, 2 things you can smell, 3 things you can hear, 4 things you can feel physically on your body (ex. I can feel my watch on my wrist), and 5 things you can see.
- Close your eyes and see how many different things you can hear both internally and externally.
- Following the previous technique, when you open your eyes, imagine that they are movie cameras and your assignment is to record every detail of the room you are in- every texture, color, angle; notice the ceiling, the walls, the floor, etc.
This week, try to be awake. Ground yourself. Tune in to what you are feeling and check-in with where you are. I will be reminding myself to ‘be where my feet are’ right along with you.
Talk again soon,