Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be more aware of ourselves from moment to moment? To be more satisfied and happy? Well, in fact, we can!
The practice of mindfulness gives us the opportunity to become more in touch with ourselves. It’s a type of meditation. It’s also a way of mind. Mindfulness purposely focuses your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. It’s about going through your day actually paying attention to what you’re doing, instead of going through the motions on autopilot or doing so many things at once that you are not paying attention to any one thing at all.
“From early morning until I go to bed and in all situations of life, I always try to check my motivation and be mindful and present in the moment. Personally, I find this to be very helpful in my own life.”
—The Dalai Lama
Mindfulness began as an eastern spiritual practice that has transformed into a secular one. It’s about not letting your emotions take over your brain. It’s about thinking before you rush to answer the phone or send that email- or stopping to really enjoy the beauty and smell of the flower you were just about to walk by without paying attention.
Meditation has become popular with celebrities today including Oprah, Paul McCartney, Kobe Bryant, and Lady Gaga.
“Meditation helps me to calm down. I have a mental illness and I struggle with that every day so I need my mantra to help keep me relaxed.” – Lady Gaga
Some believe that mindfulness works, in part by helping people to accept whatever comes their way, including painful experiences, instead of reacting to them with dislike, distress, or anxiety. By focusing on what’s happening in the present moment, people who practice this are less likely to be anxious and worried.
The practice of mindfulness meditation is about taking a moment to put some space between ourselves and our reactions to pause and breathe. With this meditation, we set aside some quiet time for ourselves and focus on the physical sensation of breathing and keeping that in the present moment. Because you are always in the act of breathing, being aware of this sensation keeps you anchored in the present.
In fact, studies have shown that the practice of mindfulness meditation is known to cause greater well-being and better physical and mental health. It can relieve stress, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, and help insomnia and stomach-related issues. Mindfulness meditation can also help improve depression, eating disorders, anxiety and cut down on substance abuse.
Mindfulness practice is simple and completely feasible, says Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. “Just by sitting and doing nothing, we are doing a tremendous amount.”
Mindfulness meditation is easy because we all have the ability to be present in our everyday lives- and it doesn’t require us to change who we really are inside. Although when practicing this you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions or sounds, you can always bring yourself back with your next breath.
Would you like to give it a try? You don’t need any special equipment and you can start with meditating only 10 minutes a day.
These few steps can help you begin to practice mindfulness meditation:
- Find a quiet space to meditate, even if it’s small. It shouldn’t be too noisy and you shouldn’t be in a place where you may feel angry, upset, or emotional.
- Sit on a straight-backed chair, or cross-legged on the floor. Your body should be straight, but not stiff.
- Place your arms parallel to your upper body with your hands on your legs. You can also sit on a chair with your feet touching the ground.
- Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Drop your chin a bit. Breathe naturally. Your breath should not be forced. Breathe in and out. Focus on the act of inhaling and exhaling.
- Let your inner thoughts and emotions flow. Think about the sensations of the moment. Try not to think about the past or the future. Don’t focus on one particular thing. If your mind wanders into negative thoughts, judgment, or criticism, redirect. Keep breathing.
- Open your eyes and gently lift your gaze when you are ready.
Don’t worry about achieving a state of eternal calm, just stay in the moment and let go of your judgments. Don’t criticize yourself for whatever thoughts may crop up. It can also help you be a happier person and help you to better handle your emotions.
The more you practice mindfulness meditation, the easier it gets- and the easier it becomes to accept whatever comes your way in your everyday life. Plus, the more you do it the better you will feel and be more accepting of your own self.
In addition to formal meditation, you can also practice informally by focusing your attention on single things during your day. Don’t multitask. Focus on one act at a time. Wash the dishes, pet the cat, or eat dinner- all one at a time. Slow down and be fully present. Make sure to involve all your senses.
“The habit of ignoring our present moments in favor of others yet to come leads directly to a pervasive lack of awareness of the web of life in which we are embedded. This includes a lack of awareness and understanding of our own mind and how it influences our perceptions and our actions. It severely limits our perspective on what it means to be a person and how we are connected to each other and the world around us. Religions have traditionally been the domain of such fundamental inquiries within a spiritual framework, but mindfulness has little to do with religion, except in the most fundamental meaning of the word, as an attempt to appreciate the deep mystery of being alive and to acknowledge being vitally connected to all that exists.” – John Kabat-Zinn.