Close your eyes and slowly bring your attention to your breath. Notice the air flowing in through your nose, picture it entering and expanding your lungs, and then leaving your lungs and flowing back out of your nose. Open your eyes.
If you followed the above directions, you have successfully practiced a form of mindful meditation for a few moments. Mindfulness has been gaining a lot of popularity in recent times, which makes sense. As an ever increasing number of people grapple with higher levels of stress in their lives, they are beginning to realize the importance of slowing down and tuning in to their feelings. Mindfulness allows individuals to do just that. It is a type of meditation that guides you to bring more awareness to your feelings and thoughts without applying any judgement to them.
Most people, especially when they are stressed, anxious, or upset, try to escape from or numb their feelings, often by employing various forms of avoidance behaviours such as distraction and in some severe cases, using alcohol or drugs. In many of these cases, the avoidance behaviours can further intensify the very emotions that the individual meant to escape. On the other hand, using the opposite method of bringing our attention to our feelings in a non-judgemental manner is said to alleviate anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain as well as help treat various other physical and mental ailments.
If you are thinking of trying mindfulness meditation, here are a few ideas to get you started. While it is often recommended to practice mindfulness for at least 20 minutes a day, you can begin with practicing it for however long you feel comfortable with. Even a minute a day is a good start!
Breathing awareness meditation
Sit in a relaxed position, preferably cross-legged on the floor or on a chair. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breathing, either focusing on the air moving through your nostrils or your belly moving in and out. Once you have focussed in on your breath, expand your attention to include other sensations in your body as well as to the sounds and smells around you. You might notice your attention wandering from time to time as thoughts come up. Whenever that happens, gently bring your attention back to your breath and then open your awareness again.
While sitting or lying on your back, bring your attention to each body part moving from one end of the body to the other (i.e. moving from toes to head or head to toe). Bring awareness to each part of your body slowly and gently, noticing the sensations there as you move to the next body part.
Bringing awareness to daily activities
When you are washing the dishes, are you just washing the dishes or are you also thinking about the next item on your ever-growing to-do list? The next time you are performing an activity, try to bring your attention to what you are doing by using all of your senses. What does it feel, sound, look, or taste like?
“Can mindfulness exercises help me?” (2018). Retrieved from www.mayoclinic.org/
“Two mindfulness meditation exercises to try” (2016). Retrieved from www.health.harvard.edu/