When I first started meditation and mindfulness, my experience was one of realizing just how busy my mind was. There was a continuous arising of thought, memories, sounds, physical sensations and visions.
By understanding the current nature of your mind, you can begin to learn how to change it. The success of meditation depends on many factors, including your state of mind before the meditation, stress levels and physical tiredness. As a result, some sessions are better than others. Don’t expect too much, especially to begin with. Be patient. Be gentle on yourself.
Through meditation, you can familiarize you mind with beneficial states and thoughts. You begin to realize that non-virtuous thoughts such as hatred, anger, greed and jealousy are not only destructive to people you direct them at, but also to yourself. This can be a confronting experience. The idea is not give yourself a hard time when contemplating the less favourable aspects of your nature but to use the awareness to begin change and improvement. It can be a source of positive change and a happier life.
For me, I gained inner peace, increased my self-awareness, became grounded and calmer, started feeling present in everything I did, rejuvenated me and increased my fulfillment of life.
Meditation helps you to develop mindfulness. Our mind is our own greatest enemy! Mindfulness in our everyday activities benefits us more immediately by contributing to a peaceful, stress-free mind.
From the moment we wake in the morning, we tend to follow the impulses of the “Monkey-Mind” with occasional periods of taking control to focus on the task at hand. As a result, many actions are carried out subconsciously and we are unable to recall doing them. Now you know why this happens to you! You are not going crazy!
By practicing mindfulness, we can become discerning about the thoughts we let into our mind. More importantly, we can check our motivation for carrying out an action.
If we can develop mindfulness, we begin to take control over our mind rather than be controlled by it. Less stress, improved concentration and a feeling of more control over our lives are all possible if we make the effort, but these really are only short-term benefits. Mindfulness is a vital faculty of the mind to be developed as it is indispensable in achieving higher states of meditation.
Getting started with mindfulness
To start having mindful moments, identify an everyday activity where your thoughts tend to wander into painful memories, ruminating on problems or worrying about the future. It could be brushing your teeth, eating lunch, walking, taking the train — any part of your day.
Next time that happens, try this mindfulness starter:
Focus on what your senses say to you. What can you see, hear, taste, touch and smell? Don’t analyse or think about it much, just notice what you’re sensing.
If your attention wanders, that’s okay. Noticing is part of mindfulness. Gently bring your mind back to your senses.
Thoughts and feelings will come and go while you’re being mindful. Let them. They’re just thoughts. Keep your awareness on your senses, anchoring you in the present moment while everything else drifts harmlessly by.
Now focus your attention on your breath. Feel the air go in and then go out, noticing the pauses in between. Try not to control or change your breath: instead allow the air to come and go.
Try this for a couple of minutes or so at first. It’s normal to feel distracted and find it hard, but that can change quickly with practice.
If it’s working for you, let mindfulness spread into other parts of your day. Practice more little moments of mindfulness, when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or the bus to come. Try it sitting still or moving around, in the morning, last thing at night.
Find the right amount of mindfulness for you — five minutes of really great mindfulness is better than trying to make it happen all the time. And keep practicing — it gets easier and more satisfying the more you do it.
If you’re interested, there are courses and apps out there to help you take mindfulness further and increase the benefits.
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