Mindful & Thriving! The Keys to a Sustainable Mindfulness Practice
The topic of mindfulness is pretty popular these days, but do you really understand how to practice mindfulness? In it's most simplest terms, mindfulness is doing what we can to be present, where we are right now. It's about your attention, or awareness, and intentionally directing it, versus letting outside circumstances or emotions direct it. Mindfulness teaches us how to relate to our experiences differently, even our pain and suffering. We learn to build confidence and trust that we can sit with our suffering, do nothing with it, allow it to happen, without overreacting, being overwhelmed or bothered by it. And research supports that with meditation over time, our brain paradoxically changes in a way that mediates and down-regulates the signals from our nervous system. The more you train your brain to be mindful through meditation, you are actually remodeling it's physical structure for better health and well-being,
While being present can come naturally for some, mindfulness is more available to us when we cultivate it and practice it daily. You can practice mindfully both formally through meditation, or informally in many ways, throughout your day. However, we gain the most benefit from establishing a meditation practice and this takes time and consistency. So where do you begin to establish a sustainable practice?
Step 1: Set Aside Time & Space
Before you begin, decide on a realistic timeframe that you can set aside to practice. It also helps to designate a specific area to practice. You don't need any special equipment, just a comfortable chair or space on the floor, as long as your back is supported. Just find a peaceful, quite place in your home to start. How long you decide to practice is up to you. It may help to start with a short period of time and work your way up to sitting for longer. For some, doing five minutes of meditation may be enjoyable, for others ten minutes may feel good. What matters most is that you make the time for "conscious awareness" each day and that as time continues your practice lengthens. I like to meditate this first thing in the morning, as I find it sets the tone for the rest of the day. Click here for a short five minute meditation to help you get started.
Step 2: Be Consistent
The key is to establish your practice at the time of day you are most likely to be consistent, and that matches your personality. Are you a morning person or are you more vibrant at night? It also helps to link your practice to an existing habit that’s already part of your routine. This will further increase the chance of your mindfulness practice taking hold. I personally meditate every morning before brewing tea, in my favorite chair. I also engage in a mini-meditation, along with blessing my food, before each meal. These are just two examples of how consistency and creating the best environment for consistency can set us up for success in navigating the ups and downs of creating a new habit.
Step 3: Be Curious & Kind
The goal of meditation isn’t to achieve a perfect state of mind. It is simply to be with what is; to pay attention to the present moment with kindness and curiosity. People often feel when their mind wanders that they’re getting it wrong. However, there is no right or wrong way to meditate. If you find your mind wandering, or getting lost in thought, which you will, simply observe the process. This is the nature of the mind, to become attached to daily concerns, feelings, memories. Observe this with curiosity and kindness. You may note it as “wandering mind”, then gently bring your attention back to your breath. The physical sensation of breathing helps us return to the present again and again.
Step 4: Deepen Your Practice
The best way to deepen your practice is to practice. For example if you want to run a marathon, you can read about running and training, but until you actually practice, until you actually run consistently, you’ll never have the physical endurance to complete a race. The same applies to meditation, our “mindfulness muscle” strengthens with time and practice. The longer we are able to sit, to “be with it”, the deeper our experience, the deeper our ability to trust our body and the possibility and power that being present bring. Consistent meditation helps to retrain your brain, and the more time we spend giving ourselves space to slow down, the greater the benefit. In addition, informal practices, such as mindful eating, mindful listening, or keeping a gratitude journal, can enhance your meditation practice and should be done in combination, throughout the day. To truly deepen your practice, I highly recommend that you practice with a meditation instructor, someone trained to teach meditation. I’ve put together a great resource list to help you do just that. Click here to access it.
If you found this post helpful, then I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and also help me spread by sharing the 5 minute meditation or the meditation resource list.
Let's stay connected as you continue your mindfulness journey! Connect with me on social @benutritionco