“Mindful awareness is a state of present attention where one clearly perceives thoughts, physical sensations, emotions and events at the moment they occur without reacting in an automatic or habitual way”.
Mindfulness supports us to become more aware, more often. Our minds can often become lost in thought; dwelling on past events, planning the future, worrying and making comparisons. During these times we lose awareness of the present moment and during these times it is easy to react in automatic ways which can mean we lose the capacity to decide how to act in that moment.
Mindfulness can support us to gain awareness of what is happening in the present moment; becoming aware of thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions creates opportunities to choose to respond more creatively rather than automatically. It is often our automatic thoughts and behaviours that impact on our health and wellbeing rather than the initial stressors in themselves. Finding ways to become mindful during our working day can help defuse stress and unhelpful states of mind before they gain momentum spiral out of control.
The Three-Stage Breathing Space
This mindful practice can be used in times of stress to help gain awareness in the moment. It is composed of three stages (each of which can last as little as one minute each)
Stage 1: become fully aware of the thoughts in your mind and sensations in your body.
Stage 2: gather your focus of awareness and bring this to the breath.
Stage 3: expand your attention outward to encompass the whole body with warmth and compassion.
Stage 1: Arriving
Become still wherever you are—either lying, sitting, or standing, choose a posture to be as comfortable as possible, then lightly close your eyes. Bring your awareness to whatever is going on for you right now. Give the weight of your body up to gravity. Allow your weight to sink into the points of contact between your body and the floor, chair, or bed, whether that’s your feet, your buttocks, or your back.
What sensations are there, right now? If you notice any tension or resistance to painful or unpleasant sensations, gently turn toward them. Accept them as best you can. If you begin to tense around the breath, then let go a little bit with each out-breath. Soften into gravity. Notice any thoughts as they arise and pass away in the mind. See if you can let them come and go without becoming too identified with their content. Look at your thoughts, not from them. Observe them as if they were clouds in the sky. Relate to them as a flow of mental events. Remember, thoughts are not facts. Notice any feelings and emotions as they arise. Can you let these come and go without pushing away those that you don’t like, or jumping onto those that you do like? Include everything within your awareness with a kindly perspective.
Stage 2: Gathering
Allow your awareness to gather around the experience of the breath in the body. Drop your awareness inside the breath and feel the different sensations in the front, back, and sides of the torso, inside the torso, and on the surface of the torso. Feel all of the different sensations of the breath as it flows into and out of the body. Can you rest within the flow of the breath? Let everything change, moment by moment. Use the breath to anchor your awareness in the present moment and the body. Each time you notice your mind has wandered, remember that you are having a magic moment of awareness You have woken up. Then gently bring the mind back to the breath deep in the body
Stage 3: Expanding
Gently broaden and expand your awareness to include the whole body. Feel the weight and shape of the body as it sits, stands, or lies. Feel the breath in the whole body. Imagine you are breathing in and out in all directions. If you have any pain or discomfort, make sure your awareness stays open to include this with a sense of compassion. Soften tension and resistance with each breath. Cultivate acceptance for all of your experience. Befriend it. Now broaden your awareness even further to become aware of sounds both inside and outside the room. Be aware of other people around you. Then imagine expanding all of your awareness outward to include all humanity. Imagine the whole world breathing. Now gently open your eyes and move the body. As you reengage with the activities of your day, see if you can carry the awareness that you’ve cultivated with you
(mindfulness script from: mindfulnessexercises.com)