How to Practice

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

  1. 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.
  2. Bring your attention to the breath. Notice it moving in and out of the body. 
  3. Begin to count your breaths on each exhale. Count up to ten breaths to start.
  4. Consider the breath as an anchor, holding your attention in the present moment.
  5. You may want to count more, or less. As you practice you’ll be able to sit for longer periods of time.
  6. 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.

Why Mindfulness?

8f95b1fc691396cc5a304c781978dbe9Since I began deepening my mindfulness practice and teaching it to others, I’ve shared my enthusiasm for mindfulness in many casual conversations. Responses are often supportive, interested, curious, and sometimes suspicious or dismissive.

And I get it.

Mindfulness is trendy, and with trendy often comes superficial. There’s a commercial aspect as people move to capitalize on a concept or idea. So, you’re right to be cautious.

Before you dismiss mindfulness as just another trend or self-help gimmick, I invite you to see beyond the warm and fuzzy quote memes and products to the truth of the practice.

Mindfulness is not new. We in the west have not improved upon it, and it’s essence is so simple and contained that it can’t be adulterated. Perhaps someone could try to turn it into something more or different, but in it’s true form mindfulness is a state of mind that can’t be redefined.

This sets it apart from religion or spirituality, which are subject to multitudes of interpretations and inventions.

Mindfulness is simply directing our attention to the present moment and noticing what’s happening right here, right now without judgement.

How you practice mindfulness is only limited by your curiosity and creativity. The essential practice itself is unchanging.

In my wide and varied study of self-help books and content, I find again and again that at the foundation of any system or theory that is devised to help you change or improve is mindfulness, whether the author uses the term or not.

At the heart of any story about overcoming grief, addiction, depression, or other trial is a moment of mindfulness. A shock of clarity. The hard slap of truth. It’s the moment when all of the noise and nonsense falls away and the individual sees the raw, unfiltered truth and from that place they are also able to see a way out of their struggle.

Mindfulness is a way to heal and sooth the mind and body, and it’s an ability available to all of us.

Mindfulness can lead to freedom from our inner struggles. If we can crack the code on what’s going on inside us and heal it, then the inner hate, fear, criticism, ridicule, and heartache won’t become the outer cruelty, discrimination, inequity, and violence that we see too much of in this world.

So, why mindfulness? Because mindfulness is a way to come home to loving and accepting ourselves and it’s only from that place that we can contribute our best to greater good.

Mindfulness Practice: The Thank You Hug

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Embrace a loved one, or hold a pet in your lap or close to you, for at least 20 seconds. Longer is even better. During the hug, notice how it feels to hold this person close. How does their body and skin feel? How do they smell? What fond memories do you have of embracing this person? Take in the good feeling of hugging someone you care about. As you experience the hug, repeat to yourself silently or out loud, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. You are taking in the good through noticing and gratitude.