The Practice of Mindfulness Meditation
Jill N. Henry. Ed.D.
Stop a moment before reading on.
WHAT IS ON YOUR MIND RIGHT NOW?
Are you wondering what this article is all about? Are you thinking about what you are going to do next? Or are you thinking about what you just did?
Our minds contain thousands and thousands of thoughts each day. And each thought has a direct impact on our emotions and on our bodies. Rarely do we experience the present moment. We are locked in the past or planning the future. When was the last time you were truly mindful of the moment? The usual answer is: "When I was on vacation and I saw a beautiful sunset. I was just there!".
It is possible to "be on vacation" every day". The skill involved is the practice of mindfulness. In mindfulness, we observe inward, watching our thoughts without attachment to them. Similar to lying on the grass and watching the clouds go by. This art of nonattachment to our thoughts results in great healing, peace, and insight. Author and researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn (Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress/Pain/Illness. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life.) has demonstrated through research that simply by being mindful of physical and mental pain we can overcome, or rather, come through and experience peace.
- 7 ASPECTS OF MINDFULNESS - From a workshop with Jon Kabat-Zinn
- NON-JUDGING becoming an impartial witness to your own experience.
- BEGINNER'S MIND willingness to see everything as if for the first time.
- TRUST - in yourself
- NON-STRIVING by dong nothing, all is done.
- ACCEPTANCE seeing things as they actually are in the present.
- LETTING GO
The practice is quite simple. To begin, set your alarm clock or stopwatch for 5 minutes. Then sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. FEEL the breath coming and going, going and coming, through your nose. Your breath becomes the vehicle to carry you towards peace. Now notice how easily you become distracted from the feel of your breath. A thought travels through your mind. That thought leads to another, and another. Finally you remember that you are suppose to be feeling your breath, and you return. But from where did you return? Where does the mind go? Experiment again and this time you feel a pressure or pain in your body. You follow that pain and another series of thoughts results. And again, you return to the breath. Each time you return to the sensation of your own breath on your nose you have gained a little more control over your own mind.
Our own mind carries us away. Our thoughts are like unruly children, constantly pulling us here and there. And this constant pulling is the source of our stress and pain. Mindfulness is the skill that allows us to watch our thoughts and feelings without being pulled by them. Initially in practice all this mental chatter preoccupies us. Then we begin to realize that we do have control. By noticing and observing, we stop reacting. And it is our reactions to our thoughts that bring us emotional stress and physical dis-ease.
When you are ready, lengthen your 5 minute practice to 10 minutes or 20 minutes or more. Experiencing longer practice periods will allow you to enter a space beyond your thoughts. The space of energy before it is bound up within a thought. Deepak Chopra, M.D. (Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, Unconditional Life, Wisdom Within) describes this inner space as a "void of pure possibilities, impulses of energy and information", "a space made up of nothing, the womb of creation". Direct experience of this "void of no-thing" can have a transformative and profoundly healing effect on body, emotion, mind and life. So, are you ready? Set aside at least 5 minutes every day to sit and feel your breath. Enjoy your practice!