Mindfulness Mondays

I started practicing Mindfulness Meditation some years ago to combat stress and anxiety. Over the years, I have tried to maintain some form of mindfulness practice in my life consistently, although I often fall off my meditation wagon. In order to keep me on track,  I want to start a Mindfulness series on this blog, and to share my tips and ideas on Mindfulness to help you start your Mindfulness practice as well!

It seems like recently there has been a meditation and mindfulness movement and a surge in interest of Eastern religions and philosophies. Schools are adding Mindfulness to their curriculum and researchers are touting it as hugely beneficial for health and wellness. These claims are obviously based on fact and not fiction. Take for example the MBSR program designed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn which has been adopted in widespread healthcare settings including hospitals and mental health organizations. MBSR stands for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and has been supported by thousands of scientific research studies. Based on the traditional Buddhist meditation called Vipassana which means to “see things as they really are”, this technique allows one to gain clear awareness of the self through self-observation. It is as simple as focusing on the breath to concentrate the mind; if your thoughts wander, bring it back to the breath.

I first discovered mindfulness meditation through a meditation class at the Buddhist temple, the Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto. Although I have experimented with different types of meditation including visualization meditation, chakra meditation and colour therapy meditation, I always come back to mindfulness for it’s simplicity.

Here’s how to start:

  1. Find a quiet spot in your home or office (or car as it often happens for me!)
  2. Turn the notifications on your phone off so you will not be disturbed during this time. You can set a timer for 10 minutes to start and build up as you get more comfortable with meditation.
  3. Sit in a comfortable position on a chair or on the floor on a cushion or a zafu (a round cushion stuffed with buckwheat hulls traditionally used for meditation). Cross your legs if this is comfortable for you and allow your hands to rest naturally on your lap. (Although some people like to meditate lying down, it is not recommended to begin with due to the tendency to fall asleep in this position).
  4. Close your eyes, or if you prefer to keep them open, drop your gaze and allow it to softly defocus.
  5. Bring your attention to your breath and how it feels at it enters and exits through your nose. Some people prefer to focus on their solar plexus and the rise and fall of their belly as the breath goes in and out.
  6. If your attention or mind starts to wander, simply bring it back to your breath.
  7. Continue “sitting” for as long as you can, or until your timer goes off, and try to build your practice by reaching longer periods of “sitting”.

That’s it! Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It’s often harder than you think in the hustle and bustle of every day life to quiet your mind. As a busy working mom of two young boys, I always find myself making “To Do” lists in my head while trying to meditate, but I always remember to bring my attention back to my breath and most importantly, to forgive myself if my mind wanders.

As my brother Teddy who is a devout Theravada Buddhist and avid student of meditation says, “Even if your mind wanders for the whole practice but you are mindful for just one breath, be grateful because that is better than not being mindful at all.” This was derived from Ajahn Sumedho’s teachings:

“Keep bringing the mind back. Always be willing to start anew. At the start of each new day, at the beginning of each inhalation, cultivate the beginner’s mind, carrying nothing from the old to the new, leaving no traces, like a big bonfire. One inhalation and the mind wanders, so we bring it back again – and that itself is a moment of mindfulness.

Be relaxed and at east, without the pressure of having to achieve anything special – nothing to attain, no big deal, nothing special. And what you say you have done today to earn your board and keep? Just one mindful inhalation? Crazy! But that is more than most people can say of thier day.”

— Ajahn Sumedho, Anthology vol. 1: Peace is a Simple Step, p. 143

Thanks for stopping by and let me know if you have a mindfulness meditation practice or just started one!

XO, Amy

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