5 Steps to Ease Stress with Mindful Meditation | Theresa Bren Skaar | Skillshare

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5 Steps to Ease Stress with Mindful Meditation

teacher avatar Theresa Bren Skaar, Meditation & Mindfulness Instructor

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Class Project


    • 3.

      Meditation Basics


    • 4.

      Day One: Just Breathe


    • 5.

      Day Two: Checking in with the Body


    • 6.

      Day Three: Investigating Sound


    • 7.

      Day Four: Observing Thoughts & Emotions


    • 8.

      Day Five: Putting it all Together


    • 9.

      Thank you & Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Have you ever experienced stress? This class is for you!

In this class you will learn basic meditation and mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your life. Join me to learn simple practices that you can start using immediately. These practices will not take away the stress or challenges in your life, but they will shift how you respond to life’s stressors.

  •  No prior experience with meditation or mindfulness is needed.
  •  In this class you will learn formal and informal mediation techniques. 

Mindfulness can be applied to any activity!

  • Walking
  • Talking
  • Eating
  • Creating
  • Communication 

Class Project:

 In each lesson you will receive a journal prompt. 

  • Answer the prompts after each session in a way that feels comfortable for you.
  • You can respond in words or in art, digital or analog.

 Personally, I like to use a journal and colorful gel pens! I also like to use paints, markers, or colored pencils and draw my responses.  Examples will be posted. I can’t wait to see what you create! 

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Theresa Bren Skaar

Meditation & Mindfulness Instructor


My name is Theresa.

I am a meditation and mindfulness instructor. I "found" meditation while in my first year of grad school. Learning to meditate and bring mindfulness into my daily life has profoundly impacted how I relate to stress. In fact, it made such a difference, I became a meditation and mindfulness instructor! 

I have my Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Social Psychology from University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). I am a qualified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher, a certified Mind-Body Medicine Facilitator, and host of Creating Connection with Dr. T. I focus on connection, communication, and mindfulness in all areas of my life. 

I am passionate about the experiences that we all share that can be difficult to talk ab... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction : Hi, thanks so much for stopping by. I'm guessing that you're here because you're curious about meditation, mindfulness, or simply finding ways to help you alleviate stress in your life. I have good news and bad news. The bad news first, bad news is we can't eliminate stress and challenges in life, so much of that is outside of our control. However, the good news is, is that by practicing meditation and mindfulness, you will be able to meet your stress a little bit easier and maybe shift your relationship to it slightly. My name is Dr. Theresa Bren Skaar. I found meditation and mindfulness when I was in my first year of my grad school program. I was not handling stress well. I had reverted to every single one of my bad habits to try and alleviate and relate to the stress that I found myself in. I was also an older adult student, so I was not in the habit of being back in school. A friend of mine had recommended and had suggested, hey, what about meditation? I was like, I will try anything, and so I did. I took a mindfulness-based stress reduction course. It's an eight-week course and I loved it so much. Again, it didn't take away the stress in my life, but it did help me meet that stress just a little bit easier. I wasn't relying on my old habits in order to meet stress, so this was a much healthier option for me. I loved it so much that I became trained in mindfulness-based stress reduction. So I am a meditation and mindfulness instructor. I'm so happy that you're here. The projects and practices that we'll be doing in this class are perfect for beginners or really anyone looking to come back to a meditation practice or simply have exercises that you can do in your daily life. You'll be able to complete journal prompts after each lesson, which will help you track your progress. Dive in, join me for the next five days so that you too can learn to meet your stress a little bit easier. See you in the next lesson. Thank you. [MUSIC] 2. Class Project: [MUSIC] Thanks so much for coming back. Today I'm going to be talking to you a bit about the project for this class. The way that this class is set up is that each day there will be a lesson talking about a particular aspect of bringing meditation and mindfulness into your life. After you listen to the lesson and do the practice that's included in each lesson, the invitation is to immediately do the journal prompt, and there'll be a specific journal prompt for each day. You can answer this in any way that makes you the happiest. You can use pen and paper. You can digitally record your responses. You could even get as creative as you'd like. You can draw them out using colored pencils or paints, using your iPad, whatever medium makes sense to you and actually makes you happy to engage with the question. That's the one for you. Then what you can do is upload your response to each day into the project gallery. This not only helps you stand track or get feedback if you have any questions on the lesson, but it also helps create community and connection with your fellow learners because this is how we learn and grow together. So please upload your responses. We can't wait to see what you create. Thank you. [MUSIC] 3. Meditation Basics: Thank you so much for coming back. In this lesson, I'll be talking about the basics of meditation. A definition that I like is from Jon Kabat-Zinn and it is; paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment non-judgmentally. There's a lot to unpack with that statement, but a couple of things is it is paying attention on purpose in the present moment. So often we're in future thoughts or past thoughts, and we're not actually in this moment. We're not used to being in the moment and it is a practice, and that's why we call it a practice, not a perfect, so you come back to the present moment. We'll be going through this in all of the other lessons in ways that you can bring this into your own life. Now, when you think about meditating or beginning of practice, I'd like you to think about a place and a time that makes sense for you to slow down and do these lessons with me and come into the present moment. Hopefully, finding a place that you won't be likely to be interrupted. Again, you might have seen pictures where people are meditating in a lotus position and they're on top of a mountain and those look beautiful. But trust me, you do not have to have the perfect place to meditate. Any place that you are, you can meditate. Body postures in meditation can be sitting, I like sitting in this chair, for instance. You could also do meditations lying down, walking, or even eating. Those would be in the formal meditation practice because you are sitting down intentionally, laying, or walking to do this invitation to the present moment, paying attention on purpose in a particular way. I had just mentioned formal practice. There's formal practice and informal practice. Informal practice can be anything in your daily life. You can invite mindfulness to daily chores, daily activities; brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, folding clothes. What happens when we're not doing mundane and regular things is that we're often running, we're thinking about what's next on the agenda, or we might be ruminating, or thinking about what happened yesterday, or even 10 years ago. But what we're doing with mindfulness is inviting attention into the present moment. If you're folding clothes, you might pay attention to the warmth if they're still warm from the dryer, or maybe while you're washing dishes, you can notice the foaming of the soap and cleaning the dishes in whatever way that you are, and feeling the water and warmth on your hands. It's just a way of bringing your attention to the present moment over and over again. These are the basics and I hope that you'll join me for the next lessons to learn more specifics on how to bring these practices into your daily life. Thank you. [MUSIC] 4. Day One: Just Breathe: Hi, welcome to day 1. I'm so glad that you're here. In this lesson, I'll be talking a bit about breathing. [LAUGHTER] You might think, "Well that's weird, I'm always breathing." Yes, we're breathing 24/7, but often we don't pay attention to the breath unless there's some challenge or difficulty. The breath is a great anchor of attention because it is always in the present moment. You can never be in a future breath or in a past breath. My grandma used to talk about, "Terry count to 10," if I was feeling heated or agitated. There's some wisdom in that because the counting to 10 actually helps you pause and become present. So I'm not going to say count to 10, but I am going to invite you to pay attention to your breath on purpose. What that feels like is actually paying attention to the direct physical sensations of the body breathing, breathing in, knowing you're breathing in, breathing out, knowing your breathing out and guess what? The mind's going to wander. That's not a problem. That is perfectly normal so you do not have to get worried about that when we practice together or when you practice on your own. It's part of what the mind does. Often people avoid or resist meditation because they think, "I can't clear my mind" or "I don't know, my mind is too busy." It's not about clearing the mind. So this first object of attention, the breath, which is always with us, it's such a good friend. It's here in the present moment, helping bring the attention from the future, from the past. If there's any stress arising, you can pause and take a few mindful breaths and that will help regulate your nervous system in a beautiful way. With that, are you ready to practice? Finding a position that feels supportive, yet comfortable, where you can be alert, yet at ease. There isn't anything magical about the position. Again, it's just inviting some stillness into the moment so you can pay attention in a particular way on purpose and non-judgmentally. Remember that key, non-judgmentally. Finding that position, making any adjustments necessary to your posture or your seat. You can close the eyes or lower the gaze. That helps tell the body and the mind that you're turning your attention inward for this moment. So closing the eyes or lowering the gaze and just taking a moment to settle into the position that you're in. Maybe finding the points of contact and noticing where you're sitting, how you're sitting. You might even notice air temperature. As you feel ready, narrowing the attention to the experience of the body breathing, feeling the inhale and the exhale. You might notice where you feel the breath most easily. Paying attention to feel the breath is most easily at the tip of the nose. Perhaps it's at the back of the throat or you might feel the breath lower in the body, in the torso, either in the rise and fall of the chest or the expansion and contraction of the belly. Wherever you feel the breath, that's the present moment. Just paying attention to the direct felt sensations of the body breathing. You're not trying to make anything happen or change anything, just noticing what's here and again, when the mind wanders, not a problem, just inviting it back to this breath and this moment. As you feel ready, opening the eyes if they've been closed. How was that for you? This can happen at any point. You don't even need to sit fancifully, but if you do notice some agitation or frustration, maybe you're in a meeting, maybe you're working on a project that's making some tension in the body, you can always pause and bring the mind back to the breath again and again. I will have some resources listed on different breath techniques but the basic one is breathing knowing that you're breathing. I'm so glad that you were here and I'd like you to practice that throughout the day. Doing a few mindful breaths and just bringing yourself to the present moment without judgment. See you in the next lesson. Thanks for being here. [MUSIC] 5. Day Two: Checking in with the Body: Hi. Welcome back. Today, we'll be focusing on another anchor of attention to bring that mindfulness into your life in a more regular way to support you in alleviating stress or at least meeting it differently in your life, however, it shows up. Today's anchor of attention is the body. Why is that a good anchor of attention? Much like the breath, your body can't be in the future or the past, so it's always in the present moment. One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, talks about where basically brains and jars moving around on sticks. That's how little attention we often pay to the rest of our physical experience. In this practice using the body, you're actually bringing the attention to direct felt sensations in the body. Sometimes the body can be challenging. There may be pain or difficulty, challenges with your perception of the container that you're in, and so the invitation really is to invite a sense of curiosity and friendliness. Again, that favorite word of mine, non-judgment, and that can be really difficult to do. It is a practice you're not going to maybe be perfect on the first one. Heck, I've been meditating for years and I often have challenges with this, but it is a practice and I keep coming back. The more that I do, I have been able to actually make friends with my body and befriend this container that I'm in in a way that is so much more useful than a lot of the judgment that I used to pile on myself in the past. That's why the body is a great anchor of attention, and I'd like to invite you to do a small practice with me now, checking in with the body and seeing what that might be like for you. Again, posting your results at the end and asking me any questions I'm here to support you in whatever way possible. We'll begin our practice. Again, finding a position where you can feel at ease yet alert, and you can do this lying down or sitting, walking even. I'll be sitting in my favorite meditation chair. Finding a position that feels comfortable where you can be at ease yet alert, lowering the gaze or closing the eyes and taking a couple of mindful breaths, breathing in through the nose, expanding the valley and out through the mouth. Maybe doing that a couple of more times. Deep breath in and exhale. [BACKGROUND] One more time. Deep breath in [BACKGROUND] and exhale, [BACKGROUND] letting your breath return to its normal natural rhythm and taking some time now to investigate the body. Maybe checking in, how's the body in this moment? Maybe noticing if there's restlessness or fatigue. Perhaps noticing air temperature, heat, or coolness, and you might even notice some tension or tightness and seeing if on an exhale you can invite those areas to soften. No worries if they don't want to do that in this moment. The body speaks to us in the language of sensation. Right now you're just turning your attention inward, checking in saying hey to this container, what's here right now, what physical sensations are here, and inviting a sense of investigation or curiosity to the experience in the body. Maybe even inviting a sense of friendliness to whatever experience or sensation is arising. Maybe even imagining a dear friend or a loved one saying, "Oh, I have this sensation. Would you beat them up or judge them?" Likely not. Seeing if you can invite a friendly quality to the body in this moment. Simply noticing what's here. As the mind wanders, it's what the mind does. No worries. Coming back to the physical sensations that are here in the body in this moment. If it's in your practice, maybe even thinking the body for all that it does for you on the daily basis, allowing you to experience the world around you. As you feel ready, maybe inviting some movement to the body, wiggling the fingers and toes, or taking a stretch and opening the eyes if they've been closed. How is the body? [LAUGHTER] Again, please feel free to ask me any questions or let me know how this was for you. Take some time after this to respond to the journal prompt. This could be a fun one to draw if you're so inclined or else write out your answers in whatever way makes you happy. I'm so glad that you're here and thank you so much for practicing with me and I'll see you on the next one. [MUSIC] 6. Day Three: Investigating Sound: Welcome back Day 3. Today we'll be looking at another anchor of attention, which is sound. That might again seem odd. Sounds come and go in and out of our awareness. But in this practice and using sound as an anchor of attention, you're paying attention to sounds as they arise, come into your awareness, and as they dissipate without labeling, naming, or getting caught up in the story or what it is. One of my favorite examples when I started practicing this, so we have neighbor dogs that are quite vocal. [LAUGHTER] When I would hear them barking during a practice, I would get mad about it. What I realized, I wasn't just listening to the sound of dogs barking, I was actually judging the owners of the dogs, judging the barking, and so it really was about what was happening in the mind. It wasn't just listening to sounds as they arose in my awareness. You might find that as well. You might hear sounds that you think are pleasant or maybe they're unpleasant and they could be neutral. So this practice is simply doing that. You're not trying to make anything happen, you're just seeing what's here. We'll practice this together. Finding a position that feels supportive where you can be at ease yet alert, lowering the gaze, or closing the eyes. Again, this helps the attention turn inward. We take in a lot of stimulus through the eyes. For this practice, taking a couple of breaths, allowing yourself to arrive and settle in this moment, just pausing, maybe checking in with the breath and the body, just to arrive and settle, feeling the body breathing, noticing where the body is making contact with the surface here on. Now expanding the awareness to sound. Sounds could be in the body. Maybe there's sounds of tummy rumbling with hunger or maybe even digestion. It could be sounds in the room that you're in. You're not trying to strain or make anything happen here. Just simply noticing what's here already in the present moment. You can never be in a future sound or in a past sound. There may be sounds outside of your environment. Notice if you can just allow the sound to come into your awareness without getting caught up in a story or even naming what's happening. Just allowing sound to come into your experience in this moment. As you feel ready, letting go of the practice of listening for sound. Maybe inviting some movement to the body, taking a stretch, and opening the eyes if they've been closed. That's practicing with sound. Again, we're using anchors of attention that are here in the present moment and it's a practice and you can pay attention to when you hear sounds throughout the day. You might even notice like, oh, I like that, I don't like that. Or is it just in my awareness? Maybe some of the suffering with sounds much like my neighbor dog experience might be your thoughts or judgments about what's happening. I'm so glad that you were here. Make sure to answer today's journal prompt and upload it to the project gallery. I can't wait to hear about how this practice was for you and how you might use it in the future. Thank you so much for being here and I' see in the next one. [MUSIC] 7. Day Four: Observing Thoughts & Emotions: Hi, welcome, thanks for coming back for another practice of coming back to the present moment using what's already here. Today's practice, we'll be focusing on thoughts and emotions. It can be interesting to use this as a practice. Sometimes students will say that as soon as they focus on their thoughts, there are no thoughts. [LAUGHTER] Which is very different from maybe some of the other experiences you've had in the earlier lessons. When you're focusing on thoughts and emotions, one of my favorite ways to think about it is to think about myself on a riverbank, and you can imagine that as you're standing on the river bank that maybe leaves or sticks or some debris might float in front of you and so you might look downriver and you might see something coming, and then here it is in front of you, you're aware I can identify it. It's a leaf, is a branch, some debris. Then it goes out of your field of awareness. What you're not doing is getting in the river and following after that leaf or that stick or that piece of debris, but that's what we often do with our thoughts and emotions, and you might even think about your own experience in this way. You might have a thought and it might be a particularly sticky one or it might be rehashing an argument that you had at some point, planning something out about the future, and that isn't really in the present moment because then that's when you're getting in the river and chasing after those thoughts, and they're just in your experience. So this practice is to go inward, and what's great about this is if you stick with it, and again, these are sharp practices, but if you stick with it, you'll start noticing some habit patterns of the mind. Not all thoughts are original thoughts and you might catch yourself going like, how many times have I thought about the fact that I need to get gas in the car? That's one of mine. At some point, it might be helpful to say, is this thought useful? Because you might have already thought about it, but then you find yourself in that habit loop. This is simply a practice to identify and start to notice the habit patterns of the mind. You might even notice if the mind is particularly turned up and agitated, that could be an indicator that may be a longer practice or a practice is warranted in your day. With that, let's practice this together. As in the other lessons, always finding a position that feels supportive where you can be alert yet at ease, and lowering the gaze or closing the eyes. Taking a couple of breaths and allowing yourself to arrive and settle in this moment. Maybe noticing where you're making contact with the surface that you're on. Now turning your attention towards thoughts and emotions. Again, not trying to force anything or make anything happen. Maybe even imagining that the thoughts are like a river, or maybe the leaves on the river. Just watching as a thought comes into your awareness is here and then moves on. You're not trained to change anything or make anything different. Simply observing what's here. How is the mind in this moment, how are the emotions? Another way to check and to invite attention to this moment, just as it is. You might notice that you have some thoughts or judgments about the thoughts, and that's okay. Simply noticing that and inviting a curiosity or a sense of investigation to the mind, to the emotions, and just to see what's here, moment-to-moment. Letting go of that focus and inviting some movement to the body. Maybe wiggling fingers and toes or taking a stretch, and opening the eyes if they've been closed. With this practice, you might, as I said earlier, find that you're thinking similar thoughts multiple times in a day, and you might be able to start seeing and inviting this curiosity to your own experience of the mind. Seeing what's here. [LAUGHTER] You don't have to do everything that the mind tells you to do. We can get really caught up. We have these amazing minds and I just want to finish with this planning and thinking about the future and remembering things about the past. It is the gift of our big, beautiful brains. The challenge becomes when we get stuck in either one of those and that we're missing out in the moments of our life. This is a practice and I'm so glad that you were here. There'll be a journal prompt for you to respond to. Can't wait to see your answers and as always, please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions that you might have. Thank you so much for your practice. See you in the next one. [MUSIC] 8. Day Five: Putting it all Together: Hi, welcome back. Day 5. We're going to put all of these objects of attention together. This just means opening to the present moment as it is. In the first lesson, there was the focus on the breath, second lesson, focus on the body, third lesson, sounds, fourth was thoughts and emotions. For today, you're going to just see what arises moment to moment. Oftentimes you might have a physical sensation which then leads to a thought, emotion, or judgment. [LAUGHTER] You might have feelings about the sensation in the body. Going back to the original definition, paying attention to these things on purpose, non-judgmentally. If a thought or emotion arises about something that feels unpleasant or difficult in the body, it's not getting in and trying to figure it out or go down the route of storytelling because we can get caught up in that. I have a pain in my knee and then I can get overwhelmingly concerned at what the rest of my life is going to be [LAUGHTER]. Not just in this moment, but when I really slow down and focus on just the attention and notice that a lot of the agitation is coming from my worry about the future, then the sensation is just the sensation. It's an invitation to practice with whatever is here. Notice the inner play between those, you might have a thought or emotion and it might cause a physical reaction in the body. So often, if something happens and you might have a thought that makes an emotion arise, you could feel like that tension or tightness in the throat or a constriction in the chest, or some feeling in the tummy. This is just about noticing what's here and learning to recognize the inner play of all of these anchors of attention and seeing what arises moment to moment. Let's practice that together. By now you're used to this finding a position that feels supportive, where you can be at ease yet alert and closing the eyes or lowering the gaze. Take some time to focus just for a moment on the body breathing, feeling the inhale and the exhale. Moving the attention from the breath to the body, noticing points of contact. Maybe noticing where you're being supported by whatever surface that you're on. You might notice air temperature, sense of coolness, or heat. Just allowing yourself to come into the present moment, paying attention to the body. Now shifting the attention to sound. Maybe there's sounds internally in the body or perhaps there's sounds in the room that you're in. Not trying to strain or force anything to happen, just noticing sounds as they arise in your awareness and then moving on. Now checking in with the mind, the thoughts and emotions. How's the mind today? Maybe there's a sense of calmness or spaciousness or perhaps there's tension and irritation or worry. You're not trying to change anything, but just notice what's here and the state of the mind in this moment. Now opening to the present moment and this could be resting the attention in the breath. You could pay attention to sensations in the body, sounds, thoughts, or emotions. Just coming back again and again to the present moment, just as it is noticing what's here and your mind might flip from one thing to the next in these anchors of attention. I'm just noticing that with an investigative or quality of curiosity, what's here right now in the present moment? Narrowing the attention now back to the experience of the body breathing, feeling the inhale and the exhale. Maybe wiggling their fingers and toes or taking a stretch and allowing the eyes to open if they've been closed. This practice is simply about using all of the anchors of attention [LAUGHTER] because they're all here in the present moment. You might even notice you have a preference for one or the other. That's great. That's good information to have as you continue to expand and [MUSIC] explore the world of meditation and mindfulness. I'm so glad you that you were here today and I'm so grateful for your practice. Please join me for our conclusion video and don't forget to answer the journal prompts, and I'll see you next time. Thank you. [MUSIC] 9. Thank you & Final Thoughts: Hi, we did it. [LAUGHTER] Thank you for spending this week with me and investigating these techniques to help you with inviting meditation and mindfulness into your life. These are simple practices, yet as often get said, simple, not easy. They are practices, so you've had a taste of them and that is so great. I look forward to seeing your final project. The final project is really for you to look at how it was to spend time this week for you, dedicating time for you to look at these practices and to try something new. You can do your project in whatever way it makes you happy. [LAUGHTER] It can be digital, it can be mixed media, it can be analog, writing it out by hand, or typing it out, drawing, using any way to express how it was or how it felt for you to engage with these practices this week. It is a practice, it is not a perfect as a practice. We use the breath, the body, sounds, thoughts and emotions, and then put it altogether to watch the interplay of all of these things as they happen in the present moment. I'm so glad that you were here. I look forward to hearing any questions or comments that you might have and you can continue this work with me if you'd like. I offer a free meditation weekly: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 7:30 AM-8:00 AM Pacific. I would love for you to join me and in that way, it would be a chance for you to continue practicing. It's often a lot of fun to practice in community. It's a great group and I'd love to see you there. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to practice with me and to learn with me, and I am so excited to see what you all create, and I look forward to seeing you in meditation. Thank you so much for being here, and be well. [MUSIC]