How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation?
Upon in-depth contemplation, almost all of us will conclude that ultimately we have one single need — the need to suffer less and experience happiness and peace more.
Depending on the individual, happiness can come from many different sources however, only one source can lead to suffering.
The simple reality of life is that pain is inevitable however, suffering is optional.
Suffering is caused when we compare our real-life experiences against our envisioned reality in a perfect world. In other words, every time we try to escape from our current being and experience, suffering is bound to surface. Equally important, it will withstand as long as we continue to wrestle with our present.
Simply recognizing the fact that every second spent in suffering comes at the expense of happiness and peace can lead us to the obvious solution, which is, to experience more happiness and peace we need to simply find a way to suffer less.
As we discussed in great depth in the previous blog, mindfulness meditation is a powerful and scientifically proven tool that gives us exactly this opportunity, where we can reduce suffering and ultimately even eliminate it from our being.
The uniqueness of this meditation lies in the fact that it focuses on self-acceptance rather than altering our inner-core and real being. This meditation trains us to be with our very self from moment to moment and unreservedly acknowledge our thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
To lay down a solid foundation on the topic, so far we have discussed the “what” and the “why” of the practice of mindfulness meditation.
Now we discuss the “how” of practicing mindfulness meditation.
On a very basic level, practicing mindfulness meditation is composed of five integral parts: physical environment, body posture, breathing, thoughts, and practice duration.
Setting a proper and supportive environment for practicing mindfulness meditation is vital. Although, this is essential for everyone more so, it’s a must for individuals with very little or no previous experience with this or other forms of meditation.
In a world where spare real estate space is getting increasingly tough to come by, many of us can’t dedicate a whole room for mindfulness meditation. Practically speaking all you need is some comfortable quiet sitting space in your house. Whether it’s a corner of your bedroom or a little space in your basement or whatever else may be the case.
Refrain from picking a spot that is close to the television, computer, tablets, cell phone charging stations and so on.
Once you have picked the quiet space, pick something on which you can sit flat comfortably. Ideally, a small cushion, folded blanket and Indian chowki will work well. If you prefer to sit higher feel free to pick a flat base chair, which allows your feet to touch the ground flat and not let them swing around in the air. The bottom line, the sitting medium must allow you to sit flat on the surface and not let your body jiggle.
Although not completely necessary but some of you may find lighting up some candles and decorating your mindfulness meditation area with spiritual decoratives a way to remind you of the purpose of the area.
Go ahead sit down on your mindfulness meditation spot in an upright posture with your chest open, legs crossed, hands resting on your thighs and face straight while eyes looking slightly down.
Sitting with your back against a wall can provide good support to help maintain the upright sitting posture. A word of caution, don’t go over the top to perfect the upright yogi posture on the first day and potentially injure yourself. Just relax and let it come to you at its natural pace.
Notice, I didn’t mention to close your eyes as part of the posture?
While similar to other forms of meditation, you can close your eyes during mindfulness meditation as well however, leaving your eyes gently open and letting it lightly gaze on a wall or an object at a comfortable distance will work equally well. The goal here is not to put in extra effort or to stare at the object or the wall but instead to simply let your gaze naturally relax there without any effort.
Since mindfulness meditation is about embracing who we naturally are, there are no special breathing patterns or techniques needed here. Simply breathe naturally as you would normally do.
As you breathe, simply bring your attention to your breath. Follow the whole breath right as it comes in and as it goes out. Relax and just repeat the same process with the next breath.
While deep breathing is more effective than shallow breathing however, at this point there is no need to try to manipulate your natural breathing style. What’s important here is that your attention is on following your breath.
Being used to always being on the go or finding ourselves replaying the past or imagining the future, thoughts will indeed start to surface when we sit in mindfulness meditation.
Additionally, not only thoughts but also feelings and sensations will arise especially when you are new to this practice. Feeling as if you are failing miserably at this practice is perfectly normal. There is no need to stress about it.
For everyone this is how it goes at the start: sit down —> focus on breathing —> 2-5 seconds in the practice thoughts start to wander —> you recognize you are off course —> you pause and bring your attention back to breathing —> 2-5 seconds later your thoughts start to wander again —> the cycle repeats a few times —> after 2-3 minutes you make a judgment that this is impossible —> you quit.
When you reach that point, remind yourself mindfulness meditation is not about making judgments instead it’s about making observations of what’s happening in the now.
Stay patient and simply acknowledge that you have got off-track and then gently bring your attention back to your breathing.
With some persistence, conscious effort, and faith, you will soon find that focusing on your breathing has started to become relatively easier and thoughts have started to become silent. Just like everything else, the more you practice the better you will get with every session.
There is no set time for the duration of practicing mindfulness meditation. For beginners, it’s best to start with a ten minutes session in the morning and another in the evening. Once you start to gain traction gradually increase the duration to thirty minutes.
Some final thoughts:
The foundation of mindfulness meditation and its power lies in the simple fact that our goal is not to blank our thoughts instead we are simply observing them as they are. We are allowing ourselves to get intimate with our inner core and consciousness by shunning the outside clutter and noise. We are taking the path of spiritual awakening and self-acceptance — the most powerful form of self-love.
Are you ready to reduce or even eliminate suffering from your life? If yes, then welcome the practice and power of mindfulness meditation and let us know about your journey.