If you wish to know more about what mindfulness is and what benefits it may bring rather than how to cultivate more of it, click here to read my post talking about what mindfulness actually is.
I’d like to start off saying that mindfulness is cultivated. It’s like working out when it comes to building the skill. You’re changing the way your mind processes experience, and like building muscle or endurance, it’s a slow and steady change rather than one you can accomplish overnight. It’s not something you can build on a whim, but rather a journey. It takes discipline and patience. Like working out, you’ve got to learn to appreciate the journey and stick to it because you truly want to improve your quality of life.
I wish to begin with a quick strategy I learned from the book Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Williams and Penman. It’s called the three minute breathing space. For the first minute you focus your awareness on your thoughts. You just sit back, and watch the thoughts running through your mind. You don’t analyze them, or judge them. You just watch them. For minute two you bring your attention to your breathing. You don’t make any effort to change your breathing, you just let it be and watch it. For the last minute you bring your awareness to your body. You take note of all the sensations you’re feeling. Your butt in your chair, any weird aches or feelings running through you, and you just watch these. If taking note of all the sensations is too vague you can do a body scan where you take note of any sensations in your head, then your neck, then your shoulders, arms, chest and back, and so on, paying attention to your body from top to bottom.
The breathing space is an incredible way to take a moment to stop and pause for a little bit. If things are ever getting too frantic, you find yourself more tense than you’d like to be, or if you need a second to recollect your thoughts or find your cool this is a great way to do it. You can modify the time however you wish as well. Each step doesn’t have to be an exact minute. You can take however long you wish to take on each step. If you ever need to recollect yourself, I highly recommend trying out a breathing space.
Another practice you can use in day to day life is a technique I learned from Michael Singer’s book The Untethered Soul. Basically, whenever you find yourself tensing up, take note of it, and then relax that tension. For example, I often find myself tensing my shoulders or abs when I feel on edge. Whenever I catch myself tensing these muscles up I take note to relax them. It’s a nice practice to keep in mind before doing something you know will cause you stress. Singer talks about confronting fear and unpleasant feelings in his book using this strategy. He says to take note of the fear or unpleasant feelings you are confronting, and then relax your shoulders as you continue to push forwards.
I find that you can apply this to your mind state as well. Sometimes life will become a bit much, and you can find that your mind begins to start buzzing about looking for solutions, and it will just continue to do this, even after you’re out of the perceived harm’s way. I’ve begin to appreciate catching my mind when it is racing, and deciding to work on relaxing it. Stopping and taking some deep breaths and reassuring myself everything will be alright.
If you really wish to cultivate mindfulness into your day to day life I believe meditation is the way to do it. There is a large amount of evidence backing up the claim that meditation actually alters the physical makeup of the brain, decreasing stress levels as well as depression symptoms. If you wish to look more into that you can click here to see the Wikipedia page on research done on meditation. Now, meditation is not for everybody, but I do recommend at least trying it out if you wish to bring more mindfulness into your life.
A simple meditation practice I would like to share is mindfulness meditation focused on your breath. You set a timer, and for that period of time the objective is to focus your attention on your breath. You try keeping your attention on the sensations your breath creates. And every time your attention goes elsewhere, right when you realize it has strayed you bring it back to your breath.
First off, you will realize how much your mind will stray from your breath. That’s ok. This is a very large part of the process. It’s easy to get frustrated when your mind wanders, but becoming aware and bringing your attention back to your breath is where the work is being done during meditation. As you practice you begin to catch yourself more and more.
Developing this skill is like learning to play an instrument. You can’t let yourself get mad when you decide to pick up a new instrument and can’t play your favorite song on it instantly. The craft takes practice, and you must learn to have patience and enjoy the practice for what it is.
If you wish to try this form of meditation out I recommend setting your timer for 5 to 10 minutes a day, every day. Because it is cultivation you must try your best to be consistent. Even if you realize at the end of the day you can only squeeze in a few minutes, it’s best to do that so you can build the habit. Once you get comfortable with 5 to 10 minutes a day you can start increasing the time gradually as you see fit.
As you progress in your practice you will gradually notice throughout your day to day life little ways in which meditation has helped you. You may become aware of certain thought patterns that keep popping up in your head or you may pause a second longer than you usually do before reacting to a snide comment. I’ve found it’s also easier to enter a state of mindfulness after continued practice. For example I may notice during a conversation my mind is wandering a bit too much and I’ll find it much easier to return my attention to the conversation than if I had not been meditating.
After meditating for months you’ll begin noticing larger changes in your day to day life such as finding it easier to forgive someone, finding it easier to get past strong emotions such as anger and anxiety, and just having a more overall sense of calm.
Aside from focusing on your breath, there are a plethora of other forms of meditation you can try out. I recommend trying guided meditations as they make it easier to keep your concentration on the meditation, and you have a greater reassurance you are doing the meditation correctly since you’re guided step by step through the meditation. Here’s a link to a guided meditation on youtube from the Headspace app. You get a free week of guided meditations if you download the app. It’s actually how I got into meditation myself. Here is an article discussing many different forms of meditation if you wish to take a look for yourself for any that may sound particularly appealing to you.
Welp that’s all I got! I wish you the best in your journey of life and hope you’ve found some insight from this post :). Namaste <3.