3 Ways to Be Mindful at Your Desk: Easy, Easier, and in Motion

by Elmo Shade

There are simple ways to begin a mindfulness practice.  It’s not mystical or magical; anyone can do this.

1. The Easy Way: The 3-Breath Technique (sit or stand)

Picture an hourglass wide at the top & bottom with a narrow center.

Breathe IN (count of 5) through nostrils deep into belly (expands) then breathe OUT through nose and/or mouth (count of 7).

Connect with the wide, open space of the present moment.

Breathe IN and connect with a particular part of your body, e.g. palms, feet, heart as though you were aerating it with the breath, then breathe OUT. Same count of 5 and 7.

Breathe IN and connect with the ENTIRE body, widening your awareness and spaciousness, then breathe OUT, same count as before.

 

2. The Easier Way: Sit or stand without any agenda for 2-5 minutes

Shift from “doing” to just “being” whatever that means for you

Watch where the mind goes without judging it or trying to change anything you are experiencing. Just allow.

Feel free to switch between the “Easy Way” and the “Easier Way”.

Begin with 2-5 minutes daily, expand to 2-5 minutes during the day whenever you have an opportunity and/or are feeling stressed.

The more you “practice” the stronger your “mindfulness muscle” becomes.

 

3. Mindfulness in Motion:

Sit with back supporting itself by moving to middle or front of chair

Feet are flat on the floor. Sense the 4 corners of the feet with your awareness (sides of big and little toes and both sides of heel)

Hands rest on knees, palms down

On IN breath, retract hands back moving along upper thighs until heel of hand touches hip bone (waist)

On OUT breath move hands back down slowly to starting position at knees

Do 5X

Then, on IN breath, retract hands back as before

On OUT breath, move hands past knees all the way down to ankles

On next IN breath, retract hands all the way back up hip bone (waist)

Do 5X

With both iterations, sync the breath so top of the IN breath is at the TOP of the movement and bottom of the OUT breath is at the BOTTOM of the movement

 

Better Sleep through Massage, Yoga, and Mindfulness

Sleep is a complex biological process that is vital to our overall wellbeing. There are now 85 different recognized sleep disorders that affect almost 70 million Americans, and the long-term consequences of sleep loss are associated with a long list of chronic and sometimes very serious health conditions. In addition to being linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, poor quality sleep is also related to chronic musculoskeletal pain, specifically osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and low-back pain.

Massage, Yoga, and Mindfulness are all drug-free ways to improve quality of sleep.

Massage: People who receive massage experience deeper, more restorative, less disturbed sleep. It doesn’t matter which modality of massage or what time of day; studies consistently report that massage contributes to a more organized sleep pattern, where the various stages of sleep happen in consistent order and duration. The positive effects of massage on sleep also contributes to a reduction in pain-sensitizing neurotransmitters, which lowers pain levels. (Source: Ruth Werner, Massage Bodywork)

Yoga: There have been several studies recently that show yoga can improve disrupted sleep. A Harvard Medical School study showed that yoga can help chronic insomnia, making it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, feel well-rested, and wake up after sleeping. A study of cancer survivors linked yoga to better sleep quality, less fatigue, and improved sense of quality of life. In general, yoga seems to increase sleep efficiency, enhance quality of life, and decrease insomnia. (Source: Michael J Breus, PhD, Psychology Today)

Mindfulness: Like Yoga and Massage, Mindfulness is a way to invoke the Relaxation Response, which is a deep physiological shift in the body that is the opposite of the stress response. For many people, sleep disorders are a reaction to stress. Spending 20 min a day in a mindfulness practice helps create a reflex to bring forth a feeling of relaxation. Then it is easier to access that feeling of relaxation at night to assist in falling asleep and maintaining better quality of sleep. A study on a mindfulness awareness program showed results including less insomnia, fatigue, and depression. (Source: Julie Corliss, Harvard Health)

Sleep is crucial to our health, and Massage, Yoga, and Mindfulness are all effective tools for improving the overall quality of our sleep without using pharmacological drugs. They help with insomnia, fatigue, pain levels, sleep pattern organization, and sleep efficiency. Getting enough high quality sleep is a cornerstone of a healthy life, and there are many ways to improve your sleep and your sense of wellbeing.

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

by Elmo Shade

  1. CONTACT- Breath, Body, Sounds, 5 Senses

The formal training of mindfulness takes place on the meditation cushion by re-directing the wandering attention. Breath and body awareness is the best place to start. By re-directing attention from the thinking mind to the breath or the felt sense of the body, we begin to condition our attention to be in the present moment.

ex: smelling the sweet aroma of chocolate in an ice cream shop

 

  1. FEELING TONES- Pleasant, Unpleasant, Neutral

Every single experience or event has a feeling tone to it, i.e. a categorization of “I like it” (pleasant); “I don’t like it” (unpleasant); “I am undecided or neutral about it” (neutral). By paying attention to the experience and its feeling tone, we can begin to examine our inner relationship to it, e.g. clinging to what is pleasant or pushing away and resisting what is unpleasant.

ex: I love the smell of chocolate 

 

  1. PERCEPTION- Mental Filters, Assumptions, Stories

Between stimulus and response, there is an approximate gap of .25 seconds. It is in this gap that we filter an event based upon past experiences. Our MAPS or “My Assumptions, Perceptions and Stories” become our reality and our reality is most often not in concert with what is factual or true. Perception then is NOT reality; it is only the ego misrepresenting the past in the present moment.

ex: chocolate reminds me of wonderful family experiences 

 

  1. CONSCIOUSNESS- Intention to act, e.g. reacting v responding

If we are not paying attention, our inclination will be to “do something”, i.e. to react with attachment (cling to it) or aversion (get rid of it) which lead to unhealthy and unproductive mental states like anger, blame, judgment/becoming. Paying attention to the truth of the present-time experience allows us to respond with curiosity and compassion instead of being stuck in a reactive pattern, e.g. indulging.

ex: I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. I feel sick and emotionally drained

The Benefits of Mindfulness Practice

from Elmo Shade

The most common reasons people come to a Mindfulness Practice are

  1. Physical pain or chronic pain
  2. Emotional pain due to loss, death, or serious or potentially fatal diagnosis
  3. Inability to manage the day to day stressors of life

The benefits of mindfulness are known and well-documented. It reduces levels of stress, meaning the autonomic nervous system is not in fight, flight, or freeze mode. This then reduces both anxiety and depression, reduces fatigue and burnout, and reduces periods of restlessness. This leads to an increased ability to pay attention and concentrate and higher cognitive performance, particularly while learning. It enhances hormonal balance for women, and enhances the immune system of men and women.

Chronic pain, many of our physical ailments, and even diseases that we are experiencing are not actually illnesses or diseases. They are a result of the body system storing stress and pain that has never actually been released in a healthy manner. Mindfulness helps to reduce the discomfort of pain, both emotional and physical, and increases our capacity for compassion for ourselves and others.

Because Mindfulness Practice is about paying attention to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energies, it often leads to increased levels of energy. It can decrease fatigue and increase stamina. This higher energy level then brings increased movement. The American Psychiatric Association shows we spend 6-12 hours a day not moving, and this does not count the time we spend sleeping. Having the energy to move is a tremendous benefit.

Mindfulness Practice is evidence-based and proven to benefit quality of life through the reduction of physical pain, emotional pain, and chronic stress. Our collective stress levels are higher than they have ever been, especially for women, and that takes a toll on our health. We can bring ourselves back into balance through mindfulness.

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