Establishing a Formal Practice of Mindfulness: Meditation

As mentioned, mindfulness is a way of life that’s practiced in two interrelated ways:
through formal and informal practice. To truly integrate mindfulness into your life, it’s
important that you do both types of practice. Each complements the other. Use them
every day to reduce panic and live with more ease in your body and mind.
The cultivation of a formal practice of mindfulness begins with setting an intention
and deciding on a time to do it.

Try to prioritize this time for your own self-care.You deserve this, and it’s truly a gift to yourself that no one else can give you. Find a place that’s quiet and comfortable, at a time during the day when you won’t be interrupted.

Turn off your phone and any other devices, and let your family know you’re going to be
quiet and meditate for a while; ask that you not be disturbed.
The best time to formally practice mindfulness is whenever you can do it. Some
people like to practice before they get out of bed. Others like to practice after their
morning stretches. Others practice during their lunch hour or in the afternoon. Many
have found it helpful to practice after coming home from work or after dinner. Some
even practice before they go to sleep. Find a time that works for you and let your practice
grow.
Once you find a time that works, try to practice daily, even if you don’t really feel
like it. We suggest thirty minutes for many of the meditations, although you can practice
them for shorter periods of time if need be. Even five minutes of practice is better than
none at all. If your formal practice of mindfulness is spotty, don’t beat yourself up or
give up on it. Remember to treat yourself with kindness and compassion, and encourage
yourself as you would a friend.
In this book you’ll learn the formal mindful practices of mindful breathing, the body
scan, mindful inquiry meditation, sitting meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and the
“web of life” meditation as meaningful and direct ways to deal with panic.

Advertisements

Wash Away Your Panic

Have you ever had a panic attack in your sleep? One woman told us that on many mornings she’d
wake up trembling in a cold sweat. On these occasions she ached for a long, hot bath before
starting her day, but she never had the time.
Few people have time for a long soak in the bath before work. A brisk shower is the best most of
us can hope for to wash away sleep and pull ourselves together for the long day ahead. And sadly,
showers can also be another part of a mindless routine, a task that we do simply to get it over
with and get on with our day.

Everyday activities are perfect opportunities for cultivating
mindfulness. Perhaps you might consider each shower as a cleansing ritual, approaching it as a
symbolic act of washing away the panicky sensations trapped in your mind and body. In this next
practice you’ll do just that, step by step, breath by breath.

1. Before you run the water or get in the shower, take a few breaths. Each breath links you closer to
the present moment, right here and now.

2. Set your intentions for this mindful practice. You may say aloud or to yourself: May this shower
bring me into my body. May this shower help me be with things as they are and ease my body and
mind.

3. Once the water temperature is set to your liking, step carefully and slowly into the shower.
Experience this moment with all your senses—touch, taste, sound, smell, and sight. What does
the water feel like on your face, arms, chest, back, and legs? What sounds are coming from the
water? What fragrances do you notice from your soap, shampoo, or shaving cream? Notice the
steam collecting on the curtain, mirror, or glass surfaces.

4. Remember to tune in to your breathing while you continue to shower.

5. On your next inhale, recognize any feelings that your body is trying to relay to you. You may
experience fear tightening your throat, making it hard to swallow. If so, allow the water to wash
over your neck and be conscious of your intentions from step 2. You may experience anxiety
making your lower back tense. If so, take this moment to let the warm water wash over and
loosen those aching muscles as you breathe out.

6. For the rest of your shower, continue to pay attention to your body in this mindful and attentive
manner, listening in on what your body needs. By doing so, you’re fostering a new kind of
relationship with your body and your body’s experience of panic.
Let morning showers be your special time for you to mindfully check in with yourself, each
warm droplet of water replenishing and healing to your mind and body.

Calming the Rush of Panic in Your Body

Your body, emotions, and thoughts all play a role in panic. Learning how to work with
them can help you stay centered and calm. In this chapter we look at ways that you can
reduce the panic in your body. We will introduce you to two mindfulness meditations
that focus on the body.

The first is mindful breathing, and the second is the body scan.
For each meditation, we provide a script you can follow, as well as a URL so you can
download an audio track to guide you. Then we discuss the mindful practice called
S.T.O.P. Finally we offer some practical applications of mindfulness for you to try, to
help you feel more confident and comfortable in your own skin.
So that you feel safe, before you begin we’d like to offer some gentle suggestions
regarding all of the meditations and other practices in this book: Please tread lightly.

The meditations, informal practices, and applied practices are meant not to create more panic
or pressure in your life but as a way to help you practice engaging with panic in safe and
relatively comfortable surroundings. Know that you can stop at any time. Please take care
of yourself in the best way you need to. Remember: easy does it; one step at a time.
Slowly and gradually you can learn to live with more ease.

The Many Causes of Panic

As stated, research has demonstrated that mindfulness-based stress reduction can be
extremely beneficial in decreasing panic. We’re sure that you too can use these mindful
practices to live better with panic and decrease the challenges you face.
Before you get started, you should know that although most cases of panic stem
from the psyche, there are some cases in which it derives from physiological sources.
Although mindfulness training may help you regardless of the cause of your panic, you
may also need to consult a health care professional to investigate whether there’s any
biological reason you feel panicky. In addition, if your panic attacks are frequent or
severe, it’s best if you take steps to address your panic under the guidance and
supervision of a health care professional.
Sometimes a very active thyroid (hyperthyroidism), low blood sugar
(hypoglycemia), heart arrhythmia, or other physiological conditions can lead you to
panic. Some medications and herbs may have side effects that make you susceptible to
panic. You may also want to look at diet as a contributing factor, especially if you
consume lots of caffeine or highly refined carbs and sugary foods.