There’s no wrong way to practice mindfulness meditation, though there are some general instructions that will make your practice more effective. The goal is to live a mindful life, and a good place to start is with daily practice.
When you sit to meditate, you may think that it’s your job to bring your mind to stillness, but it isn’t. The mind is naturally busy. When we meditate, our goal is to notice the busyness of the mind, not to stop it.
Interestingly, as we notice without judgement our mind does slow down and we may find ourselves experiencing a moment of complete mental stillness.
Here’s a basic practice to get your started:
Basic Mindfulness Meditation—Breath Counting
- Sit comfortably in a quiet location without distractions. Feet are flat on the floor, back straight, and hands resting in your lap. Close your eyes, or find a gazing point. Comfort is essential, so take a few moments to achieve it. Alter the position as needed to accommodate your body. You can lie down, if necessary. Sitting upright is preferred because we are more attentive when sitting and less likely to fall asleep.
- Bring your attention to the breath. Notice it moving in and out of the body.
- Begin to count your breaths on each exhale. Count up to ten breaths to start.
- Consider the breath as an anchor, holding your attention in the present moment.
- You may want to count more, or less. As you practice you’ll be able to sit for longer periods of time.
- As you count your breaths, notice any thoughts and feelings without judgement. Allow them to pass through your awareness like birds flying across a bright, blue sky.
It’s best to practice daily around the same time and at the same place, but if you can’t do that, it’s okay. I’m a busy, working mom of two. Being able to meditate everyday at the same time and place isn’t always possible, and for many years this made a meditation practice seem out of reach. I also don’t have one dedicated place in my home for meditation. I have two spots that I like: one in my living room and one in my office. Even still, I sometimes meditate in my bedroom or in the car when I have a few moments before moving on to the next place or pick-up.
If I can’t sit in the morning, I carve out time during the day, or later at night after the kids are asleep. Sometimes I meditate for very short periods (2-5 minutes) several times a day. I prefer to dedicate 20 minutes every morning, but if I can’t, no biggie. I know I can work my practice in later in the day.
Make your practice your own, and keep at it. You may find that it becomes more organized and consistent over time. As your body and mind become accustom to this nourishing practice, you’ll want to return to it. It will become a joy, a retreat, a refreshing break that will enrich and deepen your daily experience.