The word mindfulness first came into the English language in 1881 translated from Pali by Thomas William Rhys Davies. “Samma-sati, Right Mindfulness; the active watchful mind.” It is also seen in the closely related Sanskrit samyak-smṛti. Pali has not been spoken other than in Theravada Buddhist practices since the first millennium CE.
Other more modern synonyms include: Attention, Awareness and Presence.
The purpose of mindfulness is to pull us into the current moment, experiencing what is happening consciously rather than automatically. It prevents us projecting into the past and present. Remember that thinking about the past encourages regret and psychological self-flagellation. Thinking about the future creates worry and anxiety.
Most of us are used to physically moving quickly to increase efficiency, in a goal-oriented fashion. Indeed, some of us move at lightning speed. In doing this, we may feel we are likely to achieve more, but, in fact we can cultivate the opportunity to engage more consciously with the task in hand.
Mindful movement is a great way to achieve mindfulness, and moving mindfully is the best way to fully engage in our daily routine.
There are some specific Mindful Movement Activities that we would like to introduce:
Oigong; Qi “vital energy” gong “cultivation”
Qigong is an ancient, Traditional Chinese Medicine practice that encourages the development of our ‘life-force.’ It combines a harmony of breathing, flowing body movements and specific body positions. It is a meditative exercise that promotes vitality and mental resilience and is used in martial arts training.
Tai Chi Chuan; “Supreme ultimate boxing”
Emerging first in the 12th Century, Tai Chi is a complex form of Qigong. This Chinese tradition began as a Martial Art (think Karate Kid) and is now more widely used as a meditative exercise. This too combines breathing, movement, and mediation to exercise the whole body and align with and focus the mind. Tai chi philosophy teaches that everything has two opposing parts that create balance. Yin and Yang. This is reflected in Newtons Third Law of Motion; “when two objects meet, they exert equal and opposite forces on each other. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” In Tai Chi this translates to when one part of the body moves, the whole will move.
Yoga, “yoke or union”
Yoga is over 5000 years old, first seen in India as a spiritual exercise to unite the practitioner with their true self. Again, this combines body positions with breathing and meditation. Yoga involves nourishment of mind, body and Spirit and comprises of meditative movements including stretches and balances. It can be observed that many of the stretches in the practice of Yoga directly align with the meridians in Chinese Medicine, which, in turn align with the recently described planes of fascia recently described in Western Medicine by Thomas Myers. These are seen as channels within the body which transport proprioceptive and biochemical information and Chi (energy) from one place to another.
The benefits of all these mindful movement practices are impressive. Improvements in blood pressure, sleep, balance, bone density, and fitness levels. Reductions in anxiety, pain and inflammation. Better cognitive function and skilled attention
Walking meditation is popular form of meditation where a walk becomes the focus for our attention.
There are many forms of walking meditation available. In a traditional Zen version, participants walk clockwise with a closed fist out in front of them clasped by their other hand. Theravada Buddhists walk back and forth. The idea being that the repetition means little attention needs to be paid to where they are putting their feet encouraging mindfulness. Thich Nhat Hanh a Vietnamese Monk has developed a walking meditation that includes a meditative chant:
· On the in breath “I have arrived;” on the out breath “I am home”
· On the in breath “In the here;” on the out breath “In the now”
· On the in breath “I am solid;” on the out breath “I am free”
· On the in breath “In the ultimate;” on the out breath “I dwell”
Our own Walking Meditation is available in the resilience toolkit
This week, consider taking time for a mindfulness movement exercise.
Several mindful movement activities have been described above. Try them and find one that suits you.
Remember, however that all movement can be performed mindfully.
Coming into the present moment by bringing awareness to your body during movement is a step towards living consciously, even if you are rushing to complete a task. You can be aware of the body sensations that the movement has to offer you to bring about presence.
You can use any chosen activity to practice mindful movement that works for you. Running, climbing, strength exercises, your favourite workout video, dancing, playing. See last weeks wellbeing article on How to Get Moving for more ideas.
Begin by choosing an activity for ‘Mindful Movement’ that you know you enjoy.
Before your chosen activity, take a few moments to prepare yourself and your environment
Set the clear intention that you will give your whole attention to the activity
Begin to move
What do you feel?
Can you feel your breath quickening?
Your heart beating faster?
The rush of your circulation?
Does it feel good to wake your body up in this way?
Does it thank you for the attention you are paying to the activity?
Remember to activate all your senses
Feel the movements of your body
The long, indulgent stretching of the soft tissues
Does your body celebrate them?
The feel of your clothing against your skin
The feel of a breeze in your hair and on your cheek
The invigorating, crisp cold of winter
The soft, dewy freshness of spring
The languid warmth of summer and the golden abundance of autumn
Feel your breath, the tidal quality that resonates with the movement
Feel the changes in your heart rate and blood pressure as you progress
Smell the comfortable smells of your home
The sweet scents of nature
And the real smells of your body as it heats up
Taste the changes in the air as you move.
Look carefully at your surroundings
The colours and light changes associated with your movements
The beauty of your surroundings
And the jewels of nature.
Listen to the ambient noises
You may be in your own home
And can listen to the sounds of others
The hum of machinery and the noises of the building
Or sweet music for dancing
These external stimuli do not distract you
They only serve to further focus your attention
Listen to the sound you are making
The crinkle of your clothing
The sound your feet make when they connect with the ground.
When you are outside
Immerse yourself absorbed in the sounds of nature
The tweeting of birds
The rustling of undergrowth
The heavy silence of snow
The babble of nearby water
The splish-splash of rainfall.
Fully experience your movement, moment by moment
No room for rumination or worry
Whatever we are doing, if we can make all of our movements and actions mindful we can preserve our peace throughout the day.
 Anatomy Trains, Thomas W. Myers 4th edition, 05/2020 Published by Elsevier.  Clark Dav, Schumann, Frank, Mostofsky, Stewart H. 2015; Mindful Movement and Skilled attention: J Frontiers in Human Neuroscience  Walking Meditation (2006), Nguyen Anh-Huong and Thich Nhat Hanh. Sounds True