To do mindfulness meditation, first, find a spot with minimal to no distractions. I strongly recommend putting your phone on airplane mode. After that find a spot you can sit and get comfortable in.
It’s recommended to sit in a chair in an upright position. Try to sit with proper posture, sitting upright and with your feet flat on the ground. If that’s too uncomfortable at least try sitting in a chair with your back against the back rest of your chair and keep your body upright while you lean against it. You don’t have to do this but it helps with your breathing and keeps your mind prepped for paying attention rather than resting. At the end of the day though do what’s most comfortable for you. Sometime’s when I’m feeling low on motivation I just do it laying down on my bed so take from that what you will.
Now for the meat of it! Sit with either your eyes closed, or gazing downwards, and focus on your breath. You can choose a certain sensation you feel from your breath, such as the air going through your nose or the rise and fall of your chest, or you can focus on all of those sensations your breath causes. If you struggle with this, some other helpful tips are to visualize the air entering your nose and filling your lungs, and then leaving as you exhale, or counting your breaths and after you reach a number such as ten, restarting again. I personally have found it helpful to count my intake breath as one, and my exhale as two, and then just repeating that.
If you prefer something other than your breath you can actually focus your attention on anything as long as it is a singular object. You could bring your attention on a mantra that you repeat, or on the flame of a candle. The benefit of using your breath as your point of focus is because you’re always breathing, so every single moment of your life you can bring your attention to it when you need to. It’s often referred to as your anchor to the present moment because any time you lose touch of the present moment, you can let your breath be your guide back.
As you begin to meditate your mind will wander. And then you will notice it has wandered, and that’s when you bring your awareness back to your breath. Sometimes you will catch your mind wandering after just a few seconds. Other times it will take the majority of your meditation session for you to realize it has wandered. It is important not to beat yourself up as your mind wanders, as that is one of the reasons why you are meditating in the first place.
Building this habit of catching your mind wandering and bringing it back to what you are paying attention to is where a lot of the work in meditation is done. As Sharon Salzberg, a meditation teacher puts it, “The healing is in the return, not in never having left.” I only emphasize this so much because it is very easy to beat yourself up when your mind is constantly wandering during a meditation session. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you’re doing the meditation wrong, but in fact your meditation is going very well because this shows you how much you actually needed to meditate.
Eventually your attention will be drawn between your breath and various distractions within your mind. You will notice the thoughts you keep trying to focus on, and you will notice various emotions pulling at your attention. You must keep your focus on your breath, even as these things draw at your attention. I would like to emphasize that they are background noise, and that it is ok that they occur in the background. You may be tempted to try to stop your thoughts from ever happening in the first place, but you are actually supposed to let them occur when you are meditating. Trying to stop your thoughts tends to only make them more rampant.
If you keep your focus on your breath you will notice the thoughts will continue to come and go but you are able to let them be. This goes for emotions as well. We often wish to fix our emotions, and during meditation you may start wondering why you are feeling a particular emotion, or how to stop it. Instead you can just let your emotions flow through you and you can let them do their own thing as you continue to keep your attention on your breathing.
This process becomes very useful during day to day life. I personally have realized that my thoughts have a very strong pull on my attention, and normally the thoughts are worrisome or stressful. One particular thought will catch my attention, and then more thoughts will build upon the original one and they will just keep piling up. By the end of it I’ll feel stressed out and exhausted, but lately I’ve been learning that after the first thought catches my attention I can opt out of the thought spiral by bringing my awareness back to my breath. Bringing your awareness back to your breath is like a sort of reset you can do to re-center your awareness.
You Are Behind the Thoughts and Emotions
A useful way to let the thoughts and emotions pass before you is something I learned from the book The Untethered Soul. Singer talks about “falling behind” the events in your brain. That is to say, your thoughts and emotions are just things passing by your awareness. You “hear” your thoughts a lot of the time rather than actively create them. An example of this is when you’re going throughout your day and a troublesome thought stops you in your tracks and you have to stew on it a bit.
Notice how the thought caught you off guard. That’s because a lot of the time thoughts are just occurring on their own within your mind. You can take your attention elsewhere but notice how they continue rambling.
The same goes for your emotions. You don’t create your emotions. They happen to just kind of occur within you. You can’t make yourself feel happy, but rather you create a stimulus that causes happiness to form inside of you.
This means you are “behind” these things. They are not you, but rather things that pass by your awareness. That means when you are meditating you don’t have to get caught up in these things, but can rather let them appear in your awareness, hang around for a bit, and then eventually leave. Often we will be concerned about an emotion, thinking it’s going to stay there permanently, but that rarely ever actually happens. These things tend to come and go on their own accord, and if you just let them do that peacefully you can better come to terms with your inner world.
That isn’t to say these emotions or thoughts may have serious implications sometimes, or never need to be dealt with. Meditation is about having a moment in your life that you allow yourself to be completely carefree. You can worry about those serious things after your meditation. Meditation is the practice of allowing your emotions and thoughts to just act as they please as you sit back and let them be. Not interacting with them for a change. It can be very insightful as you stop taking part in these occurrences and realize what your brain is really doing in the background of your life.
Meditating is a continuous practice. You can’t expect to be the Buddha within a week of meditation. It is similar to working out, where you have to consistently do the practice to take advantage of its results. If you try focusing on the results, rather than enjoying the process itself you are likely to get burnt out. You must appreciate the journey to the destination, rather than constantly evaluating if you’re making any progress.
I recommend starting small, and setting a timer for 5 to 10 minutes a day. As you become more comfortable you can gradually increase the time and/or increase the number of sessions you do in a day. I cannot emphasize consistency and patience enough. When you meditate it is helpful to go into it with an attitude of determination. You can try your hardest to keep your focus on your breath, and that will make the meditation more effective. However, you cannot then beat yourself up if you fail to keep your attention on your breath the whole time.
It is a long term journey, and the best thing you can do for yourself to keep yourself from burning out is keeping that in mind. Don’t base your success off of how well your meditation sessions are going, but rather how well you are keeping to a daily practice. Don’t expect results immediately, but rather know they will gradually take effect over time.
If you wish to learn about more ways besides meditation that you can bring mindfulness into your day to day life click here to read my post on that subject. If not, that’s all I have for you today, have a nice day 🙂