How To Start Being Mindful
As stated previously, mindfulness is a legitimate and beneficial practice for personal growth and well-being, the cultivation of which has been scientifically shown to reduce stress and increase calm, focused attention. And it can be applied to all manner of daily work and home life with good benefit, even caregiving.
Acceptance into the mainstream does not mean that mindfulness is a flash in the pan, or an overnight fad. The many and various practices and disciplines go back for millennia, and are practiced globally by more than a billion persons; with hundreds of millions practicing diligently for a lifetime.
So, it begs the question, “How does one begin, and where exactly do I start?”
The simple answer is, “Start where you are, and start now; in this very moment.”
Mindfulness practice is maintaining a moment by moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and one’s environment (like a soundscape); accepting whatever arises in the mind or the environment without judging it as good, bad, right, or wrong. One pays attention to things just as they are in the present moment without getting lost in stories or the dramas of ’my personal soap opera’. We notice with full attention that our mind has wandered into the past, bringing up memories, nostalgia, and sentimentality or moved into the imagined future of plans, projections, and worries.
A simple, but disarmingly profound method of meditation, sitting silently and anchoring our attention on an object such as the breath, is a primary means for strengthening awareness and cultivating mindfulness. This is not something exotic or esoteric, but simply sitting and watching the breath coming and going naturally and unforced. It can be done while sitting, walking, standing, or lying down. When the mind strays, which it will, we simply notice it and return to watching the breath with gentle curiosity; without judging. Each moment of noticing with awareness is a moment of mindfulness!
Mindfulness is not necessarily sitting in a yoga posture, or engaging in some ritual. In a busy daily life, it can be started by living life in each moment; seeing that each moment really matters, since they are the only moments we really have. So, during the day we can simply look inside and “check the internal weather report” … just as it is…noting our breathing and any intense emotions, and paying close attention. Notice, really notice, what we sense in any moment: sounds, odors, sights, or the breeze on our skin.
We can see, without ‘taking it personally’, what the interior weather is doing, and recognize that thoughts and emotions are fleeting and fickle; just coming and going all the time. They do not define us. This insight helps to free us from negative thinking.
We may begin by simply choosing to sit still, breathe, and look in this way a couple of times a day; even for just ten minutes, and slowly build the practice over time. We can carry this with us all day and set times on a watch or phone to remind us to ‘breathe and check the weather’, center ourselves calmly, and be grateful that we breathe the way we do, and we are alive as a mysterious result.
We can say, “thank you”, and move on with our day or whatever we are doing, gently and mindfully, moment by precious moment.