Get Started with Mindfulness Meditation
What's Mindfulness anyway?
Ever wondered about Mindfulness Meditation? What it is and how to do it?
In this article I will show you several easy to use Mindfulness Practices and explain a little about how to do Mindfulness Practices. There is also a lot of research being done in this field. I wish to keep things more simple and easy to do every day, but for those of you who wish to have more in-depths information on the scientific background, I have provided some useful links to research and information on Mindfulness at the end of the article,
I have been teaching classes on Mindfulness and Meditation for several years and really enjoy seeing the wonderful results my clients get from practicing these easy to learn techniques in their daily lives.
How to make time for Mindfulness
We all have lives filled with responsibility and duty. Things we need to do every day, from taking care of the family, to going to work, to things like taking care of the household - to name just a few.
For many of us, our adult lives are full of routine tasks, that we have to do day in and day out. There is so much to accomplish and so little time to get it done!
So when I suggest to my clients that in order to reduce stress, they should slow things down and become more mindful with their daily tasks, and live more fully in each moment, they usually say: " No way! I don't have time for that!"
I like to show them how just 5 - 10 min a day can be enough to start out with some Mindfulness and can bring lasting changes. Performing Mindfulness Practices can greatly increase self-worth and happiness.
Enjoyable Vs. Mundane
Think for a moment about the stuff you really enjoy doing. Maybe you are like me and enjoy to hike, fish or go sailing, maybe you enjoy restoring old cars, or maybe you love to bake or cook. Whatever your favorite hobby or pastime may be, when you are doing this, you are most likely completely in the moment, totally attentive to the task at hand. You appreciate having carved out the time for this special moment and are feeling, smelling, tasting and seeing in great detail, and everything else just fades into the background.
You feel joyful and happy. "Of course", you might think, "that is what favorite hobbies are all about!"
Now let's think about the stuff you have to do, but don't really enjoy. I am talking about those routine tasks that fill your day and need to be done. Stuff like doing laundry, dishes, walking the dog or sitting in traffic on your way to and from work.
While performing these tasks, you more than likely let your mind wander - you multitask - maybe you plan out your shopping list while sitting in traffic, or planning out what to do on the weekend while doing the laundry. You may notice you are out of laundry soap and start thinking how that is just one more thing you need to do this week, you are absentminded, and you don't notice much about the task at hand.
You feel overwhelmed, stressed and frustrated with your busy life.
When we just go through our lives doing routine tasks and doing so absentminded, we start feeling unfulfilled and unhappy. Our lives can seem mundane, full of things we don't enjoy anymore but have to do.
With Mindfulness, we can bring back the joy into everyday life, even the things we don't want to do.
Most often Mindfulness is described as non-judgmental present moment awareness.
I like to define it as being fully present in each moment, with an open mind and a grateful attention to whatever presents itself.
There are three main ingredients to make up a mindful experience:
- focus on the here and now
- involve the senses (see, smell, taste, touch, hear)
- appreciate or feel gratitude
When you bring these key ingredients into an activity, you have a mindfulness exercise.
Try this mindfulness exercise the next time you wash your hands:
Become fully aware of the task at hand. Begin by feeling the water flowing over your skin. Notice its temperature. Is it warm? Cold?
Next, notice the soap, look at the texture, color. Notice the smell as you put it onto the hands. Notice the feel of the soap as you lather it into the hands.
Find something to appreciate. " I like the pleasant smell of this soap" or "I am really grateful for the warm water on this chilly day!"
The mind will wander
Keep your focus on the task at hand, so when your mind starts to wander and you start examining your nails, thinking about having to schedule an appointment for a manicure, simply notice that your attention has changed. Don't get upset with yourself, simply notice and STOP. Now re-direct your attention back to the task, tuning in to the senses.
Tuning into the senses helps focus the mind to the present, and is one of the best tools to re-direct a wandering mind. You may need to do this over and over, as you notice your thoughts going from one thing to another. This is completely normal.
Try not to judge, judging usually takes the mind into creating a story, which leads the mind into more and more thoughts. You may think: " Oh, we are almost out of soap. I need to remember to buy more when I get to the store this afternoon. I also need laundry detergent and butter...." and on and on it goes. The key is to notice when this happens and to stop and re-direct.
This is one of the most important aspects of any type of Mindfulness Practice. Notice when the mind is wandering.
Now you have a choice to make. Do you let the mind wander, or do you stop and re-direct your attention? Notice I am saying Re-Direct your attention - not redirect your thoughts!
Simply come back to experiencing the task at hand. Bring your attention back to the senses, to what the body is doing at the present moment. The thoughts will float off, no need to struggle about trying to "clear" the mind; this will happen automatically when the attention is brought to your focus, the mindfulness exercise.
It is simple, but not necessarily easy. Most people struggle with letting go of thoughts and focusing on one thing at a time. We have become so accustomed to multitasking, that one-pointed attention is something most of us have to practice. That is truly what mindfulness is all about. Practicing to be able to hold our attention on one thing at a time.
So come back to the task at hand as many times as necessary. Tune into the temperature of the water, watch the water flow over the hands and down into the drain. Turn off the water and dry your hands. Notice the texture of the towel.
It only takes minutes to practice
This mindfulness exercise will only take a few minutes and it is something you have to do anyway several times every day. Soon, you will start noticing that you feel very calm and peaceful during your short mindfulness exercise sessions. Over time, you can choose other tasks or activities to become mindful at. Below are a few more examples of simple mindfulness exercises.
Example of Activities for Mindfulness Practices
Here is a list of a few daily tasks that can easily be turned into a Mindfulness Practice:
- brushing your teeth
- doing the dishes
- folding laundry
- watering the lawn
to turn any activity into a mindful experience, simply slow things down, tune into your senses and truly stay in the moment, by paying attention to where your mind is focused. If you notice your mind is wandering, simply go back to the experience at hand. Another way to tune in a bit more easily is to think of something to appreciate or feel grateful for, in connection with the task at hand.
Have some fun
I hope you will enjoy doing some of your daily tasks more mindfully. I am certain that once you get started with these Mindfulness Exercises, you will feel more joyful about everyday life.
Below are some links to recent research done on Mindfulness and the benefits it offers to those who practice it.
Most of all, have fun. This is simple and easy! Don't get too caught up in the specifics and just get started!
- Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your bra
Meditation's benefits may derive from its impact on the shape of the brain, thickening parts associated with mind-wandering, memory and compassion, and shrinking the fear center
- American Mindfulness Research Association Home - American Mindfulness Research Association
AMRA serves as a professional resource to the sciences and humanities, practice communities, and the broader public on mindfulness.
- The Science of Mindfulness | Mindful
Dr. Daniel J. Siegel on what makes mindfulness so beneficial to our health, psyche, and overall quality of life.