“Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity.” - Voltaire
The concept of taking time out of your day to engage in a mindfulness meditation exercise may seem like a luxury that your hectic schedule simply will not allow. Perhaps the very idea of actively engaging in a daily meditation practice triggers a flurry of mental chatter and emotional distress. Maybe you find yourself fusing with the thought, “I’m just too busy to meditate!” If you notice a tendency to talk yourself out of this simple form of self-care in a reactive, overly analytical, or judgmental manner, ask yourself what useful information may be embedded within these internal reactions. What is your experience trying to tell you?
Choose to pause and allow acceptance of your thoughts and emotions, rather than deny the validity of your authentic experience. Allow yourself to simply be just as you are in the present moment. Notice your bodily sensations as they occur, the thoughts that unfold in your mind, and the emotions that become stirred. If you are observing your current experience in an accepting, gentle, and nonjudgmental manner, you are practicing mindfulness. It is that simple.
Simple 5-Step Mindfulness Meditation Exercise
Whether you are engaging in mindfulness meditation for the first time or if you have maintained a regular practice for many years, look upon the following simple mindfulness meditation exercise with fresh eyes and an open mind. Allow yourself to take authentic delight in the newness of your current experience and to increase connectedness with your sensations, thoughts, and emotions. Even if it seems that some of those thoughts or emotions have become old and stale, they are new to you in this moment if you choose to observe and experience them with mindfulness.
(1) Commit yourself to spending 5-10 minutes meditating each day.
Consider what times of day are most realistic for you to actively engage in your mindfulness meditation practice. Choose to set a realistic goal that is aligned with your typical daily schedule. Perhaps this means setting aside 5-10 when you first wake up in the morning, during your lunch break, or before going to bed. Choose a time and place that will allow you to to quiet, still, and uninterrupted. If you share a space with others, consider letting them know about your meditation practice and that you wish to be undisturbed for this brief period of time. Make the choice to get committed to your goal.
(2) Choose a comfortable space.
Seek out an area of your home, office, or outdoor area that allows for a balance of comfort, safety, and alertness. While it is certainly possible to enter into a meditative state amidst noise and chaos (by observing, accepting, and disengaging from it), a simple beginning meditation practice is ideally more tranquil. Select a comfortable chair, meditation cushion, or empty floor space.
(3) Assume a comfortable and alert posture.
Sit in an upright or comfortably cross-legged seated position and focus on maintaining a straight (but not rigid) spine. Place your hands gently on your knees and comfortably close your eyes. Once your eyes are closed, pause for a moment to express gratitude and thank yourself for engaging in this simple meditation practice. Fully embrace the present moment and allow yourself the gift of noticing your full presence.
(4) Focus on and participate in mindful breathing.
With your eyes still closed and your posture upright, begin to breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Notice the coolness of the fresh air as it enters in through your nostrils. Allow your lungs to slowly and completely fill with air, then pause at the top of your breath. At the top of your inhalation, mindfully notice the “space” that exists before you begin to exhale.
Once you observe this space between inhalation and exhalation, allow your breath to slowly and gently leave your lungs through your mouth. Notice the warmth of the air as it passes through your lips. As with your inhalation, observe the “space” that exists once all of the air has been exhaled from your lungs. For the next few minutes, continue to slowly breathe in through your nostrils and out through your mouth, observing the space between your “in” and “out” breaths.
(5) Observe and release any sensations, thoughts, or emotions that naturally arise.
One of the greatest benefits of mindfulness meditation practice is learning to gradually tame the wild horse of the mind. The mind is neither friend nor foe. It is your beliefs about the power of your mind and the validity of its contents that ultimately impact the behavioral choices that dictate your chosen reality. Recognize that freedom lies in your decision to engage in or disengage from a focus on your sensations, thoughts, or emotions.
During your mindfulness meditation practice, actively notice aspects of your internal experience (bodily sensations, thoughts, or emotions) that arise naturally. Choose not to pass judgment on them, but rather to simply observe them just as they are, examine them with open-minded curiosity, and accept their presence. Once you choose to radically accept your experience just as it is in this very moment, you become better equipped to make mindfully informed decisions about how you wish to move forward.
If you find yourself engaging in repetitive patterns of thinking, behaving, or feeling that are no longer effective, consider the possibility of letting them go. This is simple, but not always easy. Notice that it is only you who chooses to cling to those beliefs or actions, causing yourself unnecessary suffering. Just as you have the freedom to hold them tightly to your chest and allow them to dominate your experience, you have the same freedom to release them through the process of cognitive defusion.
Empirically Supported Benefits of Mindfulness-Based Practices
Allow yourself the opportunity to devote a mere five minutes to this simple form of self-care sometime within the next week and notice the impact that it has on your overall experience. When you choose to practice mindfulness meditation deliberately and regularly, you can anticipate to experience some of the empirically supported benefits associated with mindfulness:
- Increased ability to regulate emotions
- Increased cognitive flexibility
- Increased attention & ability to manage distractions
- Increased empathy & compassion
- Decreased reactivity to stimuli
- Decreased stress & anxiety
How willing are you to commit to spending between 5 and 10 minutes each day for the next week engaging in this simple mindfulness meditation exercise? If a daily meditation practice sounds overwhelming or unrealistic to you at this point in time, consider the possibility of committing yourself to this meditation exercise just once this week for five minutes. Do the potential benefits of beginning to cultivate a regular mindfulness practice seem worthwhile to you?
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Featured image: meditation by iandeth / CC BY 2.0