As we begin this 60 day meditation challenge, let’s start with a refresher on what mindfulness is.
Mindfulness is about cultivating present moment awareness. Our minds are wired to constantly be toggling back and forth between the past and future. We often find ourselves planning and worrying about the future, or thinking and ruminating about the past. As a result so often we miss the very moment that we are living in right now. When we are in the present moment and we aren’t worrying or ruminating we can find true happiness – we develop a stronger sense of calm, focus, and empathy for others.
By practicing meditation we train our minds to pay attention to the present moment experience with open curiosity and a willingness to be with whatever comes up in that moment.
There are different techniques we can use to train our minds to do this but it usually involves putting our attention on something specific. In this first week of the challenge we are going to use the breath to pull our attention to the here and now.
When doing a breath meditation, you will take a comfortable but alert posture, and sit quietly and pay attention to your breath, and specifically to the sensations of your breath going in and out of your body.
At some point while you’re trying very hard pay attention to only the breath… your mind will wander. Because that’s what minds do! You are perfectly normal. But then you will also notice that your mind has wandered and you will pull yourself back to the breath.
This is the point of meditation.
Not to stop your mind from wandering but to NOTICE that your mind has wandered. Because once you are able to notice what’s going on in your mind, you can start to make different choices. Instead of reacting to a situation, you are able to create a little more space and a little more awareness to guide your response in a thoughtful way.
I can’t promise that this will stop your mind from wandering in meetings, or getting short with your kids, or getting nervous in presentations – but with practice you will increase your awareness and more frequently you may “catch yourself” and choose to take a deep breath and proceed with a little more calm and clarity than you might have otherwise.
And here is another really important part of this process:
If every time your mind wanders you form a habit of berating yourself and beating yourself up, you aren’t actually practicing mindfulness; you’re practicing self judgement and criticism! If the mind wanders all you need to do is gently catch yourself and go back to the breath. With a friendly, no-problem kind of attitude.
Both of our guided meditations this week remind us of the power of beginning again. No matter how many times you lose focus on the breath, you can always pull your attention back to the breath with kindness and start over.
The more we practice paying attention, self-kindness and beginning again in our meditations, the more able we are to bring these same qualities to our day to day lives.
If you haven’t done so already, download the Insight Timer app on your smartphone or tablet to access the guided meditations each week. You can access the full catalogue of free meditations by looking for the “Guided” icon, then use the search function to look up the meditations below:
Breath Meditation – Sharon Salzberg
Simply Begin Again – Joseph Goldstein
NOTE: You can’t play the full meditations using the links above, you’ll need to use the Insight Timer app to access the full recording. I’m just sharing the links above so you know what you’re searching for.
SECOND NOTE: You don’t need to sit cross legged in full lotus position to meditate. You aren’t in a monastery. Just find a comfortable upright seated position – in a chair, on a couch, on a bed.
Do one of these meditations every day, for at least 6 days this week.
Good luck, be kind to yourselves, and please share any thoughts or questions with me or your fellow meditators below!