Week 3: The Mind

In our third week, we will explore the concept of mindfulness as it applies to STOP, one of our primary tools for self-reflection and self-regulation.

How to use this

  1. Please watch these videos sequentially.
  2. Acquaint yourself with the movement and breath by following the instructions included in each video a few times before moving on.
  3. Acquaint yourself with the language and breathing cues that are used in each video, noticing patterns of movement and breath.
  4. After you have watched and practiced along to the first 6 videos, there is a 7th video that will lead you through a short sequence, tying together the individual videos. This is a sequence that you will be using when you teach, and that you can also use for your own short practice.
  5. After completing the videos and the reading, please take and submit the quiz.

Lesson

In week three, we move on to the mind. The way we use our minds is one of the most important aspects of health and wellness. Our perceptions of ourselves, the world around us and our place in the world guide us toward committing ourselves to either health or neglect.

When we practice these postures and breathing exercises, we have a choice: we can either zone out or tune in. The mind can be present, or not present, in any physical activity. In the Health and Wellness practices, we are purposefully using our body and breath to help bring our mind to a state of attention.

We like to represent this idea with the image of a tripod, which is one of nature’s most stable shapes. Even if the legs of a tripod are not the same height, it can still balance and remain steady. Not so with a four-legged table or chair—if there is a difference in height between the legs, it will certainly wobble. The tripod we work with in Health and Wellness is made up of our body, breath, and mind. By bringing each of them into play, we can find balance, stability, confidence, and self-control.

One word that is widely used these days is “mindfulness.” It is a word that alludes to how we can become aware of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions without necessarily trying to change them; rather, mindfulness allows us to experience our thoughts, feelings, and emotions as constantly changing phenomena. To “be mindful” does not mean to become a zen-robot or someone who is calm and controlled at all times; it indicates a person who is able to watch and be conscious of themselves, who is able to be responsive rather than reactive.

The Teach Wellness curriculum includes several different mindfulness practices. This week you will learn one of the students’ favorites: STOP.

When we are met with a challenging experience, our default is typically to react. To react means to engage with a situation in a way that can be, for example, hostile, stubborn, or unhelpful. In the Health and Wellness practices, we are developing our ability to respond. When we respond to a situation, we are coming from a place of respect—respect for ourselves, for others, and for the situation we are in.

  • STOP is a tool that helps us respond instead of react. It is an acronym that stands for the following steps:
    • Stop.
    • Take a few breaths.
    • Observe the sensations in your body.
    • Proceed with awareness.
  • When we use STOP, we slow down our tendency to react automatically.
    • We create a mental space within which we are able to think about and see the situation clearly.
    • We give ourselves an opportunity to notice what we are feeling in our bodies.
    • We allow ourselves to sense our emotions. It is very difficult to figure out how to deal with an emotion until we acknowledge that this emotion is indeed present.
  • We can choose to use the STOP technique in challenging situations.
    • When we are arguing with a friend or family member.
    • When we feel frustrated and want to lash out.
    • When we feel confused and don’t know what to do next.
  • When we feel intense emotions, we might experience physical side effects.
    • Shaky body.
    • Racing mind.
    • Urge to yell, scream, shout, cry, kick, and stomp.
    • Hands form fists and muscles tense.
    • Heart beats quickly.
    • Face feels warm.
    • Stomach churns and aches.
    • Head feels explosive.
  • When you notice that you are experiencing an intense emotion, first name what you are feeling.
    • “I am aware that I am breathing fast. I am aware that my heart is beating fast. I am aware that my fists are clenched.”
    • Take a few more deep breaths and see if you can create some space around those immediate sensations.
    • See if you can relax your hands and slow down your breathing.
    • Acknowledge what you are feeling, and remember that feelings don’t have to lead to action.
  • The practice of STOP teaches us to carve out time to reflect, instead of reacting impulsively.
  • We’ve stopped, we’ve breathed, we’ve observed. Now we want to proceed with awareness, with balance, and with a non-reactive attitude toward the emotion we have just been experiencing.

Learning Transfer for the exercise practice: You can apply STOP any time of the day, not only in a challenging situation with someone else. It can also be used as a checking-in tool. Try it during the few breaths we take in Downward Dog. Since we stay there for a few breaths, run through all the steps of STOP while you are taking your 3-5 breaths, just to check in with yourself, see where you are, and experience the effects of this mindfulness practice.

Videos

Takeaways

  • STOP is a mindfulness technique for navigating everyday situations, particularly challenging experiences.
  • There is a difference between “responding” and “reacting” to situations and emotions.
  • Body, breath, and mind form the Health and Wellness tripod.
  • Mindfulness is being aware of the contents of our mind, and developing our ability to sense and feel what we are experiencing in the present moment. It is not a way of controlling thoughts and feelings, but of acknowledging them.

Quiz

In our third week, we will explore the concept of mindfulness as it applies to STOP, one of our primary tools for self-reflection and self-regulation.

Resources

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