How to Begin Practicing Mindfulness

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What is mindfulness?

The ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not unduly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us is known as mindfulness.

While mindfulness is something we all have, it is made more accessible to us when we practise it on a regular basis.

You’re mindful when you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind through your thoughts and emotions. Furthermore, there is mounting evidence that training your brain to be aware actually changes the physical structure of your brain.

What is meditation?

Meditation is a process of discovery. It is not a predetermined location. Your mind isn’t cleaned clean of all thoughts, leaving you completely undistracted. It’s a unique location where each and every second counts. When we meditate, we explore our senses (air on our skin or a strong odour floating into the room), emotions (love this, hate that, crave this, abhor that), and thoughts (wouldn’t it be strange to watch an elephant playing the trumpet?).

Mindfulness meditation invites us to suspend judgement and embrace our natural curiosity about the mind’s workings, treating ourselves and others with warmth and kindness.

How do I practice mindfulness and meditation?

We may practise mindfulness in every moment, whether through meditations and body scans, or mindful moment practises such as pausing and breathing when the phone rings rather of rushing to answer it.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the research-backed stress-reduction programme Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), discusses how mindfulness activates portions of our brain that aren’t ordinarily active when we’re mindlessly going through the motions.

“Mindfulness is nonjudgmental awareness that develops from paying attention on purpose in the present moment,” Kabat-Zinn adds. “And then, on occasion, I’ll contribute, in the service of self-awareness and wisdom.”

The Basics of Mindfulness Practice:

Mindfulness allows us to place some distance between ourselves and our reactions, allowing us to break free from our habitual responses. Here are some tips for practising mindfulness throughout the day:

  • Set aside some time
  • Observe the present moment as it is
  • Let your judgments roll by
  • Return to observing the present moment as it is
  • Be kind to your wandering mind

That is standard procedure. It’s often remarked that it’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s only a matter of continuing to do it. The numbers will add up.

How to Meditate:

This meditation focuses on the breath, not because it has any special significance, but because the physical feeling of breathing is constantly present and can be used as a grounding anchor. Throughout the practise, you may become distracted by ideas, feelings, or sounds; simply return your attention to the next breath. Even if you only return once, it’s fine.

A Simple Meditation Practice:

  • Sit comfortably
  • Notice what your legs are doing
  • Straighten your upper body
  • Notice what your arms are doing
  • Soften your gaze
  • Feel your breath
  • Notice when your mind wanders from your breath
  • Be kind about your wandering mind
  • When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze

Mindful Practices for Every Day:

Spending time practising mindfulness will almost certainly make you feel kinder, calmer, and more patient. Changes in your experience are likely to have an impact on other aspects of your life.

Mindfulness can help you become more playful, enjoy a long talk with a friend over a cup of tea more fully, and then relax for a restful night’s sleep. This week, try these four exercises:

  • Attempt This Easy Walking Meditation
  • Mindful Listening in 5 Easy Steps
  • Everyday Loving-Kindness Practice
  • 5 Ways to Unwind and Fall Asleep

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About the Author: Peter Beaumont

Peter Beaumont is a senior reporter on Daily Mid Time Global Development desk. He has reported extensively from conflict zones including Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East and is the author of The Secret Life of War: Journeys Through Modern Conflict. Email: peter@dailymidtime.com