By now, most people have heard something about mindfulness meditation and that it’s somehow good for you. In our very busy lives, and in between trying to get everything done that we need to do every day, plus eat well and squeeze in enough sleep and exercise, starting a mindfulness meditation practice is well…seriously?
Here’s good news. There is a simple but powerfully effective way to bring mindfulness into your daily life, and you don’t have to become a monk and retire to a cave to do it. I’ll explain what I mean in a moment, but first let me go over exactly what mindfulness is and the benefits of a daily mindfulness meditation practice for you.
There are many, many types of meditation, ranging from reciting a mantra (a word or sound that is repeated over and over) to Zen meditation and more. The common thread running through all these types of meditation, whether associated with a spiritual tradition such as Buddhism or Hinduism or not, is training the mind to focus on a single point of attention.
Mindfulness itself is derived in part from the Vipassana Buddhist tradition, but has been adapted by Westerners without any associated religious or spiritual trappings. Mindfulness meditation’s popularity has been greatly influenced by the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School with the development of his very effective mindfulness based stress reduction program. Some of the scientifically proven benefits of mindfulness meditation include anxiety reduction, increased body satisfaction, improved cognition and improved focus and concentration.
So that’s all good, but how do you actually ‘do’ mindfulness meditation?
Here’s where people, especially beginners, get hung up. There’s truly no need because mindfulness meditation is extremely simple. First of all, find a spot to sit comfortably. Using a chair is fine or you can sit on the floor if you want. Just sit comfortably but don’t slouch. Then focus your attention on your breathing and just observe it…how it goes in and out, in and out. As you do this, you’ll find that thoughts naturally come into your mind. Thoughts about how you are sitting, questions like ‘Am I doing this right?’ or thoughts like ‘This is boring. I’ve got so much to do!’ and so forth. The idea is not to try to suppress your thoughts (you couldn’t, even if you tried!) but to simply observe them. When you notice that you have gotten distracted (and you will) just refocus your attention back to your breathing and then begin to “watch” your thoughts once more. That’s it…there’s all there is to it.
If you are new to this, I recommend starting with 5 minutes, then gradually extending your meditation to ten or even twenty minutes a day. I guarantee that with regular practice, you may be surprised. The first time I tried it, it felt awkward and, well, weird. Now I look forward to my morning quiet time. I’ve had a daily meditation practice for over 35 years now and can’t imagine my life without it.
By the way, this doesn’t mean I spend the entire time in some sort of blissful state. There are mornings when my to-do list or a conversation I had the day before just aren’t going away easily. The point is to continue to practice in spite of these intrusions. When you throw a pebble into a pond, the water ripples out until it finally stills. It’s the same thing with our minds. It might take a few minutes or more to “still the waters,” but when it happens you’ll want to come back for more.
Next time, I’m going to show you an another extremely effective way to bring mindfulness into your everyday life, without having to take any extra time from your already busy daily routine.
Lots of people include a period of mindfulness meditation in a morning routine, and find that it helps to ground them throughout the day. Having a daily structure can improve mood, focus and productivity. For more on developing your own morning routine or ritual, you can go to: https://www.positivehealthwellness.com/fitness/7-morning-rituals-to-make-your-day-8-times-more-productive/
Comments, thoughts, questions? I love to hear from you so leave them below. I’ll be sure to answer.
Enjoy these first days of summer!