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During this time of crisis and uncertainty, how do we as librarians maintain our own resilience and steadiness with our patrons for whom we serve and teach?
Mindfulness is one tool and skill that we can develop, delivering our services, resources, and showing up in personalized, authentic ways to help our users from any remote environment.
Simply, mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to our present moment experience with a sense of balance, kindness, and acceptance. Mindfulness allows us to question, investigating solutions to our challenging thoughts and emotions. It is this attention and awareness that can lead to a greater sense of purpose and well-being.1
How do we practice mindfulness?
There are many freely available mindfulness online resources, especially now.2 A basic breath exercise helps to focus our attention with an easy, friendly attitude toward any distractions and stories in our head playing out from a busy mind (which is to be expected) and returns our attention to begin again, connecting to the present moment. The breath is freely available to us for this exercise. If we are uncomfortable with the breath, other senses can be substituted such as listening to sounds. Here are the steps:
- Find a comfortable position. Check in and soften any tension points for you. Perhaps, your jaw is tight or neck or hands, and so on. Any posture can be used to initiate mindfulness in this way whether seated or lying down or standing.
- We can close our eyes or keep them open, not looking around the space but softly gazing on something in front of us. At any time, you may shift your position or close or open your eyes. See what works for you.
- Begin noticing the natural inhalations and exhalations of your breath. We do not force or manipulate the breath, merely notice and observe. Get curious about the qualities and characteristics of the breath in the body.
- When our mind or attention wanders (which it is expected to do), we bring the focus back again to the breath and follow its natural inhalations and exhalations or listen to the sounds inside or outside our space without creating or following any other stories in our head. Of course, thoughts and emotions will come and go but for the purpose of this ‘bicep curl for the brain’—we allow these thoughts and emotions to come and go, and return to the breath or listening to sounds during this mindfulness workout. We do not judge or become annoyed by whatever thoughts or emotions do come and go, we practice a kind attitude toward them. Noticing that our attention has wandered and returning to the breath or listening to sound is mindfulness—this is the practice!
Another exercise you may find helpful during your day is STOP3 which can help you stop or pause some of your ruminations, worries, or stresses as you move through your workday.
- Stop, Take a Breath (or two or more breaths, paying attention to the natural inhalations and exhalations of your breath);
- Observe and notice what is going on in your body as you think or feel these thoughts or emotions (you can label or name these body sensations or qualities of your emotions, feelings, or moods); and
- Proceed, returning to your task or the rest of your day.
By completing this short exercise, you are providing some spaciousness to allow and permit yourself to feel and think whatever may come up for you and yet you are practicing letting go of it, too. Of course, finding solutions, investigating more deeply the authenticity of your thoughts and feelings and what to do next is part of your awareness practice, deepening your own personal mindfulness workout. Refresh yourself and try STOP before returning that email or phone call or before your next online library research session.
Another mindfulness exercise provides a moment to ground yourself within your space and simply rest in the body. For this exercise, you may notice your feet on the ground, your body in your chair and the position of your hands. Bringing attention to the physical grounding of your body within your workspace is another way to acknowledge your ‘here and now’ before tackling your next item on your ‘to do’ list.
This next exercise increases relational mindfulness by providing a foundation of gratitude and kind attitude toward yourself and others. At the end of your breath exercise or as a separate exercise, you can silently in your mind name three things that you are grateful for or you may extend well wishes to others or yourself by saying silently in your own mind: May you (or I or we) be happy, safe and well.
All these exercises and tools may help you develop emotional regulation, and a sense of calm and stillness that is restorative. And, remember, if we begin to believe the stories and worries in our head which may be concerning but perhaps not directly threatening in the moment, mindfulness can help us face these day-to-day challenges during this time of uncertainty. We can begin again with kindness toward ourselves and simply one breath.
We will be back next week with another interesting article from the library world!
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