A Beginner’s Perspective to Mindful Meditation:
There’s an explosion that’s taking place in behavior science and it’s called “mindful meditation.” While many use mindful meditation for anxiety reduction, stress management, adding fuel to their fitness regimens and adding to the quality and health to their lives, many are still unsure, but interested in how to begin a mindful practice. There’s just nothing like untying those knotted rubber bands in your brain and feeling the “Ahhhhh” that enables clearer living.
The National Health Interview of more than 43,000 families recently found that about 8%, close to 18 million Americans, meditate on a regular basis. Do a Google search on the word “meditation” and in 1.03 seconds you’ll have 111,000,000 hits. Search for the word “mindfulness” and in .71 seconds 39,800,000 hits will result.
Despite the “mindful meditation is the new medicine,” claim, more than 3,000 people were killed and another half million were injured in distracted driver accidents in 2014. At the same time, the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000, to 8 seconds in 2015.
While the “mindful meditation” explosion is growing, perhaps it’s not growing fast enough. Just what is “mindful meditation,” and how can we bring this to those filled with the most common excuses for not meditating such as erroneously thinking it’s boring, believe they have to sit still to do it and are certain they can’t, claim they don’t have the time, and are convinced that their minds are going at the speed of light and could never slow down?
In its purest form, mindfulness is being aware, being present and simply accepting or being free of judgment. That’s easier said than done. When you are startled, are you fully aware of what’s going on in your body? Are you fully aware of thoughts you have that create your moods? Do you have complete awareness of all passing thoughts? When you are walking from your car to the gym, are you aware of all of the smells and feel the air against your face? Do you find yourself seeing friends and never judging what they are wearing, or how their makeup and hair looks?
If you answered “no” to some of these questions, then it’s time you learn more about this practice. It can just be the answer you’ve been looking for to boost your immune system, increase positive emotions, improve your learning and memory, boost your energy, lower your blood pressure and heart rate, add fuel to your decision-making, and improve your compassion and altruism thereby enhancing your relationships.
And if it’s your fitness regimen you want to improve, you can increase the enjoyment and effectiveness of your workouts with added injury prevention – all by paying attention to your inner and outer experiences with open-hearted compassion, friendly patience and genuine acceptance – all skills you have, but may not have fully cultivated. Yet.
There are many myths about mindfulness that people subscribe to, such as there’s no science behind it. There are more than 1500 studies conducted on mindful-meditation since 1967, by more than 250 independent research institutes.
So how can you start a mindfulness practice if you are a beginner? Follow these 5 steps, for just five to ten minutes a day to start, and you’ll be on the path to a more peaceful, optimally healthy and more positively open-minded life:
- Forget the robes, incense and Buddha statue. Just find a quiet and comfortable spot where you can relax – sitting, standing, even walking or exercising – it doesn’t matter. Be sharply aware of your surroundings, what you are sensing, smelling, feeling that frequently passes you by.
- Focus on the present moment. Now. Now. Now. Not then. Now. The next step will dial you into the most immediate now you can experience.
- Take several deep breaths in to one count and out to double that count (in to the count of 4 and out to the count of 8), then begin breathing normally in through your nose and out through your mouth, feeling your stomach rise and fall, attending the full sensation of each breath. Remember you have lungs? Feel them fill and empty.
- Thoughts will come and go, so simply let them. Don’t attach to any, but instead simply observe and notice them without adding any thought or judgment to them. Remember, no “that’s bad,” or “I like that thought.” No judgment. At all. None. These thoughts are fleeting, not defining. They’ll pass if you simply let them.
- Find yourself moving in the direction of a particular thought? Observe where you are headed and without criticizing yourself, use your breathing as the anchor to focus on the immediate present.
Lifting weights? Running? Warming up before a workout? Spinning or working out on a Total Gym? Who says you can’t do some mindful- meditation while these activities are going on? You can.
Pay complete attention – really be distraction free — to your muscular contraction and relaxation, pay attention to your breathing and bodily sensations, feel the rhythm of your movement without judging, tune in to your body fully with a scan head to toe and recognize that as much as you listen to your body, your body is listening to your mind – exercise is a perfect time to practice the art and science of mindful meditation.