There are many ways to practice mindfulness. Far from being strictly a form of meditation, mindfulness is a way of being that can be incorporated into all of life's activities. Psychologist Ellen Langer, author of the book Mindfulness, discovered in her research that subjects experienced the same benefits from mindfulness practices of daily living as they received from meditation. She writes that mindfulness is achievable without a practice of yoga or meditation, and mindfulness is “the simple act of actively noticing things.” Experiment with a variety of mindfulness practices - including the mindfulness meditation offered below - and experience the benefits of active noticing.
Formal mindfulness meditation is a practice that is cultivated for the purpose of bringing greater equanimity, calm and peace to everyday life. For most people, quieting the mind is not something that comes easily - we sit because the human condition is to have a busy mind that is NOT quiet. With practice, it becomes more comfortable to allow thoughts to arise without identifying or attaching to them. The important thing is to practice with plenty of patience and self-compassion, having unconditional positive regard for yourself and whatever experience arises.
- Carve out some time, even 10 minutes a day, for your practice
- Find a space in your home where you will practice. Some use a meditation cushion, seated on the floor or a chair works fine also. If seated on a cushion, legs are crossed. Hands can rest palms up or down on your knees.
- Eyes are closed or slightly open with a soft gaze.
- Breath is natural, no need to force the breath in any way. Use the breath as an anchor to return attention.
- Bring intention to the practice, 'Now I will sit and find ease' or 'I sit to train my mind, composting suffering into compassion and peace.' Then, let go of attachment to the outcome.
- When the mind generates thought, simply notice and label it 'thinking' with non-judgment. If emotions arise, allow them to move through without becoming attached. Smile at the thought or the emotion, and let it pass through your inner landscape.
The purpose of mindfulness meditation is simply to become more present and aware. In this practice, we acknowledge that the past no longer exists and the future hasn't happened yet, so the ever-present NOW is where we reside. Try this brief 7 minute mindfulness meditation and practice cultivating awareness.
Choiceless Awareness is a practice in which we don't focus the mind on a particular aspect of experience, but rather maintain awareness of how our attention moves from one thing to another. This is a practice of noticing what we keep in mind. When you notice that your awareness has drifted off, bring it back without judgment to observing what you are giving attention to. Try practicing this for a few hours, or for a day. Simply make a point of noticing throughout that time period what you are paying attention to.
chop wood, carry water
In this form of active meditation, we bring mindfulness to all of the activities of the day. Simply focus your attention on your activities throughout the day. When brushing your teeth, or eating, or doing household chores, keep your attention on the present moment. If you find your attention has wandered, simply bring it back with kindness to the present moment.
Find a location where you can walk a short distance, say 10-20 paces, without obstacle or interruption. As you begin, walk the length of your lane to the end, pause, turn, and walk back. Walk slowly, with your arms hanging down at your sides or folded in front or behind you. Be mindful of your breath as you walk. Walking meditation invites you to be mindful of every part of walking: how your weight shifts as you move from one foot to the other, the motion of your body as you propel yourself forward, the contact of every part of your foot against the ground. If your mind wanders, simply bring it back by returning your awareness to your body, your breath, and the movement of your experience.
© 2018 Diana Quinn ND all rights reserved