How to practice mindfulness
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Mindfulness is a natural quality that we all have.
It is available to us in every moment if we take the time to appreciate it.
When we practice mindfulness, we are practicing the art of creating space for ourselves: space to think, space to breathe, space between ourselves and our reactions.
When you’re trying to learn about mindfulness, it’s best to read as much as you can on the subject and try out various resources like mindfulness apps , podcasts, or books to see what works best for you.
What you need to know before practicing mindfulness:
- You don’t need to buy anything. You can practice anywhere, there is no need to go out and buy a special cushion or bench: all you need is to dedicate a little time and space to access your mindfulness skills each day.
- There is no way to quiet your mind. That’s not the objective. There is no state of bliss or otherworldly communion. All you are trying to do is pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. It sounds easy right?
- Your mind will wander.As you practice paying attention to what is going on in your body and mind in the present moment, you will find that many thoughts arise. Your mind may wander about something that happened yesterday, your to-do list… your mind will try to be anywhere but where you are. But mind wandering is not something to be feared, it is part of human nature and provides the magic moment for the essential piece of mindfulness practice, the piece that researchers believe leads to healthier, more agile brains: the moment you recognize that your mind has wandered. Because if you realize that your mind has wandered, then you can consciously bring it back to the present moment. The more you do it, the more likely you’ll be able to do it over and over again.
- Your brain, which is very judicious, will try to take control. The second part of the puzzle is the “non-judgment” part. We are all guilty of listening to the critic in our head a little more than we should. (That reviewer has saved us from disaster on quite a few occasions.) But when we practice investigating and disseminating our judgments, we can learn to choose how we look at things and how we react to them. When you practice mindfulness, try not to judge yourself for any thoughts that come up. Notice how the judgments arise, write them down mentally (some people label them “thoughts”), and let them pass, acknowledging the sensations they may leave in your body and letting them pass as well.
- It’s about bringing your attention back over and over again to the present moment. It seems that our minds are hardwired to be carried away by thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of coming back, over and over again, to the breath. We use the sensation of the breath as an anchor to the present moment. And each time we return to the breath, we reinforce our ability to do it again. It’s a biceps workout for the brain.
How to practice Mindfulness
Although mindfulness may seem simple, it is not.
Real work is taking time each day to keep doing it. Here is a short practice to get you started:
- sit down Find a place to sit that seems calm and quiet to you.
- Set a time limit . If you’re just starting out, it can be helpful to choose a short time, like 5 or 10 minutes.
- Observe your body . You can sit on a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit cross-legged, in a lotus posture, you can kneel… everything is fine. Just make sure you’re stable and in a position where you can stay for a while.
- Feel your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath going out and going in.
- Notice when your mind has wandered . Inevitably, your attention will leave the sensations of the breath and go elsewhere. When you become aware of it – in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes – just bring your attention back to your breath.
- Be kind to your wandering mind . Do not judge or obsess over the content of the thoughts in which you find yourself lost. It just comes back.
That is all. That is the practice. You walk away, come back and try to do it as kindly as possible.