Mindfulness practices are designed to bring awareness and attention to the present moment. Engaging in mindfulness practices during group work helps us maintain an open, inquisitive attitude. Doing this also allows participants to touch in with their own inner process, and calm and quiet the mind at periodic intervals. The following exercises can be particularly useful for opening or closing a workshop or gathering, coming back together after a break, and/or pausing to “take the pulse” of the individual and group experience.
“Body Scan” Sitting Practice – 5-20 minutes
While this practice is typically done sitting on a cushion or a chair, participants can stand or lay down as well. This is a good opening practice, and falls easily within the “gratitude” stage of the spiral.
Begin with a deep breath, settling the mind and body. Then slowly bring awareness to each different part of the body (head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, upper back, lower back, chest, belly, etc). The idea is just to notice how the body feels – one particular section at a time. If there is tension, pain, or soreness, you can invite the body to relax. However, through this process of scanning our body we are not trying to change anything but to simply bring attention to the body without judgment.
Another way to guide the exercise is to ask participants to “smile” to each part of the body, offering thanks for all the different ways their body serves them. Once attention has been paid to the entire body, participants can direct their attention to other things such as: where they are in space, the larger group around them, what their thoughts or emotions are like as they begin this work. (back to Index of Practices)
“Present Moment” Sitting Practice – 5-20 minutes
While this practice is typically done sitting on a cushion or a chair, participants can stand or lay down as well. This practice can be used as a closing in which you refer back to how the time together began. It can also be a way to bring attention back to group work when participants return from a break.
Give permission to the mind to rest in the present moment. Rather than attaching itself to thinking or feeling, just notice the experiences at hand. In particular, notice the difference between: a thought; an emotion; or a body sensation. Thoughts may come in the form of images or words. An emotion may be distinct and easily name (sadness, anger, happiness), or it may be indistinct. A body sensation can be strong, uncomfortable, or subtle. The task of mindfulness is simply to notice these things, without getting caught up in them. “Oh, my back hurts. Oh, I’m feeling sad. Oh, I thinking about my grocery list.”
This exercise can be focused completely noticing thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. Or, participants can something to bring their mind back to – such as sound, or the breath – that will help them stay aware of the present moment rather than focusing on thoughts or feelings.
When used as a closing activity, participants can be guided to remember how they felt – what thoughts, emotions, or sensations they were aware of – when the session first began and compare this to what they are aware of now. Without judgment, participants simply bring awareness to what is the same and what is different. (back to Index of Practices)
“Warm-ups: Opening through Breath, Body, Sound, and Silence”
These practices can be found on pages 83-85 of Coming Back to Life, Macy & Brown.