Last week I wrote about being ill, and I speculated that (in addition to cold weather and a nasty cough virus circulating in the air) my sickness was due to being out of touch with my body. It happens every once in a while when we get so busy that it can be a challenge to keep tabs on how we are (really) feeling and what our body (really) needs.
I mentioned to a friend in passing this week that I sometimes attend Mindful Moments sessions on campus to get better connected with my body. He giggled, and said that he imagines me sitting cross-legged with my eyes closed, deeply concentrating on foretelling the future. I think at some point my friend was misinformed—mindfulness, meditation, tai chi, or yoga are not activities done to prophesize about the future. Quite oppositely, the goal is to bring more awareness to the present moment, to the body, and the breath.
The University of Toronto offers many drop-in mindfulness practices or Mindful Moments on campus. There is no experience necessary to attend and there are several locations around campus.
The sessions can include one to many different forms of guided mindfulness activities, such as a body scan, a mindful eating meditation, mindful colouring, or a mindful walking exercise. The last session I attended on campus we mindfully examined sea shells! Fellow blogger Tiffany attended Chan Meditation recently and wrote about her calming experience.
Sometimes the sessions will include debriefing talks, which are optional to participate in but very insightful. I usually feel better when I hear that I wasn’t the only person mentally preparing a to-do list during the meditation. As an instructor once pointed out at the end of our meditation session, there is no such thing as a good or bad mindfulness session. There is only awareness and sometimes lack thereof.
In addition to the weekly drop-in sessions there are special workshops offered on campus that you have to register in advance to attend. Coming soon are the “Food and Mood” workshop offered by Health and Wellness, and also the “Mindfulness and Your Career” workshop offered by the Career Centre.
I find that I most often practice meditation and relaxation as a complement to a yoga class I attend, during the last 10 minutes of class. Sometimes, I use apps which offer guided meditations or podcasts with audio guides to follow along. Some of my favourites are “Stop and Breathe” and “Calm”.
Mindfulness is awesome because you can do it anywhere, without equipment. So before you hop on board and purchase a meditation headset or a subscription to an app, just try just taking a few deep breaths and noticing how that makes your body feel. Better, right?
For me, mindfulness is valuable because it’s an opportunity for me to check in with my body and experience it without expectations. Sometimes we push our bodies to the point of exhaustion, and it can be insightful to give your body a chance to identify that. All of a sudden, you might realize that actually your back is really tense, or you’re grinding your teeth. Then, without judging yourself, you can give your body permission to let go of that!
Even better, you can do anything mindfully—breaking a bad habit, communicating with a friend, or even just walking!
What can you do mindfully this week? Let me know in the comments!
*Here are the location of Beginners Meditation sessions on campus this week
Tuesdays, 12 – 1 p.m. FitzGerald Building, Room 129
Tuesdays, 1 – 2 p.m. Athletic Centre, Dance Studio
Tuesdays, 4 – 5 p.m. Koffler House
Tuesdays, 5 – 6 p.m. Koffler House
Wednesdays, 12 – 1 p.m. Cumberland House
Wednesdays, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. Nona MacDonald Visitor’s Centre
Thursdays, 4 – 5 p.m. Koffler House