How many of you can relate to this? You’re living in a big city. You commute to work each day to a job you dislike. As you push past other commuters on the sidewalk or nudge up against strangers on public transport, you daydream about your last trip to somewhere exotic. You imagine planning your next trip, and you imagine a well deserved pint after work with your friends.
At the office you do tasks you find tedious or pointless, so you distract yourself by tracking the price of Bitcoin online, texting your friends, or planning your next vacation. You get dragged to meeting after meeting and seem like you’ll never be free to explore your true passions which, you don’t even know what they are.
Whenever you talk with your friends and family, you’re constantly reliving the past or planning for the future. On the way home you try to ignore the blaring sirens of ambulances and police cars driving past, the cacophony of humanity around you as you stumble into the nearest pub and try to drown the boredom and frustration with a pint.
“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
This scenario is well known to many of us that live and work in the modern world. We are caught up in well-built habit loops which allow us to think back into the past or ahead into the future but allow us to conveniently avoid what’s going on around us. We do this because as humans we are trying to conserve vital mental energy and processing power. Sadly, this means that few of us live in the present moment and are aware of our surroundings on a regular basis.
Mindful meditation is a practice that is fast becoming a global phenomenon. It is a type of meditation that helps individuals focus their efforts and their mental energy on the present moment. It has been argued by spiritual aspirants and medical professionals alike that mindful meditation helps reduce stress and alleviate symptoms of boredom, lack of motivation, and even attention deficit disorder.
Here is a seven-step process you can try to help you start to develop your own mindful meditation practice:
Step 1: Sit
Find a spot that will allow you to sit free from distraction for 10 to 15 minutes. This might be a park bench, a conference room, a train car, the seat on a bus, a closet, a couch, a yoga studio or in the middle of the floor of your kitchen. In the end, it doesn’t really matter where you sit, as long as you can find a place that is comfortable and will allow you to avoid distractions for between 10 to 15 minutes without being called to take care of some task or interrupted by a friend or stranger.
Step 2: Straighten up
Settle into the right posture with a straight back and feet resting on the floor or crossed underneath you. Finding a relaxed and alert posture is important when you attempt to develop a mindfulness practice, because as you enter the meditation phase of the practice you will become aware of any slight discomfort. The more balanced your posture when you start, the better off the practice will go.
Step 3: Close your eyes… or don’t
Some people prefer to close their eyes while they practice sitting meditation, while others prefer to maintain a soft gaze looking straight ahead or focusing on a single object. Both options work, but if you are just starting off it may be easier to close your eyes to avoid distraction from the outside world.
“Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
Step 4: Focus on your breath… or anything
Again, one of the easiest ways to develop a keen awareness for the present moment is to focus on your breath. That being said, some people prefer focusing on a single object nearby, or on the sensation in a certain part of their body. To each their own. I would experiment to see what works best for you.
Step 5: Be open to distractions
The harder you try to block out all distractions from your mind, the more challenging it will be to find flow and reach that altered state of consciousness.
Step 6: Feel the burn, and let it pass
Understand that the process of mindful meditation is like going to the gym; you are training your mind and building habit loops which will benefit you in the long run. When someone is trying to get fit, they will often elect to take the stairs up to their apartment or to their office rather than take the elevator.
When your legs start to ache and you become short of breath, you don’t think “I’m climbing the stairs wrong,” instead you think “I’m out of shape, I should climb the stairs more often!” The same goes for mindful meditation.
Mindful meditation is something that should be practised just as people practice yoga or go to the gym. You are working out your mind, so you should treat the practice like a workout. You will get better with time, but it will be hard work.
Step 7: Look for little wins
It is expected that you will become distracted many times over the course of a mindful meditation practice, it’s completely natural. Rather than being disheartened by this, try to become aware of the moments in which you become distracted. Once you become aware that this distraction is present, consider celebrating your ability to recognize it as what it is, a distraction, before returning to your breath.
While this seven-step process doesn’t provide much detail into the actual practice of mindful meditation, there are plenty of programs available online that provide free mindful meditation courses and lessons for you to try.
Do you practice meditation? Comment below!
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