So what is it?
Mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that teaches you to slow down racing thoughts, calm both your mind and body and let go of negativity.
Techniques in mindfulness can vary, but in general, mindfulness meditation involves a breathing practice and the awareness of body and mind.
The benefits are far-reaching and long-lasting: we get to know our pain, we lower our stress levels, we improve our focus, we connect deeper, and we’re kinder to ourselves…because life.
Allow us to walk you through the basics of mindfulness and guide you on the path to everyday meditation.
How to Meditate?
In mindfulness meditation, we’re learning how to pay attention to the breath as it goes in and out, and notice when the mind wanders from this task.
It’s a practice paying attention to our breath, and thereby learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment.
In other words, we’re anchoring ourselves in the present moment, without judgment.
The idea behind mindfulness seems simple, but it takes patience.
Your mind will easily get caught up in other tasks, but mindfulness meditation is training it to focus. This is the immediate benefit for you.
While meditation isn’t a cure-all for everything you’re going through, it is the one thing you have within reach that can certainly provide some much-needed space in your life.
The opposite of mindfulness is when we live in our heads, on automatic pilot, letting our thoughts go here and there, exploring, say, the future or the past, and essentially, not being present in the moment.
Sometimes, that’s all we need to make better choices for ourselves, so in turn, we can be better for our families, and our communities.
And the most important tools you can bring with you to your meditation practice are a little patience, some kindness for yourself, and a comfortable place to sit.
Why Learn To Meditate?
You may doubt the benefits of meditation, so we thought we’d let you get it straight from AATS partner and Spiritual Coach, Felicia Hinds-Patrick.
Simple Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners
What we’re doing here is aiming for mindfulness, not some magical process to wipe your mind clean of the endless recurring thoughts that erupt and ping constantly in your brain.
We’re just practicing bringing our attention to our breath, and then back to the breath when we notice our attention has wandered off.
Take a moment to try this:
- Take a seat or lie down (whichever is better for you). Find a place that feels calm and quiet to you.
- Set a time limit. If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as five or 10 minutes.
- Notice your body. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position, you can stay in for a while.
- Feel your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes in and as it goes out.
- Notice when your mind has wandered. Your attention WILL leave the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing that your mind has wandered—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
- Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.
- Close with kindness.
When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.
That’s it! That’s the practice. You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible.
How long was it before your mind wandered away from your breath?
Did you notice how busy your mind was even without consciously directing it to think about anything in particular?
Did you notice yourself getting caught up in thoughts before you came back to reading this?
We often have little narratives running in our minds that we didn’t choose to put there, like:
“Why DOES my boss want to meet with me tomorrow?”
“I should have worked out yesterday.”
“Rent is coming up in a few days…” or (the classic)
“I don’t have time to sit still, I’ve got stuff to do.”
We all experience these sorts of distractions, but it’s ok because now there’s a simple practice to help us course correct.
But that’s where most of us live most of the time—and pretty uncomfortably, if we’re being honest, right? But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We “practice” mindfulness so we can learn how to hone in on what’s in front of us rather than what could have been or may or may not be.
In a nutshell, meditation helps us have a much healthier relationship with ourselves (and, by extension, with others).
So if you’re like me and a little frazzled these days, go ahead and take a break to try this mindfulness meditation exercise above and let us know your thoughts.