We can practice mindfulness right now, at this moment, using body scans and meditation or through mindful practices, such as taking a moment to breathe and pause when something happens, instead of reacting right away.
In a metaphorical sense, the practice creates space between our reactions and us. Doing this often enough leads to our impulses having less control over our actions. It makes us more rational, healthier beings.
If you haven’t read part 1, I advise you to do so. If you have, the following is a small guide to mindfulness:
- Take around 20 minutes to do it. Special equipment, like a bench or apparatus, is not necessary. All you need is a few minutes to try it.
- Observe what’s happening now, at this very moment. Mindfulness meditation is not supposed to silence your mind or help you achieve a permanent sense of calm. Its sole purpose is to get you to be attentive to the now, to the current moment, without judging it.
- Observe the judgments as they appear. While focusing on the present moment, you’ll likely notice judging/judgmental thoughts appear (ex. “Why am I doing this? It’s so quiet. I feel an itch in my left leg. Etc.”). Observe these thoughts too. Then, allow them to pass as you focus on whatever else is happening now.
- Continue watching the present. Don’t cling to any one thought. What else is happening now? The mind has a tendency to get lost in thought. Mindfulness is the act of getting back, over and over, to the present.
- Show your mind kindness. It is not your or your mind’s fault that thoughts pop up and you tend to get lost in them. Judging these thoughts as good or bad will only get you more involved with them, more absorbed in them. Instead, make it a habit to gently guide yourself back to the present. Do not force it and do not get upset. We all get lost in thought from time to time. The more you practice going back to the present, the better you’ll get at it.
That’s the entire practice of mindfulness. But just because it’s simple, it does not mean it’s easy to do. The trick is to do it again and again, every single day. Results come when you do it and disappear just as easily when an event or plain forgetfulness causes you to lose yourself in your thoughts once more.
To consciously practice mindfulness, many opt for meditation. The one which I’ll explain below uses the breath as a focal point. There isn’t anything inherently special about breathing, but since it’s always with you, it can be used as a mental anchor. As you practice the following meditation, you may notice sounds, emotions, or thoughts cropping up.
Whenever this happens, simply return to focusing on your breath. It doesn’t matter how many times you manage to get back to it or how present you manage to be in a session. Stressing over presence is just more thoughts and feelings, more mind stuff. Be patient with yourself and trust you’ll improve.
Simple Mindfulness Meditation
- Sit down and relax.
- Observe your legs. If you’re sitting on a flat surface, place your legs in front and cross them. If you’re using a chair, place your feet’s bottom stuck to the floor.
- Keep your back straight, but don’t be stiff. Let the natural curvature of your spine be as it is.
- Observe your arms. Place them parallel to the body. Place your palms on the legs however is more natural.
- Relax your gaze. Allow your chin to drop slightly and allow your sight to slightly fall. You may or may not shut your eyes. Just allow what’s in front of you to be without giving it your focus.
- Notice the breath. Place your attention on your breath, on the air entering your body, on the rise and fall of your stomach and/or chest.
- Become aware of the times your mind stops focusing on the breath. Sooner or later, you will stop observing your breath when your attention gets caught by something else. This is natural. Simply return it gently to your breathing.
- Do not judge your mind. It’s natural for it to wander. Instead of trying to control it, try observing its actions with no reaction or judgment. Simply pay attention to it. It’s hard to maintain attention on your breath for a long time, so just get back to it, without expecting anything.
- Lift your eyes gently when you are ready to do so. Notice the sounds around you. Notice your body, how it feels at this moment. Notice your emotions and thoughts. Hold no judgments, simply observe them.
Research into the practice of mindfulness has revealed many of its uses, but it’s also sparked criticism and shed light on some of its potential risks. To practice mindfulness in a safe and controlled manner, these must also be learned and understood.