The first technique I will be discussing is Mindfulness meditation. This is an important technique and the best place to start when it comes to meditation. Mindfulness helps you to learn a simple but vital aspect of meditation: how to pay attention or be “mindful”. Being mindful does not actually start with meditation, but is something that should be consciously focussed on during all activities, such as eating, walking, talking etc. It emphasizes a highly accessible, mindful consideration towards any actions or objects that are within your area of influence.
Mindfulness meditation stems from Vipassana (which is a technique that will be discussed in the next post). The two techniques are quite similar; however, mindfulness meditation has been adapted to suit and benefit Western cultures, as a way of relieving stress. As an adaption of the Buddhist style of Vipassana, mindfulness is non-sectarian and appeals to people from various religions and cultures. This is because it is not as structured as other styles, it is quite simple to learn and can be modified to suit your own needs and state of mind.
This style is suitable for beginners and those just beginning to understand the health benefits of this type of practice. It can easily be done without a teacher as the instructions are simple, even though it does require discipline and commitment. This type of practice has many physical and mental health benefits and is known to provide pain relief and ease feelings of anxiety or depression.
How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Step 1: Choose an environment conducive to mediation that is quiet, cool and where you feel relaxed and comfortable.
Step 2: Sit on a cushion, the floor, or a chair. Your hands can be on your knees, facing up or down. Sit up straight, with your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears. Ensure that your back is supported if necessary.
Step 3: Close your eyes and begin to pay close attention to your breath (no need to count your breaths).
Step 4: When you breathe in, be aware that you are inhaling. Observe the feelings and sensations of the air entering your body and filling up your lungs.
Step 5: When you breathe out, be aware that you are exhaling. Observe the feelings and sensations as the air is pushed out of your body (breathe out completely).
Step 6: Continue in this manner for the full length of your practice. Other thoughts will enter your mind (this is normal). Use your breath as a reminder to release these thoughts and redirect your attention to your breath again.
Step 7: If you are unable to redirect your attention successfully to your breath, try pay attention to the sensations or feelings that arise from these thoughts.
Guidelines for Mindfulness Meditation
- Meditation is beneficial for the mind and should be practiced as frequently as possible.
- You can start off by practicing for shorter durations, 10 – 15 minutes is enough for beginners and this can slowly be increased until you can meditate continuously for at least 30 minutes.
- Don’t be discouraged when your mind wanders, this is completely normal. Assure yourself each time this happens that you are working on it simply by meditating as often as possible.
- Posture is important in meditation; this is because the mind is connected to the body and ultimately there is a better flow of energy through the body if you sit up straight. Incorrect posture can disrupt energy flow which will directly affect your thoughts.
- Start off by having a complete sense of your body, it is important to have a sense of your physical self and where you are.
- Always bring your awareness back to your breath, as it will help you to attain a sense of calmness and relaxation (the breath is more powerful than you know)!
- Mindfulness meditation is a flow-like meditation and does not attempt to get rid of thoughts altogether. Instead let your mind be fluid and flow from one thought to the next, without really focussing on any one in particular.
- The idea is only to be aware of our present moment experience, without losing yourself in the distraction of thoughts (just be).
- Your mind will get distracted, but learn to recognize when this happens and gently bring your attention back to your breath. There is a difference between being inside the thought and simply being aware that it is there.
- Enjoy your practice, appreciate how your mind and body feels different afterwards and you will quickly start to feel excited for your daily practice.
“Tension is who you think you should be; relaxation is who you are… “
~ Chinese Proverb