The Hand Exercise – quick and simple way to mindfulness

Many people find it challenging to sit still. Others find the thought of willing yourself into disciplined practice of daily meditation an overwhelming experience, just too big to fit into an already busy life. Plus there’s so much information on what to do, and how to do it that it’s hard to know where to begin.

So here’s how.

There is a reason that most every meditation practice of any substance, martial arts, and other disciplines have you focus on your breath or some other aspect of your body. THE BODY IS ALWAYS IN THE MOMENT. That’s why meditations often start with having you focus on your breath, your heart, your nose, – something, anything that is body sense related. You can’t be attending to your body senses and thinking about your taxes, your insurance, your job or other issues that take our attention away from what’s happening right now.

So the practice, and that term is important, is to focus on some aspect of your physical experience and do it more than you do now in your day to day life. That can be sitting down and focusing on your breath, or it can be movement. You can focus on how you are walking, standing, making coffee or tea (this explains why the tea ritual , tai-chi, yoga and other movement practices are mindful/spiritual practice and not just some quaint ritual).

Try this right now. Bring a very high quality of attention to one of your hands (and if that doesn’t work for you, any other part of your body you can move will do). Really focus. Sense everything you can. This is not a test. You do not get points for doing it well or not well. Just notice without judgement as if you were exploring this for the first time with a childlike curiosity. Notice where you skin is touching some object or other part of your body. Notice the air temperature. Notice any tension or pain. Now while keeping this high degree of attention, simply raise your arm very slowing attending very carefully to the sensation of lifting your arm. Feel every muscle. Is it a smooth motion? Do you have resistance anywhere? Now slowing begin to rotate your hand at the wrist while noticing how that feels. Notice the remarkable motion of the joint and the activity of the muscles needed to make this motion.

That’s it.

If you did this, and did not just read about, you will have experienced yourself being in the moment, present with your actual experience. That is mindfulness. That is being intentionally attentive, without judgement, in the moment. The key thing is not that you had a specific experience, but that you made this focus happen by intention. The INTENTION TO BE PRESENT is the muscle that has to be built. That is why this is a practice and not just an experience to have.

Underneath all this – it’s basically neuroscience. The specific set of neurons that fire to bring attention into the moment is on that we need to make easier to fire. There is a saying “neurons that wire together, fire together”. The practice of mindfulness is about making it easier for the neurons that allow you to have a mindful experience, easier to fire. The only way to to that is to intentionally make make it happen.

This doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort to make a big difference and leads to a discussion on – landing on yummy moments.

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Thanks Eckhart Tolle for the suggestion using the hand as place to begin. In several lectures, he suggests starting with the hand and then extending awareness to include the whole body. You start with any part of the body, but hands are EZ. You can also extend awareness beyond the physical to include the room you are in, the building, the city, the world. Up to you and loads of fun either way.

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