What is Mindfulness Meditation? Here I explore a brief definition of the practice and it’s Western Psychological benefits. At the end there is a Mindfulness Meditation Guide for your own personal practice.
Mindfulness plays a central role in the teaching of Buddhist meditation where it is affirmed that “correct” or “right” mindfulness is the critical factor in the path to liberation and subsequent enlightenment.
Described as a calm awareness of one’s body functions, feelings, content of consciousness, or consciousness itself, it is the seventh element of the Noble Eightfold Path, the practice of which supports analysis resulting in the development of wisdom. Wikipedia
The analysis that many Buddhist traditions hold as being the highest level knowledge is experiential experience. You essentially achieve wisdom of the intricacies and subtleties of yourself by simply observing your physical body, feelings and thoughts.
With this development of self-awareness you essentially fine tune yourself to engage more efficiently in your surroundings and develop the ability to return to a state of “presence”, aiming to be in this present moment state perpetually.
This calm awareness also refines your attention in a very simple yet perfect way – simplicity almost always is the most effective – and in this case gently bringing your attention to scanning your body, observing your breath and acknowledging your thoughts, brings a refined attention to the outer dimension – engaging in business activities, sports, reading, relationships etc.
Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is increasingly being employed in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, chronic pain and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn a Professor of Medicine Emeritus from the University of Massachusetts is the pioneer of this Western influx of meditation, with the flood of current studies and research from neuroscience, neuro-imaging, psychology and more we can now conclude that Meditation is the only effective mental health practice we have – not only to cure ailments but to increase memory and develop cognitive abilities.
Below is a Guide to enter a state of Mindfulness Meditation, and as with any technique that allows you to enter the Meditative State the most important element is to engage in regular practice, which will not only bring about the relaxation response but will develop Self-Awareness connecting more deeply to what you are doing, in creativity and intuition.
Be playful and be patient and most of all Enjoy the practice!
Mindfulness Meditation for Relaxation & Clarity
- Take a couple of nice deep breaths
o In through nose out through mouth
o Breathing in chest expanding
o Breathing out relaxation releasing tension etc
o Repeat for a few moments
- Now bring back to natural breath breathing in and out rhythmically
- Shift attention to the physical sensation of the weight of your body pressing on the chair
o In particular the contact of the body on the chair beneath you
o Notice if the weight falls down evenly through the body
o Notice if you are leaning slightly to the left or the right
- In the same way notice the sensation on the soles your feet as well
o Where is the point of contact strongest? is it on the heel the toe inside or outside of the foot?
- Again the hands and the arms just feeling the weight of your hands on your knees
- This isn’t an exercise trying to stop your thoughts
o Just allow them to come and go
o The point is just to be aware of the exercise and if your thoughts drift you off just gently come back to the practice
- Also notice the sounds
o Often sounds seem like a distraction but they can heighten your exercise
o Gauge the distance of each sound with no evaluation, no expectation.
- As soon as you realize that your mind has wandered off, just gently bring attention back to your body
- How does your body feel? Feeling of Relaxation, do you perhaps feel restless agitated?
o Don’t change the way you feel, but I’d like to have you get a good sense about how you feel
- Start at your toes and mentally scan from the toes up to the top of the head
o Just noticing which part of the body feels relaxed, comfortable, and which parts are tense or tight
- Starting off from the toes – use specifics each toe, sole of foot, heel, ankle etc.
- Don’t worry if the mind wanders off that is fine, as soon as you realize just gently come back to the sensation
- As you’re doing this you might get a sense how you actually feel and what your mood is – we very rarely are not connected to this understanding
- You might feel a rising falling sensation chest diaphragm stomach – take a few seconds to find out where you feel it in your body
o Assess the rhythm of your breath; is it short, fast, slow?
o Take a few seconds to assess – there is no right or wrong way of breathing
- Be aware and mindful of how your body breaths naturally
o Now Shift to counting the rising and falling of your breaths
o Count to 10 then stop and start back at 1
- If the mind wanders gently come back
- If your breathing is very faint then you can gently put hand on chest to observe the rise and fall of your breathing
- If the mind wanders gently come back
- It’s not about controlling the mind it is about stepping back and allowing the thoughts to flow naturally
- Observing your breath
- Remember don’t try to control your breath just allow yourself to breath
- Just for a moment just let go of your focus for a few seconds, allow it be completely free, no effort required no sense of control – just allow your mind to be.
- Very gently bring your attention back to the physical sensation of your body, feeling the weight of gravity, soles of feet on the floor, any sounds notice them
- In your own time when you are ready gently open your eyes again casting a lucid gaze just aware of the space around the room
- And when you feel ready at your own time, try to carry this presence and awareness into your everyday