If you want to learn about mindfulness, we have some basic techniques for beginners. You can learn how to meditate, to potentially reduce anxiety, sleep better, improve memory, and maintain focus on daily tasks. Guided meditation is a practical way to ease into it. But first…
What is Mindfulness?
Put simply, Mindfulness is training our mind to slow down and create space around arising thoughts, so we’re able to act with more skill and compassion, instead of reacting out of reflex or raw emotion. This training is done through meditation.
Meditation is basically a tool to become mindful, or aware, of the present moment. There are meditation techniques to help with stress, anxiety, compassion, and other aspects of psychology. There is even meditation for children!
Mindfulness is such a buzzword in the media today. We see dozens of articles about studies showing how meditation can improve our lives in the office, in schools, in our relationships, and ultimately how we view the world around us. I cover several benefits of meditation here.
I hope to provide soon a few videos of guided meditations. But for now, let’s get started…
How to Meditate
- Set your intention to sit for 5 minutes.
- Find a spot with few distractions.
- Sit upright, eyes closed, and breath normally.
- Focus on your breath, at your nose or diaphragm.
- When thoughts arise, gently return to your breath.
Step 1 : Set your intention
All this means is finding some time to meditate.
You don’t need a ton of spare time or a special room dedicated for practice. Five minutes in the morning at home, or lunch break at work, or wherever.
====> Decide now that you will meditate, for 5 minutes. (Nike: Just do it!)
In time, you may slip into a routine where you “sit” for 30 minutes every day before work, but that’s a topic for a later date. It’s that simple: no special clothes or special place is necessary to meditate.
Step 2 : Pick a spot
You can meditate anywhere, but in the beginning you might want a space with few distractions, such as people coming and going, or external noise. When you dedicate yourself to sitting practice, you may prefer a routine time and spot for meditating.
====> Find a comfortable space with no distractions.
An established routine is definitely helpful for mind training, but you can meditate for five minutes during your lunch break, in a park, or even while driving! Sounds counter-intuitive, and I’ll explain this later.
Step 3 : Get ready.
Now you can sit in a chair, or on a pillow or cushion, with your back straight and close your eyes. Be comfortable and allow your breath to flow naturally.
====> Sit upright, close your eyes, and breath normally. Relax.
I’ve seen all sorts of positions for the hands, but I don’t feel it matters. Hands on knees with middle fingers touching thumbs is the oft-seen posture, which is fine, but hands together in lap is also common. (I alternate.) I believe the straightened back is said to strengthen concentration.
Step 4 : Notice your breath
With your eyes closed, locate your breath (the inhale and exhale), either at the tip of your nostrils or the expanding of your chest. I tend to notice the looping of my breath, but most people find it helpful to count breaths (1 on the inhale, 2 on the exhale, 3 on the inhale…).
====> Focus on your breathing.
You can use any focal point for meditating, but your breath is something you always carry with you. Other practices use a mantra, and candle flame, deity visualization, etc.
Step 5 : When your mind wanders, return to your breath
Your mind will quickly wander from the focal point, and this does not make you a bad meditator! The mind is very active. Just note the distraction and go back to your count.
====> Gently return to the breath when distracted.
The key here is not to judge yourself for your restless mind. This is the core of the practice, the awareness of the distraction and the gentle return to the breath. Life-long practitioners continue to perfect this basic yet powerful technique.
With practice, you can make this process more elaborate, or more simple, where Step One becomes just noticing your breath. Ultimately, you are training your mind to stop dwelling on the past and making plans for the future, to simply rest in the present moment.
These are the steps of basic concentration practice. Once the mind is calm — or calmer; it’s never truly still — we can shift our focus to other objects. This second step is called Insight practice, which is touched on here.