2600 years ago Guatama Sidhartha (Buddha) created mindfulness meditation. Today, two and a half thousand years later, mindfulness is finally becoming popular in the West. Beginner meditators are finally awakening to the force of this simple yet powerful technique.
And what we are all learning is this: mindfulness changes lives.
Over the past 50 years it has been proven that mindfulness meditation offers more than 100 health benefits.
Stunningly, mindfulness is able to help with many diverse areas of life.
A selection of some of the benefits of mindfulness
- stops stress
- reduces and prevents depression
- reduces and prevents anxiety
- prevents heart disease
- Improves decision making skills
- reduction of chronic pain and inflamation
- improved performance
- relieves OCD
- increases confidence
- boost happiness
- increases productivity
- increases emotional control
- stops insomnia
- heightens intimacy
- and so much more
It should come as a huge wake-up call for mankind that, in an age when more people are being prescribed anti-depressants than ever before in history, the number one technique for wellbeing is simply being mindful.
We are sitting on the cusp of a new dawn, a dawn in which mankind finally realises that the human mind is more powerful than any medication.
The Purpose of this guide
I am about to lead you through the ultimate guide to mindfulness, so you too can discover the power of your mind.
By the time you finish reading this guide, you will know why the beautifully simple act of being mindful is the best thing you can do for yourself.
Mindfulness falls like the rain: it is the nourishment that sustains the human mind. And I am about to prove it to you.
Not only that. I am going to show you how your family can become mindful.
My passion, and the purpose of THE DAILY MEDITATION, is to help people and families to discover the power of meditation. That is why I have created the number one guide to teaching kids.
Take a mindful breath. Because you are about to discover the power of mindfulness–the power to create health and happiness just by focusing your mind.
Grasshopper, let us begin.
What is mindfulness? The simple power of consciousness
In my guide to 31 meditation techniques I reveal the most important types of meditation. Mindfulness is the single most important of all those techniques.
Mindfulness is the simple but life-changing practicing of focusing the mind on the present moment.
Meditation teacher Sylvia Boorstein says, “Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.”
Mindfulness is almost ridiculously easy. All we do is
- Focus on the present moment
- Accept things as they are
- Be non-judgmental
- You’re done.
At a time when most mental-health techniques are as complex as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, many people are drawn to the simple act of being mindful.
Mindfulness originated in Buddhism. But it has become a universal technique. It’s safe for other religions, and a great meditation for atheists and agnostics too.
Now time for our first mindfulness exercise.
Try this mindfulness exercise for 5 minutes for fast relaxation
I have previously shared 6 mindfulness exercises for beginners. The following is the best exercise to start with.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe through your nose.
- Focus on the movement of your breath though your nose.
- Make sure your mind is 100% focused on the movement of your breath. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh says “Conscious breathing is my anchor”. Anchor your mind on your breath.
- Take 25 mindful breaths. Do not force the breath. Let it come and go as it will.
- When you do this focus on a) being in the present moment, b) accepting things as they are, and c) being non-judgmental.
- I bet you you cannot get to 25 breaths without feeling relaxed
Try the technique above. It is simple yet powerful. It will show you the beauty of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is simple. But it’s also infinite
Did you try the exercise above? Simple, isn’t it?
Mindfulness is very easy, yet it is also infinite because we can be mindful of anything.
Jon Kabat Zin, the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, says, “Wherever you go there you are”. In fact, he wrote a book by that very title (it’s available on Amazon).
The title of the book alludes to the fact that we are where we place the mind. Whatever we focus on, that is where we are.
More than this, what we focus on we become. When we focus the mind on the breath, we become the breath.
TRY IT: Focus your mind 100% on your breathing. You will experience moments when you become your breath because the breath is the one and only thing you are focusing on.
Consider how huge that is. We can focus on any one thing and “become” that one thing.
Consider this scenario:
Imagine two people in a locked room with one window. The one window shows a beautiful countryside. The rest of the room is just bear walls.
Now imagine two people in that room. One person focuses on the ugly walls. The other person focuses on the beautiful countryside.
The first person becomes depressed, feels trapped, and is miserable, because they are focusing on just the bear walls.
The second person is happy and joyous, because they are focusing on the beautiful scenery.
Both people live the same life in the same room. Yet one is happy and the other miserable. And the only difference is the thing they are focusing on, the thing they are mindful of.
This is how mindfulness works
The mind is like the sun.
Both the mind and the sun are energy centres. The sun creates heat and light. The mind creates awareness and consciousness.
The beams of the sun radiate outwards, spreading light onto all they touch.
The mind radiates consciousness, which enables us to see the world.
Without the sun, we wouldn’t see.
And without consciousness we wouldn’t see either.
The rays of the sun get blocked by clouds. And then the world turns dark.
The rays of the mind get blocked by thoughts. Stress, concerns, worries… these all make it harder for us to see clearly. They make the world a darker place.
When the sun is clear and the skies are blue, we feel good.
When the mind is clear and consciousness is pure, we feel good.
Mindfulness clears the mind so you can see clearly without the clouds.
So Why Aren’t We Mindful All The Time?!
You might wonder: if mindfulness is so easy and so powerful, why aren’t we mindful all the time?
Simple: we forget to be mindful.
A famous mindfulness quote says, “Mindfulness is easy. Remembering to be mindful is the hard part”.
We forget to be mindful because we become distracted.
Thoughts stir in the mind as the clouds stir in the sky. When the mind gets too full of thoughts, we lose our mindfulness.
Have you ever experienced days when you were living in your own mind? Days when you weren’t paying attention to what was happening around you? At those times you might say you were being mindless. You were ignoring reality and focusing only on your thoughts. Did you notice how you started to feel negative / sad/ anxious / stressed at those times?
When you are not mindful you are much more likely to experience negative emotions.
Those are the moments when you need to take affirmative action to be more mindful. You need to do mindfulness meditation to you regain your mindfulness.
So here’s the deal:
- Mindfulness is the way we naturally are. And it feels good!
- But sometimes we become mindless. We become full of thoughts
- At those times we need to take steps to regain mindfulness.
- To become mindful once again, we practice mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness literally means “Remembering”
The term “mindfulness” comes from Pali (an Indian language).
In Pali, mindfulness literally means Remembering.
The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to train the mind to remember to focus on the present moment.
It’s almost shockingly simple. We just remember to be now. Because now is life. Miss now and you miss life. No wonder spiritual guru Eckhart Tolle wrote an entire book called The Power Of Now, teaching people how to exist in the present moment. And no wonder it became one of the highest selling mindfulness books of the past 100 years.
Mindfulness equals living in the moment.
As Buddha said, “Do not stay in the past. Do not dream of the future. Concentrate on the present moment.”
How To Do Mindfulness Meditation — Beginning
Mindfulness is easy, but it does have to be done properly. Let’s start with the basics.
- Go slow. Mindfulness is entirely about slowing down the mind. If you rush into it you’re missing the entire point.
- Set a meditation timer. That way you will know how long you’re meditating for and you tempted to look at the clock.
- Turn your phone off and TV
- Make sure you are comfortable
- Make sure you’re not hungry (it is harder to focus, plus, “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry”)
- Tell yourself that you are going to focus 100% on mindfulness for the next 20 minutes.
How to do mindfulness meditation — Practice
- Sit comfortably with good posture. You can sit on a cushion, on the floor, park bench, wherever you like. Just make sure you’re comfortable.
- Place your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Let you wrists drop so that your hands are placed gently on your lap. You can choose to adopt one of the meditation mudras if you like. But what really matters is that you are comfortable.
- Drop your chin and let your gaze drift softly downwards.
- You can choose to either keep your eyes open, to let your eyelids drop so your eyes are partially closed (three quarters closed is good) or completely close your eyes. But do not focus on your vision.
- Relax for a few minutes.
- Focus on your breathing. There are lots of different types of breathing meditations, of which the most important is Anapanasati meditation.
- Read this guide to Anapansati so you are breathing the right way.
- Focus your mind on your breathing, paying particular attention to how your breath flows between your lips and through your nose.
- Be mindful of the rising and falling of your breath in your abdomen.
- At times you will notice that your focus wanders. This is inevitable. When this happens simply relax and gently bring your focus back to your breathing.
- When you feel that you need to move, or you get an itch, take a moment to just sit still. Then consciously decide to move. It’s important that you consciously make the decision to move as this will train your mind to be inwardly still.
- When thoughts arise, accept them. Do not try and push them back and do not judge them. Just observe them and let them come and go.
- At the end of your mindfulness practice, open you eyes and lift your gaze. Sit still and be mindful of the sounds around you.
- Notice any feelings in your body.
- Notice any thoughts.
- Take a moment and consciously decide to carry on with your day.
- To take it further, try these 25 mindful habits.
Alternative mindfulness exercises
One of the best things about mindfulness is that we can be mindful of anything.
As Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D [a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin] told The New York Times:
“In Buddhist tradition, the word ‘mindfulness is equivalent to a word like ‘sports’ in the U.S. It’s a family of activity, not a single thing.”
As such, there is no one mindfulness exercise. There are many.
The beauty of mindfulness is that it is so versatile. Different exercises work for different people. The smartest strategy is to look for ways to integrate mindfulness into your lifestyle.
Mindfulness simply means focusing on the present moment. And we can focus on any part of the present moment.
That’s why there are so many different ways to be mindful.
Consider this list of the most popular ways to be mindful:
Traditional mindfulness exercises
Mindful breathing: Mindful breathing simply means focusing on the movement of the breath around the body. Our mindful breathing guide shows how.
Mindful eating: Mindful eating is all about eating slowly and consciously. This technique is great for anyone who comfort eats or eats mindlessly. You can learn more in my tutorial on mindful weight loss.
Tai chi / QiGong: Tai Chi and QiGong are Eastern physical exercises that use slow and conscious movements. These are great for slowing down the mind.
Body Scan: Body scan is a traditional type of meditation. In this mindfulness technique, we slowly move our consciousness around the body while relaxing our muscles. This is very similar to progressive muscle relaxation.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction: Jon Kabat Zinn founded the practice known as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction in the 1970s. It’s a full-system of mindfulness exercises used to stop stress.
Other ways to be mindful
Along with the traditional techniques above we can also practice basic mindfulness activities.
Try being mindful while doing this activities:
- Doing the dishes
- Speaking mindfully
- While doing yoga
- Mindful showering
- Listening to music
- Mindful stretching
- Consciously brushing your teeth
- Focusing on the sensations of washing
- Cleaning a room mindfully
For more mindfulness exercises:
- Try my personal favorite mindfulness exercise: mindful writing (excellent for beginners).
What to do after mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a powerful exercise. But it is just one of many meditation techniques.
Take a look at my Buddhist Meditation Plan for Beginners. It will show you the different Buddhist meditations and how to actually use them in your life.
I truly hope you have enjoyed this introduction to mindfulness meditation.
It would mean the world to me to hear from you.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
And if you found this guide useful / entertaining, remember to share.