In the last blog post, I offered some general instructions for bringing mindfulness you’re your daily life and offered a number of simple ways to facilitate mindfulness in everyday life. In this blog post, I’m going to walk you through my favorite mindfulness exercise, which is also an exercise in increasing self-awareness.
I came up with this exercise which I call “The Check-In Exercise” many years ago while teaching beginning mindfulness meditation classes. It was something I was automatically doing myself as I would begin each of my own meditations, and I found it helpful as a way of getting connected with myself. I used to do a quick version of this before and after each meditation, and if you have a meditation practice of your own, you might give it a try and see how it works for you.
The Check-In Exercise offers a structured way of bringing your awareness to the present moment regularly, or checking in with yourself, until you get in the habit of doing it on your own. There are two parts to the exercise to be practiced continually over one week. Part 1 is to be practiced on the first day, and Part 2 is to be practiced for the following six days (with daily self-reflection questions) and hopefully to be continued beyond the six days (without daily self-reflection questions) until it becomes a habit to check-in regularly throughout the day with yourself. It is a very good idea to keep notes, especially on the first day, in your journal—if you haven’t start one yet, now would be a good time to start one—each time you go through the questions. (I talked about the importance of starting a journal in my blog post on Self-Awareness.)
Please make sure you read this entire blog post for full instructions on practicing the Check-In and gradually making it part of your daily routine.
For one day from the time you wake until the time you go to bed, set an alarm on your phone or watch to go off every hour. Each time your alarm goes off ask yourself, “What am I experiencing right now in this very moment…?” using the questions and subquestions below for guidance. Go through the entire list of questions for this first day. At the end of the day, take some time to answer the self-reflection questions below, and jot down some notes in your journal.
WHAT AM I EXPERIENCING RIGHT NOW IN THIS VERY MOMENT…
- In my HEART: What am I experiencing emotionally right now in this very moment?
- Specific feelings—“Feeling x.”
- General mood—“Feeling x.”
- Use words of emotions such as “joy”, “peace”, “discomfort”, “love”, “fear”, “anger”, “frustration”, etc., as “x”. See additional handout on emotion words for additional emotion words.
- In my BODY: What am I experiencing sensationally right now in this very moment?
- Posture—“Feeling x.” or “Noticing x.”
- Senses—Sights, sounds, tastes, skin sensations, and points of contact with the ground/floor/earth, your chair, etc.—“Experiencing x.”
- In my MIND: What am I experiencing mentally right now in this very moment?
- Thoughts—“Thinking about x.” or “Noticing my mind going to x.”
- Qualities of the mind—“My mind is doing x.” or “I’m mentally feeling x.”
- In my sense of CONNECTEDNESS: Am I feeling connected right now in this moment?
- To Myself—How connected to myself or disconnected from myself am I feeling right now in this moment? Do I feel close/closer to my feelings, sensations, and thoughts or distant/more distant?
- To Other beings—To whom or what are you feeling connected? Acknowledge this person, animal, or other being and how it feels sensationally and emotionally to be feeling connected in this moment.
- To God/Spirit/the Divine—Are you experiencing connection to something greater than any one person or being in this moment? Are you in touch with your sense of spirituality in this moment? If so, notice what it feels like to feel connected to God/Spirit/the Divine.
- To Nature/Natural Things—To what are you feeling connected in this very moment? Acknowledge if there is a place or an image of a natural setting or tree, plant, body of water, rock, etc., to which you are feeling connected in this very moment.
Note: If asking yourself the questions in Section 4, the Connectedness category, is confusing or does not resonate with you, skip it. Working with mind, heart, and body is sufficient.
After the first day, set your alarm to go off at least five times every day for at least the next six days, and each time the alarm goes off, take yourself through the same questions/subquestions. Take some notes after engaging in the exercise if you have the opportunity to, and definitely take time at the end of the day to reflect on the exercise using the questions for self-reflection below. Take the time to jot down some notes to capture your thoughts.
Questions for Self-Reflection at the end of each day:
- What was doing the exercise was like that day?
- What have you learned or gotten from it?
- How did practicing the exercise affect you or change your experience of your day?
At the end of the seven days, take time to reflect on the whole week-long experience of doing the Check-In exercise. This is another opportunity to increase self-awareness. Ask yourself the following self-reflection questions and jot down some notes in your journal:
Questions for Self-Reflection at the end of the week:
- What have you learned about yourself from doing the Check-In exercise over the past week?
- How has practicing the Check-In exercise affected you over the course of the week?
- Has there been any noticeable change in you, your life, your body, your functioning, your choices, or relationships as a function of having practiced the Check-In over the past week?
- Which part(s) of your experience—mind vs. heart vs. body—was (were) easiest to access and connect with? Generally, with which part of yourself—mind vs. heart vs. body vs. connectedness—do you believe you most readily inform yourself?
- Which part(s) of your experience—mind vs. heart vs. body—was (were) most difficult to access or did you feel least connected with? Generally, with which part of yourself—mind vs. heart vs. body vs. connectedness—do you believe you least readily inform yourself?
Over the coming week give the Check-In a try. In the next blog post I’m going to explain why this exercise is my favorite way of facilitating self-awareness and mindfulness, and how to use this exercise to facilitate healing.