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Week 1- Calming the Mind
- The mind needs an anchor in order to be still.
- Always be in control of where you place your attention. This will help to calm the mind.
- It is a myth that we can do lots of things well at once. The mind can only focus well on one thing at a time. So give your full attention to the task at hand, then move to the next task. Avoid multi-tasking if possible.
- A busy active mind (a moving mind) is not clear. When your mind becomes still we have greater clarity, focus, productivity, creativity, decision making and mental performance.
- When your mind wanders, gently (but firmly) bring it back to the present. With regular practice it will get easier.
- Meditation is not an emptying of the mind (it is impossible to get rid of thoughts), but rather stepping back and observing our thoughts, emotions and sensations (without any judgement) from a distance.
- Your breath is the most accessible tool as you always carry it with you.
- When you activate your senses it relaxes the muscles in the body, conserves energy and allows the mind to rest.
- You cannot be thinking if you are sensing.
- Mindful breathing is feeling the breath to engage your senses. Focus on all of the sensations of breathing (Choose a place to feel the movement of air e.g. the nostrils, the shoulders, the chest/belly)
- Mindfulness gives us awareness. Awareness gives us choice. This can be very empowering.
Calming the Mind
Research shows we are on ‘auto-pilot’ or ‘mindless’ 47% of the time. Week 1 of the program involves calming the mind and allowing the mind to grow quieter. We can learn to use the breath as an anchor to stabilise and ground ourselves in the present moment. With practice, we can learn to sustain ourselves amidst the pull of negative emotions and turbulence in your job and your life.
It is important to not be thinking about breathing during your mindfulness practice, but really feeling the breath. See if you can tune into the sensations associated with the cycle of breathing and notice what it feels like to be breathing. This will awaken the senses, in particular, the sense of touch. You may feel the air moving through the nostrils, at the rib cage or notice the feeling of the belly rising and falling with each breath in and out.
Mental Fitness- (Pre-Frontal Cortex)
Each time you notice your mind has wandered and you bring your attention back to the breath, you activate neurons in that part of the brain, strengthening your mental muscle (the pre-frontal cortex). This is like doing a mental rep, or a bicep-curl for your brain. The more we practice training our attention in this way, the stronger our pre-frontal cortex will get.
The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for executive function- it is like the Chief Commissioner of your brain. This area of your brain is crucial for your profession with Victoria Police as it is closely linked to executive function, attention, focus, decision making, remaining calm during a crisis, emotional regulation, inhibiting impulses, critical thinking and planning.
Bicep Curls for the Brain
What is occurring when thinking as opposed to sensing?
Thinking Vs Sensing
|Is active||Is more passive|
|Involves past and future||Is in the present|
|Is complex and fast||Is simpler and slower|
|Has high emotional charge||Has low emotional charge|
|Is stimulating||Is relaxing|
|Burns energy||Conserves energy|
|Tightens the body||Relaxes the muscles of the body|
Good focus is the key here
The practices we are learning in this program all work on the same principle: if you consciously focus on the raw sensory signals and sensations in the present, you disengage from habitual thoughts and automatically begin to relax.
You will notice each week there is an opportunity to go into the mental gym.
Formal practice means listening to the specific recording for that week. You may like to download other apps to support your practice. I highly recommend Insight timer, a free meditation app https://insighttimer.com.
Informal practice means performing an activity or task that doesn’t take any extra time.
WEEK 1 PRACTICE TASKS
INFORMAL PRACTICE- Mindfulness of Routine Activities
The informal task this week is to bring mindful awareness to otherwise routine activities that you might usually do without paying much attention. For example, each day notice what happens when you pay attention to a daily task such as cleaning, washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, showering, driving, drinking food, eating snacks, making dinner…etc. Allow yourself to be curious and surprised by this task.
FORMAL PRACTICE- Calming the Mind/ Mental Reps
Each day this week please practice the 6 min recording below. Try not to expect anything in particular from this exercise. See if you can give up all expectations about it and just see what happens with regular practice.