When we hear “mindfulness”, we might be tempted to think about some long grey-bearded sage sitting at the top of a mountain with his eyes closed meditating. A guided mindfulness meditation doesn’t require any mountains, or any fancy seated poses. It simply requires you to take some time to sit and observe your mind.
Imagine walking around all day, every day, for your entire life with your right fist clenched. Each day, you have this intense pain in your hand and complain about it, unaware that your fist clenching is causing this pain. In fact, you’re not even aware that you’re clenching your fist, or aware that you have been for your entire life.
Worse still, you’re not aware that simply unclenching your fist can stop this pain.
This is how most people live. They walk around with anxieties, stresses, and worries and they go through life entirely on momentum, never in the present. They’re either ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.
Now think of mindfulness as the ability to notice the clenched fist. This self-awareness begins to help you go through life just a little easier and a little happier. You understand now not to complain since you now know the source of the pain.
Maybe with enough practice, you can learn how to release your clenched fist and let go of the pain. This can be your worries, anxiety, stress, and other things that may make you unhappy.
It can also simply mean being less “in your head” or in your thoughts. Being present in what you’re doing not only serves to benefit you but also the people around you. How often have you caught yourself lost in thought while trying to spend time with a loved one or family member?
When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judgement. You’re also much more present. Eventually, you can be like the doorman to your thoughts. You can’t control who comes to the door, but you can control who you let in.
Mindfulness meditation, or vipassana meditation as it’s known in Buddhism, can teach you mindfulness.
By taking 5-10 minutes each day initially, to sit down and observe the mind, you can practice mindfulness by focusing your attention on your breathing and physical sensations, and practicing managing distractions. This is where a guided mindfulness meditation can be useful. It keeps you accountable and reminds you to be mindful during your practice.
This all seems simple, and it is, but it’s not easy. When you first sit down, you’ll start to see just how busy your mind is. This is what a lot of people call the “monkey mind”. Taming the monkey mind is how we better achieve more regular states of mindfulness.
Vipassana, which is the name Buddhists give to mindfulness meditation, is the Pali term for “insight”.
This is a great way to think of meditation, as insight into the mind. If you want to learn more about your mind and better understand it, sit down and observe it with meditation.
With enough sessions, we can begin to carry over the lessons and techniques we use during meditation into our daily life.
Whether we’re on our commute to work, doing the dishes, or spending time with a loved one, there are plenty times where we can choose to be mindful, instead of lost in thought or caught in momentum.
Mindfulness helps change our brains as well as help make us more present.
First, find a place to sit. It can be a cushion on the floor or a chair. Sit with your back upright but comfortable, and rest your hands in your lap.
Once you’re situated, with your eyes open, take a few big, deep breaths. In through your nose, and out through your mouth. Take each inhalation and exhalation slowly.
Once you’ve taken a few breaths, close your eyes.
Bring your attention to the physical points of contact. Notice your feet on the floor, your back against the chair, and your arms resting in your lap.
Place your attention here for a few moments.
The next part of the mindfulness meditation is to bring your attention to your breath. You don’t need to change your breathing here, just notice the breath as it is. Notice if the breath is shallow or deep. Notice if the breath is long or short.
Notice where you notice the breath more. Is it your chest? Stomach?
Notice the rising and falling sensations of the breath.
As you place your attention on your breath, you may notice the mind wander. Thoughts, feelings, and distractions will enter the mind. When you notice the mind has become lost in thought, gently return your attention back to the breath.
Practice this for a few minutes. You’ll notice just how challenging maintaining your attention on the breath may be. Notice any feelings or thoughts that arise. Notice how hard you’re trying to maintain attention. Notice your mood. Notice any restlessness or boredom.
This is all part of the practice. We’re not trying to make anything happen. Just becoming aware of what does happen.
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