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You’ve probably brushed your teeth today.
Maybe also exercised or jogged or have at least moved your body.
Then enjoyed a refreshing and pleasant shower.
And have eaten good food during mealtime.
And depending on when you’re reading this, you’re probably gonna have a good night’s sleep or you’ve already had one.
I’m so happy to know that you’re taking good care of your body and well-being on a daily basis.
But, what did you do to take care of your mind today?
(If you’re thinking of sleep as a self-care activity for your mind, let me clarify that our mind is at work even when we are asleep. Just the brain gets rest due to decreased physical activity)
Just like the body, our mind too needs regular care, exercise, and training to stay healthy.
And I’m going to introduce to you the practice of Mindfulness Meditation as a self-care activity for your mind.
You’ll learn about every detail of the Mindfulness Meditation practice that you need to master and improve your mental health.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
To understand what Mindfulness Meditation is exactly, we need to first know what each of Mindfulness and Meditation means.
In my article on ‘How To Activate The Mindful Mode’, I had shared that being mindful is a mode of mind that we can all activate to experience mindfulness. Operating in the mindful mode means we are actively paying attention to our experience by becoming aware of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, without judging that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel.
We simply accept our experience as it is without getting caught up in them and just be there in moment-after-moment, absolutely free from distractions.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program defines Mindfulness as:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
In my article on ‘Meditation 101 – All You Need To Know’, I had shared that ‘Meditation’ is a type of mind-body practice that is designed to familiarize you with specific types of mental processes that are generally focused to enhance your mental health and brain’s functionality.
Meditation is a kind of training to make your mind become aware of the object of your attention. The object of your attention can be your breath, a mantra, specific parts of your body, etc.
Now that you know what Mindfulness and Meditation mean individually, let’s try to define Mindfulness Meditation.
Mindfulness Meditation is a type of mind-body training practice (meditation) for activating our mindful mode to experience mindfulness. (mindfulness)
Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
Many studies have shown that even within a couple of weeks of practice, Mindfulness Meditation can bring a variety of physical, psychological, and social benefits.
Some of them are:
- Boosts our Immunity [Source]
- Reduces negative emotions and stress [Source]
- Improves focus and other cognitive abilities [Source]
- Improves creativity [Source]
- Helps in pain management [Source]
Mindfulness can be a primary way to enhance health and performance for some people. For others, it can be about exploring spirituality or themselves.
Many studies also claim that mindfulness helps to improve one’s sense of self, helps to fight obesity, fosters compassion and altruism, reduces anger, enhances relationships, and makes one more resilient to hardships.
Mindfulness practice is good for teens and school goers, parents, and parents-to-be, for business professionals, for health-care professionals, and for veterans as well.
You can also read about the benefits of long-term meditation practice in my article on “11 Scientific Health Benefits of Meditation“.
Objectives of Mindfulness Meditation Practice
If you’re thinking of beginning the mindfulness meditation practice, you need to remember the two objectives of starting any meditation practice in general.
- First, your one and only objective when you meditate will be to dedicate all of your attention on one single thing, i.e., the object of meditation (breath, mantra, etc.)
- And, Second that, no matter what happens in your life you will take the time out to meditate every single day.
Lastly, you must remember that the essence of mindfulness lies in its objectives.
The three objectives of being mindful are:
- Your Intention should be to become aware of the present (and return to it again and again)
- Your Attention should be on what is occurring in the present (on the thoughts, feelings, sensations as they arise)
- Your Attitude must be compassionate, non-judgmental, and curious in the present
So, we can sum up the objectives of Mindfulness Meditation practice as follows:
- I will be aware of the present moment
- I will pay all of my attention to ‘One Thing’ at any point in time
- I will be compassionate, non-judgmental and curious about whatever happens
- I will meditate every day. No matter what!
Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Choose a silent space.
Wear comfortable clothes.
Sit Down wherever it is comfortable and convenient for you either on a chair or a meditation cushion or folded up blanket or on the floor.
If you prefer a chair, choose one with a flat seat and a straight back rest. Use a leg rest so that your feets are not dangling.
To minimize chances of back ache, make sure that your hips are seated higher than your knees if you use an elevated seat like a chair or meditation cushion.
You can find a list of the best meditation cushions and other accessories here. (Opens in Amazon.com)
Since you’re beginning the practice with the objective of doing it every day, have a minimum time commitment for yourself.
You can even start by dedicating at least 5-10 minutes to it. The key here is, to be honest with yourself and know how much time you sincerely can commit to the practice every day. Keep adding more minutes as you progress.
Most teachers advise beginners to dedicate 20-30 minutes to it to master the practice effectively.
Follow the spine’s natural curvature and sit down with your head, neck and spine straight but not rigid. Make sure that you are not pushing your belly out nor you’re slouching for a natural non-rigid upright spine.
Cross your legs in a comfortable way with your hips seated higher than your knees. Add height to your seat using a folding towel or blanket.
Keep your upper arms parallel to your upper body in their natural position with your hands resting on your legs.
Drop your chin to its natural position and let your gaze rest gently downwards about four to six feet away on the floor or on a wall.
You can close your eyes or keep them open. Make sure that your gaze on your environment is not going to distract you. If you choose to keep them open, simply don’t focus on what appears before your eyes.
1st – The One Thing – Body
- Just sit and relax in your posture for a few moments.
- Become aware of your body posture
- Gently bring your attention back to your body if your mind wanders.
2nd – The One Thing – Breath
- When you feel comfortable with your posture and environment, gently pay attention to your natural breath.
- Observe and feel your breaths at specific focal points in your body mentally noting “breathing in” and “breathing out” with each breath you take.
- Focal Point: Nose – Feel as the breath passes in and out through the nose.
- Focal Point: Throat – Feel as the breath passes in and out through the throat.
- Focal Point: Chest – Feel as you breathe in and out through the lungs.
- Focal Point: Belly – Feel as you breathe in and out through the belly.
3rd – The One Thing – Distractions
- As you attend to breathing during the practice, you will notice thoughts arising in your mind occasionally.
Sometimes, you may also get distracted by something (like a sound, smell, etc.) present in your environment. (even for a split second)
- Perform Mental Noting/Labeling
When you notice your attention drift away to some thought or environmental distraction, perform mental labeling:
- Become aware that your attention has shifted from the breath
- Observe the thought or distraction in a non-judgemental manner as your mind pays attention to it
- Label the action and say it inside your head. For example,
If your attention had shifted to thoughts, observe and label the action as “thinking” and say that “Thinking has just occurred.”
Similarly, “hearing” in case of any sound or “smelling” in case of any smell.
- Once you complete the mental labeling, gently bring your attention back to your breath, and complete the practice.
- Whenever you feel ready, slowly move your fingers and your toes.
Gently open your eyes. Become aware of your surroundings and notice how your body feels right now.
Take a moment to convey your gratitude to the experience that you just had.
That’s all there is about the practice!
The most important thing to remember is that mindfulness meditation is about becoming mindful of everything that happens.
If you’re curious about the best time to practice meditation throughout the day, you can read my article on “Find Out Your Best Time To Meditate“
Keep reminding yourself about the objectives of the mindfulness meditation practice.
Once you get better at it, you will be able to experience the positive change it will bring about in your life.
Mindfulness is a way of living and being mindful can significantly enhance your experiences in life and it will all be worth living for.