The practice of Mindfulness is really very simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. It’s about bringing your attention to the present moment without judgment for the purpose of self-awareness and personal growth. Here are the basic steps of a mindfulness meditation:
Find a comfortable space. It is best to sit quietly in a room with low to moderate lighting with no distractions such as TVs, phones, people, music, etc. Blocking out sound with white noise can be helpful for some people. If you must have music, make sure that it is low volume, very soothing and blends well into the background. When you get good at this, you can practice this anywhere, despite the distractions but in the beginning, make it easier on yourself and set aside a good time and space.
Set an alarm so you do not worry about the time. In the beginning, 5 to 15 minutes is good. As you get more practice, you can extend this time if you so desire but it is not necessary.
Sit comfortably. You may sit on the floor, mat, cushion, chair or whatever is most comfortable for you to remain in position for the duration of your meditation. It is best not to recline or lie down for this as you may fall asleep. Suggested beginner positions: 1) sitting upon a chair with back support, hands on lap as comfortable and feet firmly upon the floor or 2) sitting cross legged upon the floor or cushion, hands on knees or thighs as comfortable.
Pay attention to your breath. To begin, take a few deep breaths to help yourself relax and let go of any tension in your body. You may close your eyes if you so desire. Then let your breathing return to normal. You do not need to control your breath, simply notice the rhythm of your breathing, feel the air as it circulates. This acts as your anchor when you find your mind wandering, as it inevitably will. When it wanders, bring your attention back to your breath. Repeat as necessary.
Observe the moment. The goal of this meditation is not to quiet the mind nor is it an attempt to achieve inner peace although those things come naturally with practice of mindfulness meditation. The goal is to simply be present in the moment, without judgement. You may notice physical sensations such as the temperature of the room or the buzz of the refrigerator. You may notice emotions coming up that you had previously tried to suppress or simply haven’t had time to deal with. You may notice your thoughts which try to engage your mind such as “I wonder what I should have for dinner?”. Do your best not to place your focus on any of it, just let them pass.
Let go of judgments. As your mind wanders, you will be tempted to engage your mind and place judgment upon your thoughts. Do your best to bypass the judgment, simply observe the thought as if you were a scientist observing an experiment. As soon as you notice that your mind has wandered and has made judgments, make a mental note of the judgment, then let it pass and return to your breath, observing the moment once again. This is the discipline you will develop as you practice this.
Repeat steps 4 through 6 until your alarm goes off.
That’s it, that’s the practice. It will get easier the more you do it and the results will accrue over time. As you practice, you will learn new things about yourself and about how your mind works. Be gentle and easy with yourself throughout this process, you are learning who you really are and that takes compassion and non-judgment of the self.
Some pointers to help you in your practice of Mindfulness Meditation Wear comfortable clothing. In the beginning it is challenging enough to keep your mind on the present moment, but if you are wearing uncomfortable clothing, you will find it extremely challenging to think of anything else! Make sure that your clothing and your environment are comfortable enough for the length of your entire session.
Make this routine. If you are serious about improving your life through mindfulness, you do need to dedicate routine time for this and follow a schedule. If you are a beginner, start with 5 to 15 minute sessions and dedicate yourself to practicing this at least once a day. Ideally you would have a morning session upon waking and an evening session before bed, but work with your schedule and follow what works best for you. Just make sure you are doing it routinely.
Have patience. You may not see immediate results, especially if this is brand new to you. It takes time to learn how to settle the mind. But if you have patience and stick with it, you will see the results from this in a myriad of ways.
Hold yourself accountable. One of the most difficult things about practicing mindfulness alone is that it’s easy to fall into old habits and to “justify” to ourselves why we are not meditating. One solution to this is to join a meditation group or form one yourself. Or you could team up with a friend and hold each other accountable for your meditation practice. If neither of those appeal to you, try keeping a meditation diary but you must hold yourself accountable for staying dedicated to it.
Avoid heavy foods, drugs or alcohol prior to meditating. Any of these things may greatly detract you from your goal of mindfulness so it is best to avoid them for at least an hour before going into your session.
Be kind to yourself and your butterfly mind. It is important not to judge yourself when your mind wanders off, it’s going to happen and judging yourself negatively doesn’t help matters. The Buddhists say the unsettled mind acts like a butterfly, flitting about here and there, unable to sit still for longer than a minute. You are learning how to settle the mind, to bring the butterfly back to the room, back to the present moment. Relax and be kind to yourself while you learn. Like anything else, you will get better at it with practice.