Mindfulness meditation is a simple, easy to learn meditation dating back thousands of years that is based of one simple premise – observing one’s thoughts. While at large it has been a major focal point in Buddhism the practice itself requires no attachment or belief to Buddhism or any religion for that matter. Any person with the willingness to want to understand their mind better can practice, and in doing so can have the opportunity to experience a tremendous amount of health benefits, particularly clarity of mind and a more relaxed state of being.
How it Works
Mindfulness is meant to help people see through the constant rising and deceasing train of thoughts each and every person experiences. To practice, each person starts by simply allocating a specific time and place during the day and taking the time either while sitting, standing or walking to observe one’s thoughts. Usually we recommend sitting either on a meditation cushion in a position that is comfortable for you with your hands on your lap or to sit on a chair.
Afterwards, take a few deep breaths to calm yourself and regulate your breathing. Try to empty your mind of whatever it is you just did or need to do in one hour and simply bring awareness to each and every breath. Feel it going into the navel and throughout the rest of the body until these sensations become clear and your mind settled. From this point start to count your breaths from 1 to 10 and back down at your own pace, keeping focus on the breath. If you get lost in this sequence from your mind wandering, simply start back from 1 again. Try to stay as focused on the simple sensation of your breath and let the body and thoughts react naturally without giving a rise of judgment toward them.
When doing this you will find it may be hard to sit still because your mind wanders. And this is where the practice really starts to benefit people. By seeing that thoughts about all sorts of things are constantly arising and going away, we become aware of them and need to ask the question – are they worth pursuing? You will find that 100 different images, sensations and feelings may appear within just 5 minutes and each seemingly appear out of nowhere. By recognizing this we simply let them pass and do not try to grasp onto them due to their inherently changing and impermanent nature.
By recognizing this you put yourself back in the driver’s seat of your own mind. In a way, we all typically feel like passengers of the mind throughout most of the day. You may see something pleasant, which then triggers a reaction in your mind that dictates whether the experience is good or bad, which then translates into an emotional experience. While experiencing emotions is not bad, we essentially are constantly making ourselves subjected to emotions triggered from outside experiences rather than having a more controlled mind that doesn’t give into them so easily. In other words, you are more in control of what you give into and how you experience your relative reality rather than having it dictated by circumstances produced from the outside word, whether it be something in nature or from people.
A prime example that arguably more people suffer from next to the desire for wealth and fame is sexual desire. Throughout peoples’ daily lives many people see others and some sort of sexual thought may rise, even to the point of triggering a physical reaction. If you are mindful and use you’re the practice mentioned above by applying it in real life, you will see all experiences as impermanent, including the feelings you have at that moment. Thing about it, how many times have you had a similar sensation and how many times has it been replaced with something or someone else? The numbers are almost uncountable I’m sure. By seeing a hot girl or guy walk by you simply acknowledge that you may like it as well as the fact you are having a reaction, but then rather than letting it sink in and attach to your feelings you simply let it go, as you are clear this kind of experience has come before and will come again, thus not making it worth giving into.
Living in the moment and experiencing those emotions are important but we need to be clear about the experience versus the attachment to the experience. The experience itself is the event taking place but the emotions are based on the individual’s own biased interpretation of sensory data that is sent through the five senses into the brain. An individual then interprets the data as being some sort of emotional state such as good or bad and afterwards reacts in some sort of way. Many people drive themselves crazy over not being able to solve this emotional state (such as wanting to be with a girl in some way etc.) and therefore inflict pain into their minds, which can exist and perpetuate to vary degrees depending on the person.
However, rather than allowing oneself to be so reactionary to the emotions, letting the mind know that the sensation is nothing new/important or whatever you deem it to be you then free yourself of the mind’s shackles. This same logic can be applied to all phenomena that you experience and is not necessarily for things that have a negative effect on your mind, albeit mindfulness being particularly useful in this regard.
Experiencing Mindfulness in Daily Life
Using the breath counting method as mentioned trains the mind to be focused and in the moment. The numbers 1-10 don’t have any thing significant but rather are tools to keep your focus steady. Those who sink into this and watch as the thoughts come and go without following them to the point their mind is lost or experiencing some sort of uncontrollable emotion is essentially being in the moment and begins to tap into what is known as the “Zen” state of mind. We practice this method first in a controlled environment to train ourselves but then afterwards there is no separation from this mediation no matter where you are or what is happening in life. You should regard everything as an experience to practice and free your mind, and the idea that meditation in limited to a cushion in some sort of uncomfortable sitting position is wrong.
This takes practice though. The more you practice in a controlled environment the easier it will be to apply it to the real world, even when walking down the street in a chaotic environment. If you can allow your mind to be settled in each moment throughout life you will be more relaxed and going with the flow, and overall less reactionary to giving into emotions such as anger or sadness. The ball is always in your court but you have to step away from the stands and sidelines to participate in order to realize it.