Learnings – THE BASICS OF MINDFULNESS MEDITATION
An interview with Ashleigh Dickinson
We hear it all the time. 'You should meditate' and 'you should be more mindful'. But what does this actually mean? And how do we actually do it? We asked Naarm / Melbourne-based Yoga teacher, certified Ceremonial Cacao Facilitator and certified Sound Facilitator, Ashleigh Dickinson to give us the downlow of all things mindfulness meditation.
Firstly, we'd love to hear a little bit about you and what got you interested in the wellness space.
I came from an upbringing where life was strongly encouraged by movement through sports and dancing. Very early on, this invoked a strong link between movement and wellbeing. It wasn't until I lived in Los Angeles over a decade ago, right in the midst of green smoothies and conscious living going gang busters, that [wellness] really lit my eyes up. While working in a high pressure corporate job, Yoga presented itself as an offering for stress relief by a work colleague. This became the catalyst for shifting my lifestyle to a more conscious one. I completed my Yoga Teacher Training under the guidance of Chris Wilson, Cassie Lee & Manoj Dias at Power Living in Melbourne and Bali. Now, I teach Yoga around Melbourne and also run events and workshops as a Ceremonial Cacao Facilitator using the Maltyox Gratitude Method and Sound Ceremony Facilitator.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool. What exactly is mindfulness?
I believe mindfulness means something [for every] individual. For me, it stems from a place of how we can offer each moment to be one that is more conscious. Through what we are ingesting our bodies with our nutrition, the thoughts we are telling ourselves, how we interact and listen with the people that we influence, how we hold ourselves with our own body language. Everything that we do can become a mindfulness practice.
What is a basic exercise for getting started with mindfulness meditation?
Simply breaking up small sections of your day to take 5 deep slow breaths in and out. This could be every time you walk away from your desk for a bathroom break, or every time you reach for a sip of rehydration.
Placing hands on the body to create a visceral touch so you can feel where the body gently expands and contracts through the breath and attentively noticing what your body is doing.
In a more traditional sense, you could place a five minute timer on your phone and allow yourself to sit or lay down using the above techniques or applying Sama Vritti Pranayama - also known as box breathing. This is where you inhale for 4 counts, hold the breath at the top for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, and hold the breath at the bottom for 4 counts.
What are the benefits of integrating mindfulness into life?
One of my teachers would say that 'mindfulness gives us the choice between stimulus and response'. Incorporating mindfulness such as meditation, breathwork or journaling into a self-care routine adds more tools to the toolkit for responding to life’s challenges and suffering.
It allows us to be fully present, savour the good times and recognise life’s richness. As we continue to connect deeper within us through mindfulness practices, we naturally feel and co-create deeper connections to all of life - our relationships, our caretaking, who we influence and interact with and to the whole world around us.
How do movement practices like yoga help increase mindfulness?
The practice of Yoga allows us to tap into that place that is innate with us - the everlasting yet ever changing sense of calm that is always there but may become quiet or lost through the suffering of life’s challenges.
Within the Yoga practice, we are constantly connecting with our breath, especially when we are putting our bodies under challenging postures. We are training our mind to find that sense of relaxation even when there’s tension and stress. It teaches us to use these practices off the yoga mat when things in life are squeezing us or pushing our buttons. We can use the mindfulness techniques we learn in the strong asana shapes to respond in a way that is calmer and less reactive.
Ashleigh Dickinson is a Naarm / Melbourne-based Yoga Teacher, certified Ceremonial MGM (Maltyox Gratitude Method) Cacao Facilitator studying under Christine Olivia and certified Sound Facilitator. You can find more about Ash here. And you can follow her on Instagram here.
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