21-Day Mindfulness Challenge
"A mindful campus is a happy campus." -
- Some effects of mindfulness:
Increases ability to relax
- Improves academic success
- Reduces work-related stress and psychological distress
- Improves general health
- Facilitates recovery from illness
Effective relapse prevention and recovery from addictions
Positively impact your relationships
- Mindfulness also shows a negative link with alcohol consumption in college students.
- The need:
A way of living that helps students develop awareness of both their internal and external worlds, and thrive along with the stress in their academic and personal lives
Mindfulness is both accessible and relevant to practice in our daily lives
- The goal:
Introduce the benefits of mindful living to students who regularly attend WVU Collegiate Recovery activities/events, as well as for those who work here
Aim to initiate daily mindfulness practices after the challenge
We find the ‘beginner's mind’ to be an exceptional way for us to encourage creativity and critical thinking! It is also a healthier response to stress, particularly before those pesky tests universities love. ‘Beginner’s mind’ also helps us to not make any assumptions and to start living with a positive attitude and a curious mind.
Have a wonderful experience in developing your mindful practice, one exercise at a time.
Take 1 minute to follow your breath. Be curious of your in-breath and out-breath.
Stay with it from the beginning of your in-breath to the end of your out-breath.
When a thought comes to visit, be aware of it and let it go, and then come back
to your breath.
“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” - Sylvia Boorstein
Mindfulness is not “cold” thinking. In Japanese, the character for mindfulness combines the words for mind and heart. It is awareness with heart. Mindfulness invites you to respond to your experience rather than just react to it. It is paying attention in the “here and now”, non-reactively, non-judgmentally, and with an open heart, and curiosity. You can see that in washing a dish or even brushing your teeth, in so many apparently “ordinary” experiences, that when fully experienced, they are actually sparkling moments!
Do your mindfulness challenge slowly and reverently with patience, attention, and kindness. Live in the moment!
3 activities that you do mindlessly and do them mindfully. They could
be brushing your teeth, washing dishes, sweeping the floor, eating a snack. You
get to choose!
“Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility.” – Gary Snyder
Walking is a wonderful way of practicing mindfulness. On a beautiful day, we might find it "wasteful" to do sitting meditation. Or when we have too much on our "monkey mind" and it's impossible to sit and meditate, take a mindful walk!
When we walk, just walk.
Every step we take can help us arrive at the destination of the here and the now. You have nowhere to go and nothing else to do. Walk in a way that we cultivate happiness, peace, and joy in every step. You can practice mindful walking when you walk from your house to your car, from one building to the other between classes, on your way to a meeting, etc.
When walking, focus your awareness on your breath and body sensations. It's always easier to start at a slower pace.
Enjoy the walk! Take a 5-minute mindful walk outside or inside.
“Mindful eating means simply eating or drinking while being aware of each bite or sip.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
Through the food that we choose to eat, we directly and indirectly make an impact on our bodies and our minds, and on the environment(s) around us. This is a newer concept since our ancestors didn’t have much of a choice when it came to food. Now we have the ability to choose what to eat and what NOT to eat.
Mindful eating is mindful voting.
We vote for what we believe in through our choice of food. We vote for the food that comes from places that don’t harm our body, our mind, and our planet.
At the beginning of your next meal, set the timer for 5 minutes for a mindful eating practice. Treat that 5 minutes as a meditation! Enjoy every taste of the food in mindfulness.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” – Amit Ray
The Power of Breath
Our breath is our life-mate. The English word "spirit" comes from the Latin spiritus meaning "breath". In Chinese, the word "breath" 息 is comprised of two separate words: 自 = “from” or “itself” and 心 = “the mind". Therefore, breath is from the mind itself. Breathing is the spiritual journey of the mind.
Breathe to heal because time doesn't.
When we are aware of our breath, we are in control of our mind and emotions. When our mind is anxious or stressed, our breath is shallow and fast. When feeling calm, we breathe evenly and slowly. When anger is there, our breath can be forceful and rapid. Our breath can be used as a tool to diagnose our emotional sickness or wellness. When our mindfulness practice is strong, we will be aware when strong emotions come up, and we can take control of our breath to regulate emotions.
Create a breathing space for yourself. It can be a corner in your house or in your office. Dedicate this as your ‘healing and mindfulness space’.
“Om — the ancient sacred syllable—may be the only mantra you'll ever need.” - Richard Rosen
The Universal Sound of Oṃ
Today we explore the sacred and universal sound of Oṃ, a mantra we can use in our practice, to connect ourselves with others and nature. Oṃ comes from Samskritham (Sanskrit) and has been used throughout the millennia in the life-practices of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. You will find chanting the sound will bring health benefits, including improved concentration, reduction in stress and anxiety, improved functioning of the heart and digestive system, positive vibrations to self and surroundings, etc.
Fun fact: The 3 roots of Oṃ are:
- A -- “awe”. The sound starts at the back of the throat & you stretch it out.
- U – “oo”
- M – “mmm”
The last syllable is the deep silence of the infinite. You merge your chant from “M’ to the deep silence.
Connect your self to the universe by creating the sound of Oṃ (9 times) in a quiet space.
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
Sitting Breath Meditation
Gifts of the practice – Sitting and breathing mindfully brings four important elements into our lives: peace, clarity, compassion, and courage. When we are peaceful and clear-minded, we are inspired to be more compassionate.
Today you will be asked to count your breath. Your breath is a gift. From the day that you are born until the last instance of your life you will breathe. Your breath is an evidence that you are indivisible with this world. You are one with your environment, constantly in exchange: taking in and giving out. Your breath is also a good portable meditation device.
Count your breath from 1 to 5 and return to 1 when you have a thought. If you get to 5, start at 1 again. If you remain on 1 a lengthy period of time, that's okay. Do this non-judgmentally for 10 minutes! This is a simple exercise but it’s not easy, so don’t get discouraged!
“The goal is to be the observer of your thoughts and not let your thoughts control you.” - Deepak Chopra
Be the Doorman
Let us explain this to you! We are asking you to be the doorman of your thoughts
(not the actual doorman) for today.
If a doorman works in a busy hotel (busy mind), he will see a lot of people coming in and out of the entrance. His job is to welcome the guests (the thoughts) and keep the hotel a safe and peaceful place. Some “negative” guests are tricky. They try to engage the doorman in their conversation to steal his attention. The best strategy to deal with the "bad" guests is to simply acknowledge them and not react or attach to their conversation(s). Just breathe and observe, so he won’t get lost. A good doorman needs to greet every guest who comes in the door and acknowledge them kindly, equally, and non-judgmentally. All guests have one thing in common: they are temporary, just like thoughts.
Sit down, take 3 deep breaths. Practice sitting meditation for 10 or 15 minutes. You are the doorman and the objects of the meditation are your guests (the thoughts). Practice observing and acknowledging your thoughts/emotions when they come up and gently let them pass by.
“When we are grateful, we affirm that a source of goodness exists in our lives.” - Robert Emmons
The Power of Gratitude
What does mindfulness have to do with gratitude? We cannot be grateful by being in the past or in the future. Gratitude brings us back to the present moment.
Gratitude allows us to be aware and appreciative of the blessings we have and not to solely focus on the struggles that we encounter. Mindfulness helps us respond to our misfortunes with acceptance and kindness. The two practices, gratitude and mindfulness, work together and are interconnected.
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. His work has revealed the many benefits of gratitude including more happiness, better health, and strong social connection.
The more grateful we are, the more present we become.
Journaling: Write down 3 things that you're grateful for.
- One person that means the world to you.
- One thing that you could offer to help or support a friend or a family member.
- An upsetting experience in the past and how it might now make you feel grateful.
“Time spent in self-reflection is never wasted – it is an intimate date with yourself.” – Paul TP Wong
Rewind what we have learned the past nine days. Take a deep breath and do a mindful observation of the content going through our mind.
What is mindfulness to you? Have you been able to practice mindful walking, eating, or sitting?
The water is at its clearest and most reflective stage when it is still. We sometimes need to take a few minutes to just be still as well. Mindful reflection helps us to live wholly in our conscious awareness.
Take 10 minutes. Write down 3 things that you have learned about mindfulness during the past challenges, and then reflect on it. (We are confident that this will be easy for our ‘beginners' mind’.)
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” — Winston S. Churchill
We hope the seeds of mindfulness have grown in your beautiful garden. The practice of mindfulness does not only recognize our “positive” seeds and water them, but it also takes care of the “negative” seeds and transforms them. When we continue to practice mindfulness, we will build our inner garden into a serene, harmonious, and joyful one.
Giving is receiving.
Happiness is truly real when it is shared with others. We are inviting you to plant a seed of mindfulness by sharing your mindfulness practice with someone. That person could be a family member, a friend, a colleague, or a significant other.
Invite someone for a mindful walk or a mindful meal, or even for a short meditation with you.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always
The #1 misconception of vulnerability is it's often seen as weakness. In fact, vulnerability is the opposite of weakness. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word ‘vulnerability’ is derived from the Latin word vulnerare meaning “to wound”. Vulnerability is defined as "capable of being wounded” or “open to attack or damage”. Meanwhile, weakness means the "inability to withstand attack or wounding".
What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful. – Dr. Brené Brown
Being vulnerable means putting ourselves in a "risky, uncertain, emotionally exposed" situation. If we are not mindful of whom we open ourselves up, we could end up hurting our feelings. We need to mindfully choose the ones who have the ability to understand our vulnerability.
Today's Challenge (Journaling)
Spend 5 minutes on journaling and reflecting on what vulnerability means to you. Think of a past vulnerable experience that you now look at it as courage.
“I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.” - Maya Angelou
The word “empathy” came into the English language when Edward Titchener adopted the German word Einfühlung, which means "feeling into". According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, empathy means "imagining, or having the capacity to imagine, feelings that one does not actually have". Another way to put it is to have the ability to feel into what other people are feeling.
Thanks to neuroplasticity, our brains are capable of being rewired to be more empathetic through mindfulness practice. Mindfulness helps us feel our own shoes and be aware and accepting of our own feelings and emotions. Then, it will allow us to detect others' feelings and emotions through the effect of the mirror neurons. To put it simply, when someone shows us an emotion, such as sadness, the same part of our brain will be lit up so that we can share the feeling of sadness as if it's our own.
Journaling: "Feel into" the shoes of three people you know. (3 minutes for each
- Someone that you love
- Someone that you have a neutral relationship with
- Someone that you have struggled to understand and be empathetic towards
“As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection 'Wisdom of the heart'." – Kim Alison McMillen
Be kind to yourselves. The academic environment lends itself to growth yet it also brings with it a great deal of evaluation. How you use the information you receive from friends, professors, colleagues, and others is important. Use it to help yourself grow, not to sink. Breathe, reflect, say, and act on "This is good enough. I am happy to be here. I am kind to myself. I am not looking for anything more." With that detachment from expectation, enjoy your life! A life of growth and opportunity, love and friendship.
Today's Challenge: Metta (Loving-kindness meditation)
Sit in a comfortable yet alert position. Close your eyes or allow them to focus on one point in front of you. Take a few deep breaths in and out, then repeat the following stanza 3 times. Then, breathe again and repeat. Reflect on what it means to send love and kindness to yourself on a regular basis.
May I be safe
May I be healthy
May I be happy
May I be free of suffering
“I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates.” – Maya Angelou
The word "love" is often blended with romantic relationships. This limits the meaning of this beautiful word. Today, we discuss universal love. According to Buddhist psychology, there are four elements that generate true love.
1. Loving-kindness: the intention and capacity to offer joy and happiness
to oneself, then giving it to others
2. Compassion: the capacity to relieve and transform suffering and lighten sorrows in oneself and in others
3. Joy: the desire to generate the feeling of joy for ourselves as well as joy for the other person Our love should bring joy to us and the ones we love.
4. Inclusiveness: in Sanskrit, upeksha means “to look over” the boundary, the limitation, the delusion that we are separated from the other person
" In true love, you attain freedom." -- Thích Nhất Hạnh
Reflect on a relationship in your life. Use the four elements of true love as a formula to see where its current stage is and maybe apply the four principles to build a true-love relationship. If four is a lot for you, pick one! “In a trusting mindset, you’re in control of your performance.” -- Raymond Prior
The Art of Visualization
Visualization techniques have helped successful people accomplish feats. Elite athletes have practiced it to reach their highest potentials. Visualization allows us to prepare for important events in our lives before they happen, giving us the opportunity to perform more consistently in pressing situations.
“Visualization is daydreaming with a purpose.” - Bo Bennett
Four benefits of visualization according to Jack Canfield:
- activate your creative subconscious
- program your brain to more readily perceive and recognize the resources you will need to achieve your dreams
- activate the ‘Law of Attraction’
- build your internal motivation to take the necessary actions to achieve your dreams.
Spend 5 minutes visualizing yourself positively reacting to a challenge or an opportunity in an upcoming event of yours, like a test or presentation.
Guided visualization audio is available.
"There are many ways to tell the truth. It’s an art." – Thích Nhất Hạnh
As human beings, we always have a strong desire for connection. Even before we
are born, we communicate and connect with our mother. As we grow up, we seek
connections with our family members, our friends in school, our romantic partners,
our co-workers, etc. Communication can strengthen a relationship, but it can
also break one if we're not mindful of our word.
Self-communication is the key to interpersonal communication. The language we use to talk to ourselves, to create our story, directly and indirectly, affects our relationship with others.
Two elements of mindful communication are deep listening and loving speech.
When someone is speaking to you in a conversation, just listen. Stay present, don't
try to give advice, listen with the intention to learn and understand the other
person even when what they say might not be true.
“Mindfulness isn't difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” –Sharon Salzberg
The Power of Intention
Meditation is a goalless goal. – Zen saying
A goal is something that cannot be seen or touched in the present moment. Meanwhile, intention helps to bring us back to where we are in the here and now.
When our intention is to accept and allow the experience during our sitting or walking practice and not expect anything from it, the experience starts to shift. We can control our intention but not the result of our practice. When we set an intention for our mindfulness practice (and our lives), we pave the way for our reality to manifest.
Set an intention for today's mindfulness practice.
(Pick one: meditation/mindful walking/mindful eating/mindful breathing)
Live your day to the fullest with this intention!
We believe in you!
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” - Confucius
The Beauty of Simplicity
Sometimes we believe that the more stuff we possess, the happier we are. Our cultural and societal norms promote the idea that materialism results in happiness. It's not always the case. We often seek happiness from someone or something outside of us and fail to listen to our inner-self. Peace and happiness come from within.
Simplifying is beautifying.
Simplicity allows us to declutter things in our home as well as thoughts in our mind. Simplicity gives us space to breathe and free ourselves from distractions so that our mind will be fresh and our heart will be pure. That's when we find peace and freedom in everything we do. That's when the beauty of life reveals itself to us.
Simplify your life by letting go of 3 items in your possession that you've owned for more than a year but rarely use.
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” – Dalai Lama
Mindfulness + Kindness = Kindfulness
Today we invite you not only to be mindful but also to be kindful. Mindfulness can be challenging when we deal with a difficult situation. Kindness helps us flow through unhappy experiences while mindfulness keeps us stay grounded in the present.
The fault-finding mind is an inherent trait that supposedly helps us to protect
ourselves from suffering. However, it traps us in another layer of suffering
itself because of fear, anger, and ego.
Do you have a fault-finding mind?
If so, Ajahn Brahm prescribes a 3-step solution ( AFL) for this condition of the mind:
- Acknowledge the situation
- Forgive the people who are involved in the situation
- Learn from the experience and the wisdom from that experience.
Offer one or two small acts of kindness to someone. It could be opening the door for a stranger, getting some food for your sick roommate, or offering help to a family member. Or you may be reaching out to someone that you recently have had a conflict with and/or hold a grudge against.
"Clinging to what you have learned is worse than not learning it in the first place." – Thích Nhất Hạnh
Back to the 'Beginner's Mind'
We are grateful for your participation in this 21-day mindfulness challenge! We hope that you have planted a seed of mindfulness and compassion within yourself.
"I don't know", in many cases, is a power statement, where "been there, done that" prevents us from seeing the bigger picture. ‘Beginner's mind’ doesn't ask us to forget or to abandon what we have learned before. What it needs us to do is to put our expectations and beliefs aside so that the door of "many other possibilities" can be opened. We can cultivate this quality by being curious about the present situation and letting go of our preconceptions and assumptions based on past experiences.
Before sitting for a 10-minute meditation, choose a familiar object (a phone,
a book, a plant, etc.). Set the intention to cultivate the ‘beginner's mind’.
Treat it like your first meditation ever! Be curious about your breath, your
thoughts, and your body sensations. After the meditation, open your eyes and
look at the object with the beginner's mind.
Did you notice something new you hadn't before?
because "What you practice grows stronger." – Shauna Shapiro
May you be safe
May you be healthy
May you be happy
May you be free of suffering