Mindfulness Meditation

mindfulness meditation
Dougal Waters/Digital Vision/Getty Images

What is mindfulness meditation?

Mindfulness is a practice that involves being fully engaged in whatever is going on around you. “It is simply the act of paying attention to whatever you are experiencing, as you experience it”, explains Kate Hanley, author of A Year of Daily Calm: A Guided Journal for Creating Tranquility Every Day. “By choosing to turn your attention away from the everyday chatter of the mind and on to what your body is doing, you give the mind just enough to focus on that it can quiet down.” 

Related: The Health Benefits of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

How to do it:

Here is a mindfulness meditation technique for beginners:

1. Find a quiet and comfortable place. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck and back straight but not stiff.

2. Try to put aside all thoughts of the past and the future and stay in the present.

3. Become aware of your breath, focusing on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your belly rise and fall, the air enter your nostrils and leave your mouth. Pay attention to the way each breath changes and is different.

4. Watch every thought come and go, whether it be a worry, fear, anxiety or hope. When thoughts come up in your mind, don't ignore or suppress them but simply note them, remain calm and use your breathing as an anchor.

5. If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts, observe where your mind went off to, without judging, and simply return to your breathing.

Remember not to be hard on yourself if this happens.

6. As the time comes to a close, sit for a minute or two, becoming aware of where you are. Get up gradually.

Related: How to Breathe From Your Belly (Diaphragm)

Other ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life:

There's no law that says you must be sitting on a cushion in a quiet room to practice mindfulness, says Hanley.

Mindfulness mediation is one technique, but daily life provides plenty of opportunities to practice. Here are Hanley's tips on cultivating mindfulness in your daily routine:

Doing the dishes. Have you ever noticed how no one is trying to get your attention while you're doing the dishes? The combination of alone time and physical activity makes cleaning up after dinner a great time to try a little mindfulness. Savor the feeling of the warm water on your hands, the look of the bubbles, the sounds of the pans clunking on the bottom of the sink. Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh calls this exercise "washing the dishes to wash the dishes"--not to get them over with so you can go watch TV. When you give yourself over to the experience, you get the mental refreshment of a mind-body practice and a clean kitchen. It's multi-tasking at its best!

Brushing your teeth. You can't go a day without brushing your teeth, making this daily task the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. Feel your feet on the floor, the brush in your hand, your arm moving up and down.

Einstein said he did his best thinking while he was shaving--I'd argue that what he was really doing in those moments was practicing mindfulness!

Driving. It's easy to zone out while you're driving, thinking about what to have for dinner or what you forgot to do at work that day. Use your powers of mindfulness to keep your attention anchored to the inside of your car. Turn off the radio (or turn it to something soothing, like classical), imagine your spine growing tall, find the half-way point between relaxing your hands and gripping the wheel too tightly, and bring your attention back to where you and your car are in space whenever you notice your mind wandering. 

Exercising. Yes, watching TV while running on the treadmill will make your workout go more quickly, but it won't do much to quiet your mind. Make your fitness endeavors an exercise in mindfulness by turning off all screens and focusing on your breathing and where your feet are in space as you move. 

Bedtime. Watch your battles over bedtime with the kids disappear when you stop trying to rush through it and simply try to enjoy the experience. Get down to the same level as your kids, look in their eyes, listen more than you talk, and savor any snuggles you get. When you relax, they will too. 

Related: 4 Tips on Being More Mindful Every Day and Meditation for Sleep

Sources

Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EM, Gould NF, Rowland-Seymour A, Sharma R, Berger Z, Sleicher D, Maron DD, Shihab HM, Ranasinghe PD, Linn S, Saha S, Bass EB, Haythornthwaite JA. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Mar;174(3):357-68. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018.

Kabat-Zinn J. Mindfulness Meditation: Health benefits of an ancient Buddhist practice. Mind/Body Medicine, eds. Goleman D, Gurin J. New York 1993. Consumer Reports Books, 259-275.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading