It’s no secret that we all want to be happy in our everyday lives. With the increased stresses that many of us face in our lives it is important to take time out to be mindful and stay present in the moment.
Malcolm Huxter (Mal) is a clinical psychologist as well as a mindfulness and compassion consultant who lives and works in Lismore. Mal has been practicing mindfulness and related practices, such as loving kindness and compassion for nearly 45 years and has been teaching it in both clinical and public settings for over 28 years.
In his book, Healing the Heart with Mindfulness, Malcolm Huxter describes the practice of mindfulness, his journey with mindfulness and also many ways that individuals can practice mindfulness.
Mal says that “One way of describing mindfulness is: remembering to be attentive to present moment experience with care and wise discernment.”
Mindfulness can be useful for many people.
According to Mal, “mindfulness is regarded as a meditation practice, a coping skill, a mode of being and a key factor in therapy. It is both a therapeutic stance used by therapists and a skill that can be taught to individuals seeking treatment, therapy, life-coaching and stress management. Mindfulness can be learnt individually or within group settings and is not limited any one particular mental emotional or spiritual approach.”
A principle with mindfulness is to stay present with current experience. When we can stay present with experience (with mindfulness) we can be more empowered to short circuit cyclic destructive behaviours, reduce being hijacked by wayward thoughts and tame emotional overreactions. One way of practicing mindfulness is by being aware of what presents or what is there in front of you. Another way of practicing mindfulness is by wisely remembering to bring attention to the task at hand, whatever that task may be.
According to Mal, “Mindfulness helps us not to be seduced and intoxicated with the highs of life, while protecting us from being deceived and lost in the lows. Mindfulness is the opposite of being mindlessly on automatic pilot. With mindfulness it is possible to relax with joyous awe to the mystery and beauty of life. Mindfulness can help liberate us from the suffering associated with anxiety and depression because it helps us remember the lessons from the past, remember our purpose and remember to be here now.”
You can be mindful anywhere and with almost everything in life. Mindfulness does not stand alone as an isolated skill, but is part of context that includes: wise understanding, good intentions, wise actions, speech and livelihood, as well as energy or effort and focussed attention.
According to Mal, “There are many other skills and qualities that go with mindfulness. They all help to develop each other. Some of these skills and qualities are: relaxation, kindness, commitment, a beginner’s mind, a discerning non-judgemental stance, non-grasping, acceptance and patience.”
One practice that aids in the development of mindfulness and vice versa is muscle relaxation.
“As muscle relaxation is an important ally to mindfulness, a progressive muscle relaxation exercise is a good place to start. Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR) is a practice that has been used by health practitioners including psychologists for the promotion of health and wellbeing and stress management since the 1920’s. PMR is also very helpful as an introduction to mindfulness.”
There are free audio tracks available for progressive relaxation and many other meditations produced by Malcolm on https://www.malhuxter.com/ A small Danish meditation app called “OliOli” also has many of Malcolm’s recordings at http://olioli.one/ Malcolm’s guided meditations are also available from “Insight Timer” https://insighttimer.com
Outlined below are some steps for Progressive Muscle Relaxation generously provided by Malcolm.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
During the progressive muscle relaxation you are asked to tense your muscles. It is important not to tense your muscles if it causes you any pain and not to tense your muscles for longer than 6 or 7 seconds.
• Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down. A place that you will not be interrupted for about 20 minutes.
• Make the intention that for the next 15-20 minutes you will not be too concerned about anything except being mindful in the moment and practising relaxation.
• Remember that you cannot force relaxation to happen, it is something that happens when you let go of tension.
• First, close your eyes and focus on your breathing, keeping it slow and even. Say the words “let go” to yourself a few times as you breathe out.
• Tense up your right foot, squeezing your toes together and pointing them downwards. Focus on that tension. Slowly release that tension as you breathe out, whilst saying the words “let go” or “relax” to yourself.
• Now tense up the rest of your right leg
• Slowly release the tension as you breathe out, saying “let go” or “relax”.
• Go through the other muscles in your body, working through the muscles of your right leg, left leg, buttocks, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, left arm, left hand and finger, right arm, right hand and fingers, neck, jaw, lips, eyes and forehead.
• Breathe out as you relax each body part saying to yourself “let go” or “relax”.
• When you finish, scan through your body and make sure that most tension has been released. If some areas are still tense you can spend extra time just relaxing those muscles.
• Slowly open your eyes and remember that throughout the day you can remind yourself to let go of tension by saying to yourself “let go” or “relax”.