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How to Become a Mindfulness Practitioner in 3 Easy Steps (No More Excuses!)

Updated on March 22, 2016
Meditation is how we connect to the Universe, and to our true selves
Meditation is how we connect to the Universe, and to our true selves | Source

Consume my heart away;
Sick with desire and
fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is...

(W. B. Yeats)

An Indian legend has it that once a year Shiva becomes a mountain called Arunachala, which means: the mountain of fire. The mountain has the unique quality to destroy the small "I" consciousness of people and put them in the realm of the infinite "God" consciousness.

This is the reason why Saint Ramana Maharishi sat at the foothill of Arunachala endlessly asking: "Who am I?"

Somewhat less determined than Ramana Maharishi (and, perhaps, infinitely less humble), I am relentless in the pursuit of self-knowledge. I've been experimenting with different types of meditation for years: Transcendental, Transmission, Heart-based, Spiral, Color, Reiki, Peace, Chakra, Sufi, Golden Light are just some examples of what I have briefly tried and abandoned. What all these meditations have in common is that they require some "doing" (concentrating, visualizing, evoking a feeling etc.) as opposed to just "being", which is what mindfulness entails.

So when I came across mindful meditation, I was 10% intrigued, 90% skeptical. The truth is, I've been purposefully avoiding all mindfulness-based practices. They seemed too hard. Uncomfortable and boring. Aimless and irritating. "It's just not for me," I thought, habitually rationalizing my lack of courage to face the silence.

You don't have to look like this to practice mindfulness meditation
You don't have to look like this to practice mindfulness meditation

We're All Afraid of Silence

What could be worse than complete silence? I'll tell you what's worse: silence interrupted only by your own trifling, egomaniacal, devastatingly inconsequential thoughts.

There is no escape from that petty chaotic rambling - no image to concentrate on, no mantra to repeat, no colors to paint, no third eyes to open. Just you in this final, presumably perfect form, and the silence. Chilling, isn't it?

As it turned out, mindfulness doesn't have to be dreadful (granted, you commit to a daily practice). What creates the experience of suffering is the habit of grasping onto the content of thoughts, because there is always a duality of either wanting or resisting inherent in grasping onto something. In other words, you are too busy judging your thoughts instead of simply being present for them.

So What Exactly is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a practice of conscious awareness. The Zen Sutra of Mindfulness says:

"When walking, the practitioner must be conscious that he is walking. When sitting, the practitioner must be conscious that he is sitting. When lying down, the practitioner must be conscious that he is lying down...No matter what position one's body is in, the practitioner must be conscious of that position. Practicing thus, the practitioner lives in direct and constant mindfulness of the body... ".

That is just one side of mindfulness. Ideally, we must also try to be conscious of every breath, thought and feeling we experience.

Right now, for example, you are reading this page. Note your body position. Are you seating comfortably or slouching over the computer? Take a notice of your breathing: is it shallow? Do you feel tension somewhere? In your eyes, perhaps? What are your thoughts? Are you reading superficially, while your attention is somewhere else? What is the temperature in the room? Are there any sounds you can identify?

Congratulations. You've just become a mindfulness practitioner.

How To Actually Practice Mindfulness & Conquer Your Emotions

"Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance." - Buddha
"Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance." - Buddha | Source

Are There Any Guidelines?

1. Sitting: one should sit upright, like sitting on the Bodhi spot (place where Buddha meditated). Imagine a Bodhi tree against your spine. Think of Buddha if it helps. The main thing is: sit up straight so that the energy can flow freely.

2. Relaxing and Breathing: breathe in a long breath, being conscious of inhalation. Do it lightly, like lifting a feather. Now let out all the air in your lungs, being conscious of exhalation. Every time your mind wonders, gently re-direct your attention to the breathing.

3. Just being in the moment: whatever is happening in any given moment, this is your reality. Be aware of it. Try to disengage from any "judgment" thoughts and just allow the consciousness to flow. If a disturbing or a persistent thought arises, don't identify with it. Watch it as if from a distance, and let it go.

I got it. But is There a Simpler Way to Explain it?

Yes, there is. In Lao Tzu's words, "Muddy water, let stand becomes clear".

Scientifically Observable Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

What Are the Long-Term Effects?

According to research, when deeply relaxed, the body produces more nitric oxide - a molecule that acts as an antidote to cortisol and other potentially toxic stress hormones.

Studies on Buddhist monks in a state of deep meditation also revealed an explosive electrical activity in the pre-frontal lobe - an area responsible for mental states like happiness, hopefulness, contentment etc.

Moreover, trained meditators seem to defy neuroscience: being able to hold one's attention on a fixed object for hours or to shift attention rapidly as many as 17 times in a span of a finger-snap contradicts what Western science currently knows about the human brain.

A Guided Mindfulness Meditation

Stop Making Excuses!

The typical excuses to avoid meditating are:

  • it's not for me
  • it doesn't work
  • I don't know how
  • I tried it before, and I couldn't stop thinking
  • I'm going to start on Monday
  • I don't have the time
  • I'm uncomfortable sitting in the lotus position
  • I don't have the patience/stamina/commitment
  • I'm a Christian/Jew/Muslim/Atheist
  • I don't see the point.

Stop the vicious cycle! You are a spiritual being, you know that, so live what you preach. There's nowhere to go, nothing to achieve, only being in the present moment and allowing it.

It will feel unnatural at first, and you will continue wondering whether you're doing it right. That's perfectly OK. Just observe the thought as if it was something external, and let it go. Identify with the Mindful Observer in you, and your brain chemistry will start to change. This is not a hypothesis; this is science, which means that there are measurable observable facts behind it.

It's never too late to start meditating. So face the uncomfortable silence. You never know what you're going to discover in that silence.

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    • kalinin1158 profile image
      Author

      Lana Adler 3 years ago from California

      Thank you :) I agree, it's impossible to be conscious of everything, but Zen Buddhism says that we must strive to make our existence a living meditation, so meditation is not something you "do" every day for 20 minutes, it's a way of life. I don't think it means taking over the subconscious mind completely - just enough to bring awareness to areas that hinder our progress, like the subconscious programs you've mentioned. Thank you for sharing!

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 3 years ago from Isle of Man

      An excellent hub that explains mindfulness perfectly. I do not however agree that it is possible nor beneficial for anyone to be mindful of everything they do. To do so is to try to consciously take over the work of the subconscious and this would be futile. I see mindfulness as a useful practice to do regularly with the purpose of becoming aware of subconscious programs that are sabotaging our lives and then deleting these programs at the subconscious level. This is a useful purpose for mindfulness. I have shared this hub through my social network as I feel many people will benefit from reading it.Thank you.

    • kalinin1158 profile image
      Author

      Lana Adler 3 years ago from California

      Thank you Neinahpets! I'm sorry for a very delayed response, I'm not sure how I could have missed your comment. I'm glad that this article provided a starting ground for you to start meditating. I'd be interested to know what your experience with meditation was/is. Thank you for reading!

    • Neinahpets profile image

      Stephanie 5 years ago from Canada

      This interests me a lot but I have never tried meditation before. I think being able to let go and silence the thoughts that run rampant through my mind would be a great thing, but I still can't quite grasp where to begin in a journey like that; but this is something good as a starting ground. Thank you for sharing, voted up for you!

    • kalinin1158 profile image
      Author

      Lana Adler 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Quirinus! Maybe I should read my own hubs more often, sometimes it's so hard to get back to meditating after a pause in practice...I have to remind myself that the resistance is there to protect the ego, you have to get through the resistance.

    • Quirinus profile image

      Queirdkus Ω Ibidem 5 years ago from Sitting on the Rug

      Thanks for sharing, kalinin1158; this a helpful guide for everyone, especially in understanding and overcoming the initial difficulties with the mindful awareness practice.

    • kalinin1158 profile image
      Author

      Lana Adler 7 years ago from California

      Thank you Tom! I'll check him out

    • profile image

      Tom 7 years ago

      It is the most powerfull thing that your body can achief. With a silenced mind, you can find and use your legacy, what you always have owned.

      Listen to Andrew Weil for breath techniques, he will lead you there.

    • coyjay profile image

      coyjay 8 years ago

      kalinin1158

      Yea, I agree with most of what your say. Krishnamurti says that meditation is emptying the mind of time-thought. And I agree that meditation is just paying full attention to whatever it is that you are doing.

      coyjay

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