Tree mindfulness exercise

Start by sitting upright, but not stiff.  Feel the couch or chair gently holding you up.  Now place a hand on your belly, which is an act of acknowledgement and compassion.  We don’t usually connect with our breath this way, using the belly as an access point.  This is especially difficult as women in a society that focuses so much upon making our abdomen smaller and less expansive. 

Now visualize an image of a tree in a storm.  Focus your attention on the top of the tree, in which you might see leaves and branches blowing wildly in the wind.  Here the tree might look vulnerable, as though it could break at any time.  As you direct your attention down to the trunk of the tree, you see there isn’t much movement.  You see the stability of the tree and how it is deeply rooted in the soil.  It can withstand the storm.  When we experience a strong emotion, our mind is agitated like the top of the tree.  We can bring our mind down to the trunk, or to the belly, as we focus upon its rise and fall with the breath.

Breathe in now, noticing the rise of your abdomen.  Breathe out, noticing the fall of your abdomen.  Breathe deeply and focus your attention on the in-breath and the out-breath.  Follow your breath for several more rounds, feeling this stability as you connect to your trunk.  Open your eyes whenever you’re ready. 

Like with every mindfulness exercise, we ask, “What did I notice?”  In physical sensation, emotion, and thought?  How can you carry this practice with you throughout the rest of your day?