This Mindful Meditation we see and hear about nearly everyday in blog posts, scattered across social media and inking its way across print media is much simpler to understand and to do than you may think.
For a brief moment imagine standing on a platform waiting for a train or subway car, now expand your imagining so you see you’re also in the middle of a workday crowd rushing to get to their jobs and running errands for the day with everyone slightly jostling each other on the platform worried they’ll be late, for whatever it is they think the have to do. Ask yourself “What Am I Doing Right Now?“
If you are distracted by the noise and energy on the station platform then it’s likely you’ve lost your focus and your connection to being mindful. If on the other hand you are aware of all the hubbub around you yet you are clam and focused on the moment you are inhabiting it’s likely you are being mindful.
Of course my little example above is a bit simplistic but closer to being in the moment without losing your focus than you might think. Being mindful is as simple as being present in each moment within each moment within each moment. Getting to that place can seem complicated but I assure you it is no more complicated than breathing in and then breathing out.
It’s no more complicated than feeling your left foot hit the ground and lift itself into the air while feeling your right foot do the same in sync with the left foot, that’s being mindful. Left than right and repeat, you’re moving forward right?
Each of us is on a seemingly endless journey along a road with many hills and valleys in the form of hopes and fears, in the form of judgments and assumptions about ourselves and about everyone and everything we come in contact with. Through the practice of mindful meditation we will discover a space we can inhabit that is free of judgments and assumptions. We can reach this space through a simple practice of breathing in and breathing out.
Our society urges us to practice wishful thinking and endless talking, but in the end these two practices are empty distractions and won’t help us to inhabit each moment in our life with focus, awareness and gusto (passion, vitality, love) and a feeling of being awake.
The practice is as vital and current today as it was 2500 years ago and you don’t have to join anything, pay anything, be anything (other than yourself), go anywhere, worship anything or anybody. No, you only need to sit and breathe in and out on a regular basis.
” it’s nothing special, but it is something”
Mindful Meditation is a an act that’s as simple as watching yourself breathe in and out, it’s that simple, that basic. As your breath comes in and flows out your mind and body become synchronized. As your breath comes in and goes out you start to notice the stream of thoughts flowing through your mind, a stream of activity you usually are too distracted by the everyday noise to recognize.
Each of us has in the neighborhood of 60,000 thoughts each day, most of which we are unaware of. Most of these thoughts have little to do with what we are engaged in at the moment.
Practicing meditation allows us to create space within our mind which helps us to see each moment in a clearer and calmer view. This space gives us a chance to pause before we react to what’s going on around us and make more choices that are not colored by quick judgements, unfounded assumptions and unfocused basis.
Once you’ve spent enough time and sessions in meditation that you think it’s something you’d like to continue on a regular basis, consider creating part of that space into a dedicated area that’s reserved for practice. Maybe hang a few serene and peaceful pictures on the wall along with a small table for any items like books or candles you find inspiring to your practice.
Sitting in meditation should not be confused with torture. If your knees or back are hurting you more than likely will quit the practice. So why put yourself through excruciating pain? Sitting is a marathon not a sprint and sitting comfortably is important.
If you want to ache and pay penance for some sin you’ve committed I suggest you visit a monastery and sit for hours and hours and hours each day, that will do it.
For the rest of us I suggest trying different postures till you feel you’ve found what works for you. You can sit on a cushion, on a chair, walk or stand. Others do lengthened yoga exercise and meditate while they hold a position, good for them but not for most of us.
From time to time I sill sit on a cushion but mostly I sit in one of those ergonomic office chairs with the high back and headrest. I use a chair because it supports my back very well and that is one of the keys to meditation NEVER SLOUCH. I rest my hands palms down on my thighs or folded in my lap left hand on top of my right hand and my thumbs touching comfortably.
Many years ago when I sat in a Zen center one of the monks would gently touch my shoulder while pushing on my lower back to help me reposition my posture and stop slouching, but now when I’m sitting alone I find the chair keeps me very straight.
I gotta say, I miss having a monk remind me to not slouch. (note to self – work on that attachment)
Take a few deep breaths once you’ve gotten comfortable at the beginning of your meditation practice, try inhaling threw you nose for a count of 3 and exhaling through your mouth. Do this 2 or 3 times to settle things.
Some people can feel the air coming into their nose easily while others have to use their imagination, I’m one of the latter. I don’t feel the air until it is in my nose and starting to flow down into my lungs. But I have no problem with feeling it exit right at the entrance to my nose. Find a spot where it comes in and a spot where it flows out and sit with it as it comes in and goes out, comes in and goes out, comes in and goes out.
At the beginning as you are developing your practice bring the rising and falling of your chest of abdomen into your awareness if this helps. After a while you’ll be able to bring your focus down to a smaller area.
3 to 4 times during each sitting I will follow my breath as it travels into the back of my throat and then I’ll imagine it flowing down the out side of my neck into my shoulders and then reverses itself. I use this exercise to prod my neck and shoulders into releasing any accumulated tension which in turn frees up my breathing a bit more.
Observing the breath gives you refuge when your thoughts pop into your awareness and allows you to let them pass with judging if they are good or bad, right or wrong, light or dark. When you notice you are thinking gently bring your awareness back to your breath.
When sitting in meditation it doesn’t matter if you have evil thoughts or good thoughts, they are only thoughts to be regarded as “thinking.” Your thoughts are nether sinful nor virtuous, nether dark or light. You may think about punching someone in the face or maybe you’ll think about buying all the ice-cream from the local ice-cream truck and giving it away to all the kids and their parents in the nearby park.
Don’t be shocked by your thinking just label your thoughts as “thinking ” and come back to the breath.
If the thoughts become overwhelming or your emotions starting roaring remind yourself that you are neither your thoughts or your emotions. At the end of the day you get to decide if you’ll hook onto your thoughts and emotions or if you’ll bring your focus back to your breath and allow your thought and emotions to tire themselves out.
Uncomfortable thoughts and emotions are a great time to strengthen your practice by releasing the hold they have on you. It’s when we judge the thoughts and emotions as good or bad that we increase their power. return to your breath over and over and over, soon enough your thoughts and emotions will move on as if they were never there. Breathe in and breathe out.
How regularly you practice mindful meditation over a long stretch is more important than how long you sit, at least early on in your practice it is. 10 (12) minutes each and every day for 30 days is recommended over just 1 hour of straight sitting once a week. The commitment of sitting yourself down each day goes a long way toward connecting you with the present moment, connecting you with here and now.