How to Do Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation (or Mindfulness) has gained worldwide recognition as an effective method to manage emotions and stress. It provides a large number of health benefits to all who practice it. Practitioners of Buddhism and Taoism have used mindfulness for thousands of years. It was only since the 1970s that it became more formally introduced into Western medicine, most notably by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Read on to learn more about mindfulness and to learn some effective mindfulness meditation techniques.
What is Mindfulness?
It is a willful, specific way of paying attention in the present moment, without judging anything. Paying attention like that, one becomes aware of one’s thoughts, feelings and actions. It does not matter if the thought or feeling or behaviour is “bad” or “good”; they simply are. If one does it well, it helps one to be anchored to the present moment, and not jump to the past or the future. Jumping to the past often tends to make one sad or regretful; jumping to the future can make one fearful or apprehensive. There are many ways to practice mindfulness; prayer and meditation being two of them. Although it initially is surprisingly difficult to master, daily practice makes it easier and its benefits becomes clear very soon.
What are the scientifically proven health benefits of mindfulness?
• It helps reduce stress and anxiety.
• It improves attention and concentration.
• It increases self-awareness.
• It increases overall emotional well-being.
• It treats various psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, substance use disorders, binge eating disorder, and serves to prevent relapse of depressive disorders.
• It treats chronic pain and aids in cancer treatments.
Is mindfulness or mindfulness meditation a religious practice?
No. Research has found that mindfulness can be considered an aspect of human consciousness which can be measured and studied empirically (meaning, acquired by observation and experimentation). It is considered a helpful psychological or stress-reducing practice, no matter what one’s religious beliefs.
How does one practice mindfulness?
If one does not have easy access to any of the various experts versed in mindfulness techniques, one can always start practice doing it oneself as part of one’s daily routine.
Here are a number of things one can do on one’s own to start, right at home or at Sparkling Hill:
• When you walk on the pathways around Sparkling Hill (or at home), be aware of the sensations of walking. Notice how the gravel crunches under your feet. Feel how your calf muscles contract and relax with each step. Feel the light breeze on your body, and the sweat running down your back. Hear the chitter of the squirrels. Smell the pine among the fir trees. See the blue sky and the clouds in it. Observe the yellow-bellied marmoset sunning itself on the rock. Notice that your mind wanders and simply let it come back to the awareness of your walking.
• When you take a shower in the walk-through shower of your room, with its views, (or at home), notice how the water is hitting your body. Observe how you are breathing. Feel the heat of the water. Smell the shampoo. Feel your fingers massaging your scalp. Look at the sky outside. Listen to the sound of the water running. Feel the cool tiles beneath your feet. Gaze at yourself without judgement, just as you are. Be in the now, not earlier when you got up, and not later, when you stop showering.
• Do a brief self-meditation technique (the Movement Studio is a really great place to do this, or the Serenity Room). Here is how to do one:
Lie down comfortably and relax, on a mat or a couch. Now, desire for somebody else to be happy. (Your desire is not conditional or dependent on any past, present or future behaviour of the other person). Think of somebody (or even a pet) who makes you happy and open your heart naturally to them. Notice how you are feeling. Let whatever feelings are there, be there. Feel them and sense them. Wish them to be well, safe, happy, peaceful or strong. Sense how your feeling is touching them. Breathe, and feel relaxed. Observe the expansion of feelings inside yourself as you send it out to them. Feel them sending it back to you. Take in whatever feelings are in you. Be in the moment for as long as you need to be.
This particular exercise can take as short as three minutes a day.
Mindfulness is an activity that costs nothing, can be repeated as many times as day as one likes, and which anchors us in the middle of the stream of the most wonderful of all things, being alive.