The chances are good that you’ve at least heard about mindfulness—and perhaps are also aware of its benefits. Some of the most inspiring of these proven benefits of mindfulness include:
But did you know that mindfulness practice can also complement the healing benefits of acupuncture, in some compelling ways?
The basis for this mutually enhancing relationship between acupuncture and mindfulness is the intimate connection—as understood within Chinese medicine—between heart-mind (Chinese: Xin) and life-force energy (Chinese: qi).
The basic idea is that the quality of our mind affects the quality of subtle energy, which in turn affects the quality of our overall health. Acupuncture works primarily by interfacing with subtle energy (qi), and mindfulness practice works via the level of heart-mind. Together, their positive effects can be amplified.
During your acupuncture session, become mindful of physical sensations as well as emotional energy in your body. Let your attention—your mental focus—gently scan your body, from head to toe. Notice physical sensations, by feeling them directly—from the inside, so to speak.
You may also notice emotional energy, e.g. a sense of anger that seems to be located within your jaw; or a feeling of anxiety in the pit of your stomach.
Let your attention alight on each physical or emotional sensation, embracing it with a kind of spacious intimacy: allowing and even welcoming the sensation, and making no effort to change it in any way.
After a few seconds, allow your attention naturally to be drawn to another sensation, in the same or a different part of your body. Continue in this fashion, being mindfully aware of physical and emotional sensations—for the duration of your acupuncture session.
During your acupuncture session and/or during your daily life, become mindful of your breathing. Bring your attention to each inhalation and exhalation—resting your mindful awareness gently and intimately upon the breathing cycle. Become deeply interested in how each inhalation is followed by an exhalation, and each exhalation is followed by inhalation. And notice, also, the gaps between inhalation and exhalation.
If you notice your mind wandering, you can say the word “In”—out loud or internally—with each inhalation; and say the word “Out” with each exhalation. This will help to keep your mental focus interwoven with the movement of breath.
When agitated mental activity—aka an overactive or “spinning mind”—is contributing to feelings of stress or anxiety, practising mindfulness of thinking can be an excellent remedy.
In the same way that you became mindful of physical feelings, or mindful of breathing, now become mindfully aware of thinking. Instead of collapsing into the mind’s various dramas, take the position of a neutral witness to this mental activity. Simply observe the arising and dissolving of thoughts—of words, sentences, conversations and/or internal images—as though you were watching a movie or theatrical play.
If you’d like, you can say that mental chatter as “Talk” and internal images as “Image.” Allow the words and images to appear and disappear, without becoming invested in their narrative. Every 3-4 seconds apply the label “talk” or “image,” to support you in remaining mindfully aware of the mental chatter.
The practice of mindfulness is a simple one, yet it has the potential to make a significant difference in the way you feel. Studies have found it can be an effective way of helping with the symptoms of depression and anxiety. As a way of reducing stress, many people around the world have found it a useful tool. There are several ways of inducing a state of mindfulness, most of which can be performed by almost anyone.
Mindfulness tends to work best when practised regularly over time. It doesn’t take much, just a few minutes a day can be enough, as long as it’s done often enough to become a habit. There are many simple techniques you can use to achieve this. Deep breathing, repeating a positive mantra, and merely spending a few minutes in silence are just a few ways you can achieve mindfulness any time.
Reducing stress is a common desire of many, yet everyone has their own perception of what it means. By focusing on what positive qualities you want to enhance in your life, you may experience better results. You may find it helpful to assign certain themes or values to each day you practice. This can help make it easier to follow through with and can also help to reinforce the goals you’re trying to achieve.
In traditional Chinese medicine, balance is the key to bodily health. Most TCM practices involve directing your body’s natural energies along certain pathways to keep them flowing smoothly. Applying these practices to the practice of mindfulness may help to enhance the experience; blending and balancing the energies of your mind and body simultaneously, and hopefully improving the way they both feel.
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