The Mindfulness Playbook is not just another book on mindfulness – it is a workbook full of facts that cuts through the jargon surrounding mindfulness, with easy, useful exercises that gently encourage you to change your way of thinking and living.
Trained at the Royal Free Hospital, London, Dr Barbara Mariposa specialises in psychiatry and public health and has created the Mind Mood Mastery programme on which The Mindfulness Playbook is based.
As Mariposa says: ‘When we are fully present, a certain kind of spaciousness arises, an aliveness that is not tied to the outer circumstances of our life, a sense of being anchored in ourselves that allows us to ride the waves of life on a surfboard of our own making. This book gives you some ideas about how to make that surfboard and keep upgrading it.
‘It may seem paradoxical but, if you want to live life with a sense of energy, enjoyment and adventure, a good place to start is to master stillness. In stillness, we come to see our thoughts and feelings as passing events: coming and going like the weather, with whatever weight and significance we choose to give them. We get in touch with a deeper awareness of who we are, whole, complete and able.’
Here’s an example of one of the exercises:
Our first Power Tool is BELL – Breathe. Expand. Listen. Look.
Whenever you feel you are not present, ring your BELL. Close your eyes for a moment and get an image of a bell.
Use this Power Tool whenever you think of it. And particularly when you feel you are getting stressed, frazzled or upset, anything that leads into ‘brain freeze’. Ring your BELL:
• Breathe: Take a deep breath in and exhale slowly. This slows down the brain waves, stimulates the vagus nerve and parasympathetic side of your ANS, and alters your physiological state.
• Expand: Say the word ‘expand’ to yourself. This allows you to notice more of what is happening, releases tension in the body and expands your sense of yourself.
• Listen: What can you hear right now? What else? Widen your horizon. Widen your perceptual field. Come to your senses.
• Look: Really look at something, describe it to yourself, focus on what is present, something real.
When we are upset, we develop tunnel vision and locked-in hearing. We lock into the source of upset. We get smaller in our sense of ourselves. Small Self is in survival mode, looking out for number one.
By saying the word ‘expand’, we intentionally widen our perceptual field to include more of what is going on. We expand our perspective, which gives rise to new possibilities, better ways of responding. We expand our awareness and feeling about ourselves. Expanded Self is open, generous and creative, functions better cognitively and makes wiser decisions.
Choice goes out the window when we get upset because we go into survival mode. BELL allows us to reconnect with the bigger picture, engage CEO functioning and connect to core values. Your nervous system gets used to being in better balance and that becomes the norm.
When you notice you’re lost in thought, ruminating about something that’s already happened, getting upset about a current situation, or worrying about something that might never happen, ring your BELL. Bring yourself back to Now. Let the thoughts and feelings be. They will pass, like the weather. Everything does.
Ring your BELL when you’re walking to work, on the train, in a meeting. Cut through the chatter in your head. Practice bringing yourself back to the here and now.
Be especially aware of ringing your BELL. when you get triggered. Cut through the stress response, alter your physiological state, stimulate your vagus nerve and the parasympathetic side of your ANS.
Using the BELL
Go back to one of the triggers – a situation that plugs you in, makes you upset. Conjure it up in your imagination. Close your eyes if that helps. Remind yourself of what happens and how that feels. What happens in your body? Now ring your BELL. Unwind your body, pull yourself up through the spine.
From this calmer, more collected sense of self, see what options you have. See what possibilities might arise and how you being present and calm changes the situation that habitually triggers you.
Practise doing this with sticky situations in your imagination ahead of time. You will behave differently when that situation actually arises. You are training your brain to be more effective in the face of fire.
Sometimes we have to ring the BELL several times to calm ourselves down and get to the other side of an upset. Have the intention to bring mindful self-awareness to even challenging situations.
The Mindfulness Playbook by Dr Barbara Mariposa (John Murray, £12.99) is out now. For more about Dr Barbara Mariposa, visit drbarbaramariposa.com