The Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 Minutes a Day to Less Stress, More Peace

The Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 Minutes a Day to Less Stress, More Peace

by Dr. Patrizia Collard

Dr. Patrizia Collard is a psychotherapist, stress management consultant, and lecturer at the University of East London.  She writes, “The goal of any mindfulness practice is simply to experience life as it unfolds. To stay present and calm and not slip back into thinking/worrying mode, we choose an anchor of awareness—a point of focus we direct our mind to.”

“Mindfulness is being aware of or bringing attention to this moment in time deliberately and without judging the experience. So, when we go for a mindful walk we really notice every little detail and all we encounter—trees, cars, flowers growing out of small cracks, or a cat crossing the road—rather than creating to-do lists.”

“When we procrastinate and distract ourselves with ‘busyness,’ we avoid engaging with the real thing—our lives… Living in the moment, and seeing everything afresh without judgment and worry lets us experience life rather than simply get through it.”

“Simple mindfulness practices engage the mind and the body, helping you let go and slowly bringing you back to a sense of equanimity and peace.”

A recurring theme is awareness of our breath. “By observing your breath, you can make such a difference to how you feel… Breath is life energy. When we restrict our breathing we diminish our life energy. Feeling agitated and indecisive is often accompanied by shallow breathing… Deep breathing expands the lungs which then send a direct message to your heart, which in turn starts beating slower.”

As part of an exercise called the Table Top, Collard writes, “When inhaling, open your toes like a flower opening to the sunshine. When exhaling, scrunch your toes as if the flower is closing.” For an exercise called Body Scan, Collard instructs, “When you become aware of any tension or other intense sensation in a particular part of the body, ‘breathe into it’ and, as best you can, have a sense of letting go, or of releasing, for the duration of the out-breath.”

The book also includes an exercise called Tune In. “Gently close your eyes… Allow sounds to enter your awareness and to let them pass, like clouds passing by in the sky: sounds from near and far, coming and going. Let go of labelling sounds—a car, a bird, and so on—because as soon as we label, we tend to get involved in stories, which trigger our left (thinking) brain, rather than our right (feeling) brain. All you need to do is be present to sound… You may notice thoughts arising. This is the nature of the mind; it tends to get busy, even when we don’t want it to. So, whenever you notice the mind wandering, gently and without judgment return your awareness, your mindfulness, to simply listening.”

“Each meal of the day can be a call to mindfulness and gratitude. If possible, and without a sense of duty, recall how many steps were necessary to create, for example, the lovely soup in the bowl in front of you. Freely connect to the gardeners who planted and harvested the vegetables, the potter who created the bowl, the cook who prepared the meal. Really taste the dish and see whether you can guess how many ingredients went into it. The simplest meal can become a feast with a little ‘dash’ of awareness.”

“Communicating with others is another wholesome part of the practice. Listen to yourself answering the phone or having a conversation. Are you mindful of how you speak and listen, giving space to the other person and choosing words with honesty but without the need to win or score points?”

“Gratitude and appreciation help us turn towards joy and gladness, which create chemicals of well-being and peace in our whole body. Studies show that the regular practice of gratitude and appreciation, including writing down experiences you feel grateful for, can lead to better health, less stress and a more optimistic outlook on life.”

“When the day is coming to an end, you may want to note down in a diary your ‘EGS’ of the day: what did you Enjoy today, what are you Grateful for and what are you Satisfied with? This could be something as mundane… Just a little action is enough.”

Dr. Collard lists several benefits of mindfulness practice:

  • Increased experience of calm and relaxation
  • Higher levels of energy and enthusiasm for living
  • Increased self-confidence and self-acceptance
  • Less danger of experiencing stress, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, addiction or low immune efficiency
  • More self-compassion and compassion for others and our planet.

Mindfulness can “return our awareness to the childlike curiosity we all had when we were young. We may experience once again the wondrous qualities of natural life: a blade of grass, clouds in the sky, the taste of a delicious strawberry, the importance of surrounding ourselves with friends and others who care deeply for us. We remember all of a sudden that it is these little moments that are the true wonders of being alive. These glimpses of joy really matter, because they connect us to life rather than split us from it.”

“Mindfulness is an attitude rather than a skill. Whenever we feel we have reconnected to the old treadmill of ‘autopilot,’ we may choose, if we wish, to step out and start again, making our everyday lives more pleasurable, and present.”

Collard, Patrizia. The Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 Minutes a Day to Less Stress, More Peace. London: Octopus, 2014. Buy from Amazon.com

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