This mindfulness meditation from Ann McKnight seems especially fitting as spring brings our surroundings back to life. How can we be open to the joy that can be found around us?
As I’ve interviewed women across experiences and professions, self-care has been a recurring theme, and some kind of mindfulness has been a continuing thread. I’ve talked about mindfulness often as a way to reduce stress and anxiety that can interfere with intimacy—but also with our overall health and happiness. We thought making some resources available, approaching mindfulness from different points of view, could be helpful to women as they navigate this season.
Ann McKnight has extensive experience in clinical social work and therapy. What I admire about Ann is that she’s continually exploring new methodologies and approaches and incorporating them into her practice. That includes the Enneagram, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance Commitment Therapy, mindfulness, centering prayer, mind-body research including sensory work, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. In addition to her private practice, Ann speaks and teaches on topics like Nonviolent Communications and Restorative Circles.
We hope this exercise in groundedness is useful to you, and that you’ll return to it again and again.
Note: We provide this text for accessibility; listening to the audio, with your eyes closed as suggested (and comfortable) is recommended for optimal effect.
Ann: I’ve been asked to lead a short mindfulness exercise. The first thing that we want to do is find a place that feels physically comfortable, either sitting or lying down.
If you feel comfortable closing your eyes, go ahead and do that. We’re just going to be bringing our attention to different parts of our experience. I think of our attention as a spotlight that can be kind of flailing around, shining in all different directions, or we can grab hold of that spotlight and point it in one way or another.
I want you to grab ahold of that spotlight of your attention. The first place that we are going to put it is on sounds and hearing. Just notice the sound of my voice, the other sounds that are happening around you right at this moment….
The next place we are going to shine that spotlight of attention is on our thinking, just noticing how there are continually streaming thoughts going through your mind, every moment; it's a flowing river that never ends. Just notice whether there are lots of thoughts or a few, whether they are moving quickly or slowly, just noticing them flow by without needing to grab hold of any one of them.
Now let's bring that spotlight of our attention to our physical selves. Just notice the top of your head... without needing to change anything, notice the back of your head, your forehead. Notice your jaw and your eyes, notice your tongue in your mouth, notice your neck and throat. Notice your shoulders and your arms hanging from your shoulders and the weight of your hands. Notice your upper back and your lower back; notice your belly... and your bottom on the chair. Notice your upper legs... and your lower legs... and your feet either in your socks and shoes or connected with the ground.
And then we are going to take that spotlight of our attention and bring it to our breathing. Notice how the air moves in through your nose and mouth, down through your throat and into your lungs, down into your abdomen. Notice the natural flow of air back up from your belly, through your lungs, through your throat, through your mouth and nose on the
exhale. And without altering your breath, just observing it, observing that feel of the cycle of breathing the inhale... and the exhale... and notice if there’s anything that feels sticky or whether it feels easily flowing, whether there are some rough places...
Let’s shift our attention—that spotlight of our attention—from our breathing to our hearts. And in this moment, just going to an experience in life that you’ve had where you felt joy, and whatever way that shows up for you. If it’s a situation you were in with a person, an experience that you’ve had, allowing yourself to move more fully into that experience of joy. Notice what happens in your body when you’re feeling that joy. What sensations do you notice? What parts of your body are you aware of? What’s happening with your breathing? In your chest and your belly?
Now we’re going to move that connection with joy back into our everyday life. So, if you have your eyes closed, go ahead and open them. And notice what’s happening in your body. See if you can still connect with that physical experience of joy. Notice where your eyes are wanting to move, if there’s a spot that you find yourself looking that helps you connect more fully with that place.
Now we’re going to bring our attention back into our everyday life, keeping in mind that that visual spot that we connected with can be a touchpoint to get us back to that reserve of joy that we hold inside of ourselves. That visceral memory lives inside of us, and we can draw on that like a resource, just by taking a moment to check in with that with our attention.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.