Mindfulness For Beginners: How To Get Started

mindfulness for beginners

As a meditation teacher I’m always delighted when I teach absolute beginners how to get started with mindfulness. There are many wonderful advantages of mindfulness meditation for newcomers to look forward to. It will make you relaxed, happier, and less stressed.

Plus, mindfulness itself is a fun activity that is very versatile and can easily fit into your current lifestyle. As well as actual meditation, there are lots of mindfulness exercises you can do.

Let’s take a look.

2 Beginners Mindfulness Meditations

Let’s get started with a couple of exercises that I teach tl newcomers who have absolutely no prior experience. The first is one of my guided meditations from our Youtube channel. And then after that, a formal mindful breathing activity.

Getting Started with Mindfulness for Beginners (Guide)

Script

  1. Before you start this meditation, you will want to read my article on how to do meditation at home .Once you’ve read that guide, follow the instructions below.
  2. Close your eyes. Make sure your eyes are relaxed and gently closed.
  3. Breathe through your nose. You might like to take a few deep breaths just to relax. Then allow your breath to come naturally and to be gentle and smooth.
  4. Focus on your breath coming through your nose. Begin to observe the sensations of your breath moving through your nose. I advise beginners to not be too judgmental. It might be a challenge at first. That’s fine. Don’t get frustrated if your mind wanders. Just gently return your focus to the breath.
  5. Count to 108 breaths. 108 is a sacred number. We usually take this number of breaths when we meditate.
  6. Sometimes we might feel rushed to get to the end. That’s normal. We just remind ourselves that the idea of rushing is just a thought, and any feelings are just feelings. Then continue to focus.
  7. When you’re just getting into it, you might struggle to get to 108 breaths. You might get distracted. That’s normal for a novice. Don’t be frustrated; be glad that you started. Next time you will make it to 108 breaths.

Script  2

Above I shared an easy technique for beginners. Now it’s time for the proper Buddhist technique. Beginners can do this too but I recommend you go slowly. And if you would like to learn more, read my guide to Buddhist meditations.

Here’s the script.

  1. Sit comfortably with good posture. You can sit on a special cushion, on the floor, park bench, wherever you like. Just make sure you’re comfortable.
  2. Place your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Let your wrists drop so that your hands are placed gently on your lap.
  3. Drop your chin and let your gaze drift softly downwards. You can choose either to have your eyes partially open or completely closed. 
  4. Focus on your breath moving through your nose. This will help you to relax. We want to pay particular attention to how the breath flows between the lips and through the nose.
  5. At times, you will notice that your mind wanders. This is inevitable and yes it even happens to me. When this happens, simply relax and gently bring your focus back to your breathing. When thoughts arise, accept them. Do not try to obstruct them and do not judge them. Just observe them and let them come and go.
  6. When you feel that you need to move, or you get an itch, take a moment just to sit still. Then consciously decide to move.
  7.  Ending: At the end of your practice, open your eyes and lift your gaze. I like to sit still and be consciously aware of the sounds around me. Notice any feelings in your body. Notice any thoughts. Take a moment and consciously decide to carry on with your day.

An Explanation Of Mindfulness 

The term “mindfulness” comes from the Pali term Sati and the Sanskrit word Smrti. It means, “Bare attention”. And that is the heart of it: living in the present moment non-judgmentally.

Most of the time, we are stuck in our heads, lost in thoughts. And we tend to think those thoughts are real. We don’t see things for what they are; we see our delusional perception of reality.

Being mindful means the opposite.

When we are mindful, we are focusing on the thing that we are doing at any given time. For instance, when being mindful of the breath, we are focusing solely on the breath. Or if you’re mindfully doing the dishes, you’re just focusing on the cleaning, so you’re being consciously aware of your actions. 

GreaterGood explains that it is about “Maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”

There are many ways we can do this, including:

  • Exercises like yoga and tai chi
  • Breathwork
  • Meditation
  • Conscious eating 

In Sanskrit, the word means to remember. And indeed, a large part of it is remembering to be mindful.

Some experts define “mindfulness” differently:

  • Jack Kornfield calls it “Attention”
  • Mahasi Sayadaw calls it “Concentrated attention”
  • Herbet V. Gunther calls it “Inspection”
  • Erik Pema Kunsang and Buddhadasa Bikku call it “Recollection”

Many people wrongly believe that it is meditation. This is in fact a fallacy.


Difference between mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness and meditation are not the same things.

Meditation is a specific practice in which we focus on one part of the present moment for a set duration.

Mindfulness is the general quality of being mindful in life.

However, confusingly, there is also a specific meditation technique called mindfulness, which is based on Zen, Vipassana, and Tibetan meditation techniques.

Generally, today, when we say we are being mindful we mean we are generally being aware of the present moment. And when we say we are doing “mindfulness meditation”, we mean we are formally meditating.

The Two Types Of Mindfulness 

  • Dispositional (trait) mindfulness: A general conscious awareness and non-judgmental attitude. 
  • State mindfulness: An actual meditation technique 

Mindfulness has developed over recent years through luminaries like Jon Kabat-Zinn, who created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Thích Nhất Hạnh (1926– ), Herbert Benson (1935– ), Jon Kabat-Zinn (1944– ), Richard J. Davidson (1951– ), Jack Kornfield, and Sam Harris.

Thanks to experts like these, there are now many different ways to practise.

Today mindfulness is used in therapy through methods such as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy [MBCBT]. And it is also used in schools, prisons, hospitals, businesses, and many other avenues.   

Buddhist mindfulness

In the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness is the first factor of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment and  “Right Mindfulness” is the seventh element on the Noble Eightfold Path. There are also different forms of mindfulness in Buddhism:

  • Anapanasati: mindfulness of breathing
  • Satipaṭṭhāna: mindfulness in everyday life
  • Samprajaña, apramāda: “clear comprehension” and “vigilance”, from Theravada Buddhism.

Benefits of mindfulness

It is important to note that although there are scientifically proven benefits, we dont want to have a goal in mind when practising.

When we’re getting started with mindfulness, we should expect nothing. Benefits will happen, but the more we let go of expectations, the more we will get out of it. That said, there are many advantages that you might get from mindfulness, according to the latest research.

For starters, scientific research has found a direct relationship between mental health and Mindfulness, and indeed it has a positive effect on stress, anxiety and other conditions.

Mindfulness also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, regulates of the sympathetic nervous system, reduces the stress hormones cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenalin, reduces activity in the default mode network, and improves the immune system, and reduced inflammation. This leads to a wide variety of health benefits. Because of those benefits, it is now widely used in psychotherapy and general health.

Some of the different forms of mindful therapy include:

  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (clinical behaviour analysis used in psychotherapy)
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (used mostly for depression)
  • Mindfulness-Based Pain Management (for living with chronic pain and illness)
  • Dialectical Behavioural Therapy: psychosocial treatment created by Marsha M. Linehan for treating Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Mode Deactivation Therapy: For teens with behavioural problems.
  • Morita Therapy: for accepting and letting go
  • Adaption Practice: For self-discipline
  • Hakomi Therapy: A somatic psychotherapy

It also helps in various sectors. There has been significant development in the use of mindfulness in school, such as through the Mindful Kids Miami organization, The Inner Kids Program, MindUP, the Holistic Life Foundation, and the Mindful Life Project.

Meanwhile, big developments are helping in the use of meditation for businesses.

Google, Apple, General Mills, the U.S. Army and Procter & Gamble have all started introducing mindfulness programs in business settings, and so are government organisations.


Measuring how mindful you are

You might wonder how mindful you are. And indeed, there are different ways to measure how mindful you are: 

  • Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS)
  • Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI)
  • Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS)
  • Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale (CAMS)
  • Mindfulness Questionnaire (MQ)

How To Continue Learning

If you tried the beginner’s scripts above, you’re already getting started with mindfulness, and you might wonder how to continue. Do you want to go further? If so, here are the best meditation books.  


HELPFUL RESOURCES:  

Explanation of the practice by University of California, Berkley. 

Benefits of the method by the American Psychological Association.

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations.

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