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A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness (with flow chart!)

harmony-1229893_640A blank stare, a furrowed brow and a “huh?” is the most accurate description of my introduction to mindfulness. At that time it was still mostly relegated to the hippy-dippy set and the Boston hospital where Jon Kabat-Zinn was scientifically testing its efficacy. Typically defined as paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them, the practice had been around for centuries but there would still be many years between my befuddled response and today’s mindfulness popping up in the fashionable pages of Vogue or your smartphone’s app store.

Despite its recently chic makeover, my clients consistently express wariness (“I don’t think that’s for me”), intimidation (“I’ll do it all wrong”), or even disgust (“Ugh. That’s not my thing”) when the topic comes up. While there are plenty of mindfulness purists out there, I try to remind everyone that we don’t have to throw the nagchampa out with the bathwater. By simply slowing down, observing, and asking yourself some questions, finding mindful moments within chaos may be less scary, less intimidating, and less ridiculous than you think.

If you’re not already holding your phone, since it’s probably the closest object to you, go ahead and pick it up. Take a deep breath. Notice what it feels like. As you exhale, look at your phone. Slowly. Try moving it around in your hands or passing it back and forth between them. What color is your phone? Does it have any marks or scratches? Does it feel rough anywhere or is it totally smooth? What about its weight? Does it feel light? Heavy? Begin to notice how your hands feel around the phone. Is the phone cold against them? Are they relaxed? Do they move the phone easily? Keep doing this for as long as you want. As you explore, if you can, notice your breath. Is it moving easily in and out of you? Does it fall in one part of your body? Your chest? Your stomach? Does it feel any different than it did earlier? Continue checking in with your breath as you explore the phone.

You did it! When you’re done, let’s discuss. For mindfulness beginners, here’s a flowchart to help you describe your first mindfulness experience. What was that like? 

Mindfulness Flow chart

Alyssa Levine Mass

Alyssa Levine Mass

Alyssa Levine Mass, MA, MFT is a licensed psychotherapist, new to the Bay Area, and thrilled to be writing for Psyched Magazine. Previously, Alyssa worked at a community counseling center in Los Angeles seeing adults, adolescents, and children, as well as families and couples. She also led, and co-led, a wide range of groups. She utilizes a strengths- based approach, incorporating various post- modern and relational modalities, and enjoys translating what that means for clients so they can feel as informed as possible in the process of seeking help.

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