Monday, May 20, 2024

Modern Mindfulness: Updated Practices for a Modern Age

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Everyone needs a bit of mindfulness and meditation in their day, but not everyone is suited for traditional practices. Luckily, meditative methods have come a long way with options that pair well with our busy modern life.

How Meditation Has Shifted

The words mindfulness and meditation have become commonplace in our current culture. “Mindfulness is no longer just a buzzword, but rather something that has worked its way into social settings, work atmospheres and morning routines,” says the founder of Cacti Wellness, Kira Jones Matousek. “With meditation apps, breathwork classes and reminders on your Apple Watch to ‘breathe,’ meditation is going mainstream.”

Although there’s a modern spin to it, director of mindfulness at Mohonk Mountain House, Nina Smiley, PhD, says it’s all about understanding the basics and ensuring it’s all accessible. She feels that everyone can benefit from mindfulness and everyone has time to squeeze it in, even if it’s only a few minutes.

Founder of Mind Body Project, Chris Stockel, has noticed meditation shift toward simplicity and accessibility in hopes of appealing to the broadest audience possible. “Rather than going through in-depth training in a particular meditative discipline, a person can simply download an app,” he says. For those turned off by aspects of traditional mindfulness, there are now many alternatives.

“What I’m seeing and encouraging my clients to do is have meditative and mindful moments. Rather than an hour-long meditation, maybe it’s taking a few deep breaths or five minutes of feeling gratitude,” says Reiki master Lisa Mayer, adding that these practices help bring us into the present moment and shift our energy.

This shift, of course, comes in the wake of the straining days of the pandemic. It’s a welcome change, according to the experts. “I think it’s a beautiful thing to see a cultural shift toward the internal life and prioritizing emotional and mental well-being,” says Alo Moves meditation instructor Kirat Randhawa. “I think this will expand as more people experience the benefits of settling the mind and nourishing themselves from the inside out.”

If you don’t like traditional acupuncture, try ear seeding.

Not everyone is up for being a human pin cushion, as one must be during acupuncture. Luckily, there are other ways to reap similar benefits. “Ear seeding is a type of acupressure that provides gentle, constant stimulation of acupressure points on the ears,” explains WTHN cofounder and licensed acupuncturist Dr. Shari Auth, DACM. Just like acupuncture, the beauty of this practice is that it can have a holistic healing effect on the body.

“These ear points activate brain activity and the central nervous system, making them very effective in addressing issues for the whole body,” explains Gabriel Sher, chief of acupuncture and TCM development for ORA. According to Auth, ear seeds benefits include reducing stress, boosting immunity, supporting digestion and reducing pain. “They’re also often used to remedy emotional distress and addictions,” adds Sher.

The ear “represents the entire body in a microsystem. There are hundreds of points in the ear that correspond to the entire body and help reset the system,” explains Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, acupuncture and integrative and Chinese medicine specialist and founder of Helia House. Various parts of the ear are linked to the uterus, spine, liver, lungs, heart, eyes and more, she notes. Ear seeding can be used to optimize acupuncture benefits between visits or on its own as a quick and easy form of self-care, although not all experts advise doing it yourself.

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If you don’t like making affirmations, try journaling.

Affirmations can be hugely beneficial when you know which goals you want to work toward. However, if you’re still trying to figure it all out, journaling may be better. Journaling can be a deeply “effective way of getting very clear on your thoughts and behaviors,” says Stockel. The practice finds its power in the freeing nature of writing something no one else will see. This kind of “brain dump” can help us “dig deeper and reveal thoughts and feelings we weren’t even aware we were holding on to,” adds Leah Santa Cruz, a meditation teacher and Balance app coach. For many, this practice proves a relaxing release.

“Taking pen to paper causes more brain activity than just thinking through affirmations and meditations, so you’re more likely to remember and focus on what you’ve written,” says Jones Matousek, who loves teaching people to “script,” which is somewhat of a hybrid between affirmations and journaling. “You write future situations as if they’ve already happened. It’s a powerful way to uncover your desires and subconsciously give yourself the confidence to go after them.”

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If you don’t like meditating in stillness, try a walking guided meditation on an app.

Meditation apps are experiencing a spike in popularity, and it’s not a coincidence. Jones Matousek says walking meditations are the most popular meditations used on her platform. Holistic healer Hope Gillerman notes that one of the top meditation apps, Insight Timer, has more than 6 million active users. “I think it has a lot to do with how busy everyone is, especially now that many people are heading back to the office. Walking meditation is powerful because it allows you to be in motion, connecting your mind to movement and really embodying the thoughts and visualizations you’re meditating on,” explains Jones Matousek. The ease of slipping it into the day and stacking it with other habits separates it from more traditional meditation.

“Moving the body is an easier gateway into meditation for many versus sitting still. It allows people with high energy, restlessness, trauma or a busy mind to engage in meditation more effortlessly,” says Santa Cruz. “We can build awareness of more details about our bodies through movement, and experience how emotions and sensations move through us and are always changing.” It’s important to note that the intention is still the same, “to turn the attention inward and observe the internal experience with equanimity, but the posture is different,” says Randhawa.

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If you don’t like body scans, try energy healing.

While a body scan is a great way to relax and connect to your physical self ahead of meditation, energy healing, like Reiki, goes a bit deeper by focusing on your chakras and inner emotional experience. There are seven commonly discussed chakras that rule different aspects of the body and mind. When they are in balance and healthy, they are considered open, and when they are blocked or unhealthy, they are considered closed, explains Mayer. These blockages can be a result of trauma, loss, poor self-care and/ or physical, mental or emotional stress, she adds.

“For example, the root chakra, located at the tailbone, is deeply connected to the physical experience and associated with emotions of support and safety, including family and personal relationships,” says Frank Elaridi, cofounder of Modern Nirvana , coauthor of the Modern Nirvana Oracle Deck and emotional healer. “When that is out of balance, it can be a result of, or result in, unhealthy relationships.” Healing these chakras helps release feelings and thoughts stored in the body that are not useful, adds Nicole Rutsch, Reiki master and mindfulness instructor on Alo Moves. She adds that energy healing can help “restore balance and accelerate your body’s self-healing abilities” while allowing you to get to the root cause of your challenges and heal them gently.

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If you don’t like meditating with incense, try a functional fragrance.

Incense has been burned for thousands of years to help people find clarity and feel cleansed, but the strong scent is not for everyone. When burned, it creates a scentlaced smoke, explains Gillerman, who describes the experience as “hypnotic, dreamy or earthy.” However, she advises that “incense be used in a well-ventilated space so that the smoke is allowed to disperse.” Functional fragrances, on the other hand, tend to be less harsh and can possess a variety of functions. “They are designed to improve our mental state. Once absorbed, the brain converts this information into electrical signals that travel to other sectors of the brain, especially the location of memory and emotion. All this happens at the speed of light,” says Gillerman.

From the simple scent of an orange peel or fresh lavender to sophisticated formulations from brands like The Nue Co., “fragrances can be calming, stimulating, or even trigger a memory,” says Jacqueline Berry, director of spa and wellbeing at Miraval Group.

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If you don’t like traditional yoga, try modern yoga practices.

“Yoga as a philosophy is timeless— it is, and always has been, a practice concerned with stilling the many fluctuations of our mind,” says Josh Kramer, a yoga teacher and Alo Moves instructor. “Modern yoga is simply adapting the practice to suit the needs of modern people while retaining the timeless goal of stilling our mind. We have to look at the aspects we struggle with in our lives today, and our modern yoga practice should work to help counter them.”

Modern yoga is especially great for those who get easily distracted or want a new challenge. Berry suggests trying hot yoga, forest yoga, power yoga, yoga synced to modern music, and, guest favorite at Miraval, aerial yoga, which uses a “silk or fabric hammock to facilitate yoga postures.”

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