Now that you had a taste of perhaps your first meditation practice with the Basics of Mindfulness, you’ve begun to get a sense of what it's about.
Some people have misconceptions that meditation is a strange mystical activity that involves zoning out or withdrawing from the world, but it's actually the opposite of those things.
Rather, it’s an active practice of deepening our concentration and continually returning to the present moment.
This process offers insight into ourselves and wakes us up to the “here and now”.
Meditation wakes us up to the "here and now"
As you may have noticed in Day 1, staying in the here and now can be a challenging feat, which is why regular practice is so important. With time, you’ll bring the concentration and awareness you develop during practice into the real world.
That's when you'll notice real benefits like no longer being hijacked by your emotions or you find you're more resilient to stress. Maybe you’ll discover a newfound sense of acceptance, patience or compassion towards yourself and others.
Then there are all those medical benefits of mindfulness, such as balancing our nervous system and stabilizing our emotional mental states. Better awareness of the here and now can also increase focus and creativity, plus provides the ability to fight disease and heal deep-rooted pain.
Better awareness of the here and now can also increase focus and creativity.
First things first though. Like anything worthwhile, before you reap the benefits you have to invest the time. Which means a daily practice like the one you've begun through our blog series.
So, today, we're going to practice mindfulness exercise called “Noting” that's going to build on the breathing technique we introduced in our Basics of Mindfulness blog post. This will help develop and sustain our concentration.
Noting helps develop and sustain our concentration.
Start by sitting comfortably, either on a cushion or upright in a chair. Keep your back straight, in a position that exudes wakefulness but it isn't stiff or tense.
Close your eyes and bring your attention to where your body makes contact with your cushion or chair, then begin to relax your breathing.
Breathe in and out in a natural rhythm, following the breath.
Don't anticipate the breath, let it guide the way.
Follow the breath as it enters the body and as it leaves the body.
In and out.
On your next inhale, as the breath enters the body, mentally note that you are “breathing in” and as you exhale, note you are “breathing out.”
As you breathe in, think to yourself the actual words “breathing in” and as you exhale, think the words “breathing out.”
The purpose of this is to help concentrate the mind. Once it feels focused, you can stop the practice of mental noting, if you'd like, and just continue following the breath.
Now, take some time to practice. Noting the words “breathing in” on the inhale and “breathing out” on the exhale.
Don't be surprised if your mind feels scattered. Its nature is to think and ponder and analyze.
You may find yourself reminiscing, thinking about your day, or perhaps you’re judging your meditation practice.
When this happens and you notice the mind wandering, gently bring it back to the breath.
Mental noting helps still the thinking mind. It can be a useful way to interrupt the incessant flow of chatter and activity.
Interrupt the incessant flow of chatter and activity.
As long as you find it helpful, continue to note the breath as it enters and leaves your body. Mentally repeating the words “breathing in” as you inhale and “breathing out” as you exhale.
Continue to focus on your breath for approximately 3 minutes.
During that time, notice if your mind is concentrated or if it’s wandered off.
Don't feel disappointed or frustrated with yourself if it has. Thinking can be a powerful distraction, making it challenging to stay in the Here and Now.
It’s easy for us to drift away.
So, each time you notice you're lost in thought, gently return to the breath that’s waiting for you to pick it up right where you left off.
Once again, if you're finding it helpful, note your breathing as a way to deepen concentration. Breathing in and breathing out.
Mentally repeat “breathing in” as you inhale and “breathing out” as you exhale.
As you finish your meditation practice for the day, keep your eyes closed and gently wiggle your fingers and toes and bring your attention back to the room.
Take a moment to notice how you feel.
If you found it challenging to keep a steady mind, don't judge yourself or your practice. Most of us find sitting in stillness difficult at first since we're so used to focusing on many things at once. The more you meditate, the longer you'll be able to maintain steady concentration.
The more you meditate, the longer you'll be able to maintain steady concentration.
After your eight minutes of focused meditation, gently open your eyes.
Congratulations on completing day two!
In our next blog installation, we’ll be doing a relaxing body scan to practice the art of paying attention, the cornerstone of mindfulness.