Discovering the realm of mindfulness and meditation can be a transformative journey.
These practices offer a wealth of benefits, from stress reduction to enhanced focus, and can be instrumental in fostering a deeper understanding of our own mental, emotional, and physical processes.
This comprehensive guide delves into the various techniques of mindfulness and meditation, providing insights into their power to reshape our minds and improve overall well-being.
An Introduction to Mindfulness
Mindfulness is an inherent human ability to be wholly present, aware of our location, actions, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by our surroundings.
It’s something we all naturally possess but can harness more effectively through regular practice.
“The goal of mindfulness is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional, and physical processes.”
By bringing consciousness to our direct sensory experiences or our state of mind through thoughts and emotions, we exhibit mindfulness.
The consistent practice of mindfulness has been proven to physically remodel our brain’s structure.
Meditation, like mindfulness, is a journey of exploration and should be a part of your overall holistic wellness.
It is not about achieving a state of utter thoughtlessness, but rather a unique space where every moment holds significance.
Meditation allows us to delve into our minds, recognising sensations, emotions, and thoughts without judgement.
Mindfulness meditation, in particular, encourages us to suspend judgement and unleash our natural curiosity about our mind’s workings.
This approach fosters a warm, kind attitude towards ourselves and others.
How to Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness can be accessed at any given moment, be it through body scans, meditative practices, or simply taking a moment to breathe when the phone rings.
“Mindfulness is an awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.”Jon Kabat-Zinn
The Basics of Mindfulness Practice
Practicing mindfulness helps us create a space between ourselves and our reactions, breaking down our conditioned responses.
Here’s how to integrate mindfulness throughout the day:
- Set aside some time. You don’t need special equipment to access your mindfulness skills–but you do need to set aside some time and space.
- Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. It’s about observing the present moment without judgement.
Challenges in Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation
While practicing mindfulness and meditation, we may face a few challenges:
- Self-Criticism: It’s common to doubt ourselves when we begin meditating. It’s essential to understand that the purpose of meditation isn’t to enter a bliss state or eradicate all thinking. It’s simply to be present with what’s happening now, whatever that is.
- Sleepiness: Many people feel sleepy when they try to meditate. If this happens, there are skillful ways to wake ourselves up and engage in meditation, such as straightening your posture, opening your eyes, or try walking meditation.
- Restlessness: Initially, meditation can seem boring. If that’s the case, try focusing on very specific sensations, like the outbreath.
- Pain: You may feel pain when you begin to practice meditation for longer durations. If it persists, try directing your attention to another part of the body. And if the pain gets intolerable, adjust your posture as needed.
- Fear: In rare instances, panic or fear may arise. Should this happen, try to shift the attention toward something outside the body, like the air whooshing in and out of your nostrils, or sounds.
How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that teaches you to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm both your mind and body.
The following steps can help you get started:
- Get Comfortable: Find a quiet and comfortable place. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck, and back straight but not stiff.
- Consider a Timer: While it’s not necessary, a timer can help you focus on meditation and forget about time.
- Focus on Breathing: Become aware of your breath, attuning to the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe.
- Notice Your Thoughts: The goal is not to stop your thoughts but to get more comfortable becoming the “witness” to the thoughts.
- Give Yourself a Break: If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts, observe where your mind went, without judgment, and just return to your breathing.
- Download an App: If you’re having trouble practicing mindfulness meditation on your own, consider downloading an app that provides free meditations and teaches you various tools to help you get centered throughout your day.
Impact of Mindfulness Meditation
Regular practice of mindfulness meditation has benefits for your physical as well as your mental health.
Some of these include:
- Reducing stress: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress in healthy individuals.
- Lower heart rate: Mindfulness may be beneficial for your heart. Those who participated in mindfulness meditation had significantly lower heart rates and performed better on a test of cardiovascular capacity.
- Improved immunity: Mindfulness practices may improve your body’s resistance to illness.
- Better sleep: Practicing mindfulness meditation might improve sleep and even be useful for treating certain sleep disturbances.
Tips to Practice Mindfulness in Daily Life
As you practice mindfulness meditation, it helps to find ways to bring mindfulness into your everyday life including when you are exercising.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Brushing your teeth: Feel your feet on the floor, the brush in your hand, and your arm moving up and down.
- Doing dishes: Savor the feeling of the warm water on your hands, the look of the bubbles, and the sounds of the pans clunking on the bottom of the sink.
- Driving: Turn off the radio—or put on something soothing. Imagine your spine growing tall, find the half-way point between relaxing your hands and gripping the wheel too tightly.
- Exercising: Instead of watching television while on the treadmill, try focusing on your breathing and where your feet are as you move.
- Getting kids ready for bed: Get down to the same level as your kids, look in their eyes, listen more than you talk, and savor any snuggles. When you relax, they will too.
Other Forms of Meditation
Beyond mindfulness meditation, there are numerous other forms of this practice, each with its unique approach and benefits.
Here are some additional techniques you may want to explore:
- Zen Meditation: Rooted in Buddhism, this practice involves sitting upright, following the breath, and allowing the mind to just be. The aim of Zen meditation is to cultivate a sense of presence and alertness.
- Mantra Meditation: This technique is akin to focused attention meditation. However, instead of focusing on the breath, you concentrate on a mantra, which can lead to positive transformation and a deeper state of meditation.
- Transcendental Meditation: This practice involves sitting comfortably and engaging in effortless meditation twice a day for 20 minutes. It’s taught in a personalised manner, one-on-one by instructors trained and licensed by the Maharishi Foundation.
- Yoga Meditation: Yoga strengthens the nervous system, enhancing our ability to cope with daily stress. Incorporating meditation into yoga practice can enhance these benefits.
- Vipassana Meditation: This practice involves an intense examination of certain aspects of existence with the aim of transformation. Vipassana seeks insight into the true nature of reality through contemplation.
- Chakra Meditation: This technique focuses on keeping the body’s core chakras or energy centres open, aligned, and fluid. It can help balance blocked or imbalanced chakras.
- Qigong Meditation: An ancient Chinese practice, Qigong meditation involves harnessing energy in the body by allowing energy pathways or “meridians” to be open and fluid.
- Sound Bath Meditation: This form uses instruments to create sound vibrations that help focus the mind and bring it into a more relaxed state.
Getting started with a mindfulness meditation practice can sometimes seem intimidating, but even a few minutes each day can be beneficial.
Just a few minutes of being present can reap significant benefits.
Even if you don’t do it every day, it’s a practice you can keep coming back to when you need it.