Internal monologue: Why would I would I want to take 10 minutes out of my busy day to practice mindfulness meditation? I have more important things to do than just sit and besides, if I sit there, I cannot clear my mind. I think about this and that. What do I need to prepare for dinner tonight . . . what meetings have I got this afternoon . . . it’s Thursday, I need to put the rubbish bin out for collection . . . (Sigh) Why did I even try this in the first place? I’m breathing. I can hear it and feel it going in and out, so why do I need to focus on it for five to ten minutes?
Does any of this sound familiar for you or maybe someone you know? For this blog post, I’ve written a summary on what mindfulness is, some of the ways we can practice it, and why practicing mindfulness for those 10 minutes makes it worthwhile.
Aren’t we mindful enough already?
During March, I focused on things we can do to practice mindfulness on my Facebook page. Revisiting the first post and the quote I shared from Jon Kabat-Zinn, he said that mindfulness is: “. . . awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.” So as our friend at the start of this post asks, why would we do this?
Anyone would think that we already pay attention to what we are doing, on purpose. If we are driving a vehicle we should definitely be purposefully paying attention to the road, and being present, instead of looking at a mobile phone while operating a heavy vehicle. We may be non-judgemental of how we are driving, but there are a number of us that judge other peoples’ driving skills out on the road. However, our attention is not on us. Our attention is on the road, the traffic environment and the driver that cannot make up their mind on which lane they are in.
If we apply this to many other things we do during the day, our attention is outward a lot of times, causing us to focus on being present in our jobs, in our personal and professional relationships. We need to pay attention to others so that we don’t miss important facts, we pay attention to clocks to make sure we aren’t late for a meeting or that dinner doesn’t burn in the oven. In one way, we do mindfulness meditation because our lifestyles are so busy; we forget to be aware of ourselves.
Different ways to practice mindfulness
The person at the start of this post was trying to bring awareness to themselves by focusing on their breathing. There are many ways mindfulness can be practiced and this method is a good starting point for easing into the practice.
Other mindful meditations can be on:
- Sounds – in your body, the room you are sitting in and sounds from outside
- Smells – such as essential oils in aromatherapy
- Tastes –being mindful while eating dinner
- Sensations – the feeling of hot or cold in the body
- Thoughts – observing what thoughts enter the mind, how they pass into and out of your attention
- Maybe a combination of noticing breath and sensations
You can practice mindfulness as part of a yoga class, meditation group, online, or by video or audio led recordings in the comfort of your home. It is a matter of finding which meditations you like and whether you prefer them as part of a group or individual practice.
Research has shown that people are more likely to have better success in maintaining a mindfulness practice when there is group support. With our lives being so busy and finding time to practice is a challenge, setting time aside especially for it is important. It can be easier when there is live support, even if it’s online, and that could be a friend or a group to help you stay accountable to maintaining practice.
Aspiring to mindfulness benefits
If you are going to put some valuable time aside for a regular practice, I expect you’re going to want to know it’s worthwhile. Going into meditation with specific intentions on what you want to get out of it by the end of the practice may limit your benefits. Instead, explore your mindfulness meditation, unlike our friend at the start of this blog post.
The friend is intent on only the breath going in and out and so they’re distracted with fleeting thoughts. The alternative is to engage the brain in the activity by observing how the air travels in and out, noticing where the air can be felt as it travels in the body, and so on. So when I mention some benefits of mindfulness meditation, try to avoid applying them as your personal goals.
I must also add a caution to readers that there are some circumstances where mindfulness meditation may be counterproductive. Two things come to mind when I think of mindfulness not initially benefitting someone. Those things are trauma or depression. If thoughts are triggered while trying mindfulness meditation, this could be detrimental. In this instance, I would suggest initially seeking advice from your GP before starting.
When you do start, explore your own practice and see what comes to you as your own individual benefits. They may include:
- Relaxation of the mind and/or body
- A gradual calming of the “Monkey Mind” – where the mind hops from one thought to another, like a monkey swinging from vine to vine
- Stress and/or anxiety reduction
- Mental acuity when concentrating on tasks
- The ability to observe situations from a personal and also objective perspective
- An improved awareness of the body
- Awareness of emotions and/or things like self criticism
What do I do now?
So you’ve made it to the bottom of the post and you are wondering what type of mindfulness meditation you want to try. Do you want to do the meditation alone or grab a friend to give it a go with you? Should you try for 10 minutes?
If you feel like you don’t know where to start, I’m happy to help. You can try the options I posted on my Facebook page during March and post a comment on any of them if you have a question, or send a message.
I incorporate mindfulness meditation into my classes as I believe physical practice before meditation helps us to sit more comfortably. However, if you specifically want guidance on this aspect only, send me a message on the Contact Form if you wish to make a special appointment.
Thank you for reading! I will be writing blog posts in April on Yoga Questions and Answers, so if you have any yoga related questions, please leave them in the comments.
– Sare –
- One of many video clips where Jon Kabat Zinn defines mindfulness:
MindfulDirect Pop-up Studio. Jon Kabat Zinn Me Me Me. You Tube, 28 May 2015. Web. 29 March 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULJSacYFzzQ
- This randomised clinical trial looked into the benefits of support when participants tried to do mindfulness stress management:
Allexandre, Didier, Adam M. Bernstein, Esteban Walker, Jennifer Hunter, Michael F. Roizen, and Thomas J. Morledge. “A Web-Based Mindfulness Stress Management Program in a Corporate Call Centre.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 58.3 (2016). PDF file. Web. 30 March 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4768630/pdf/joem-58-254.pdf
- Solhaug, Ida, Thor E. Eriksen, Michael de Vibe, Hanne Haavind, Oddgeir Friborg, Tore Sørlie, and Jan H. Rosenvinge. “Medical and Psychology Student’s Experiences in Learning Mindfulness: Benefits, Paradoxes, and Pitfalls.” Mindfulness. 7.4 (2016). PDF file. Web. 30 March 2017. http://bit.ly/2npS1MB