When was the last time you were fully present?
No really. Try to remember the last time you were in the moment.
If you can’t recall a time in recent history when you felt completely and fully present, you’re not alone. Mindfulness meditation can help.
Learning mindfulness meditation can help you focus on the moment while encouraging a more positive outlook and balanced mental health.
This meditation technique has been around for thousands of years from various religions including Buddhism, Hinduism, along with other religious and secular traditions.
If you haven't tried any meditation technique before, mindfulness meditation is great for beginners and experienced meditators.
Practicing mindfulness meditation won't require you to change who you are or what you believe. The aim is to cultivate your inner thoughts, allow yourself to be in the moment, and help you become less stressed or anxious.
Read this guide to know about mindfulness meditation, its benefits, origin, and how to practice it whether on your own or with an expert practitioner.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation that concentrates on the moment and accepts the present without any judgement.
It may seem counterintuitive because one of the main causes of stress, anxiety, and depression is being aware of all that is happening.
However, mindfulness meditation is not simply being conscious of your surroundings. When practicing mindfulness, you seek your thoughts, feelings, senses, and surroundings from a more gentle perspective.
Mindfulness meditation focuses on acceptance and without judging our thoughts and feelings. It is about tuning your thoughts to what you are sensing at the present rather than dwelling in the past or dreading what will happen next.
Instead of reacting, you simply recognize those feelings and thoughts and let them go.
Breathing techniques are also involved to help you reduce your reactions to stress and anxiety. The goal is to:
- Induce a relaxation response
- Lower your heart rate
- Encourage positive thought patterns[*].
We're usually in such a rush to complete daily tasks that we forget to connect to the present. When was the last time you took notice of the flowers on your way to work, or at least feel well-rested when you started your day?
That’s why the adage “Stop and smell the roses” is still relevant. Most of us don’t give time to ourselves to do that or we don’t see the importance of doing that every day.
History of Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation has been around approximately circa 1500 BCE, although historians believed that it has been practiced as early as 3000 BCE[*].
The mindfulness concept is drawn from the Pali word "sati", which is a form of mental stability that prevents attention from being captured by distractors, and "vipassana", meaning insight cultivated by meditation[*].
Mindfulness practices are often taught secularly, but their roots and influence can be traced from the breath-attention techniques from the Tibetan Buddhism and Japanese Zen meditation practice of zazen[*] Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
In general, the mindfulness approach spread in the East through religious and spiritual institutions while in the West, secular institutions helped in its popularization.
The mindfulness meditations practiced these days have stripped off the religious undertones so anyone can practise them freely. What it retains is the purpose of ending the suffering of a person and keeping a healthy, balanced mental state.
Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness Meditation
Habitual mindfulness meditation is practised by many because of its health benefits.
Mindfulness meditation decreases the release of an inflammatory chemical called cytokines which contributes to depression. Reducing the levels of this inflammatory chemical helps people become less stressed, anxious, or depressed[*].
It can also reduce the pain, fatigue, and stress for people with chronic pain as it can diminish the perception of pain in the brain[*].
Another advantage of mindfulness meditation is that it cuts your dependence on your addictions and increases self-control[*]. This is because it redirects your attention, manages your emotions and your impulses[*][*].
Your brain also becomes more effective at reducing distractions when you practice mindfulness meditation. Since you are becoming more self-aware, your thoughts lean towards constructive patterns rather than destructive ones[*].
Your mind is often pulled to different things at once whether it’s work, social media, family, news, and everything else.
With mindfulness meditation, you will notice that you become less distracted and more focused on important things since it helps you suppress irrelevant sensation over time[*].
Want to start mindfulness meditation? Commit to it daily and learn how to practice it at home or with a guide.
How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
The biggest benefit of mindfulness meditation is its accessibility. Anyone can do it. You don’t need any specialized meditation training or equipment. But you can have guidance from experts to start.
Here are some tips to start it in your own home.
Set a schedule
You can set aside time when you wake up in the morning, or even a few minutes before bedtime to meditate. It can be 10 to 30 minutes daily to get the benefit of meditating and have time for relaxation.
Use a timer
You may be tempted to check your phone or do something else in the middle of your mindfulness meditation.
To ensure you are concentrating on one thing at the moment, set a timer with a gentle alarm to help you focus. This way, you can meditate peacefully and still know when to get up and go back to the things you need to do.
Make yourself comfortable
A quiet and comforting space is ideal when meditating. You can go to your room or anywhere without distraction. Remember to keep your clothes comfortable and loose to avoid getting distracted as you start meditating.
Take a seat
Use a cushion, chair, or the floor to sit up straight but not stiff. Make sure that you have your feet on the floor when seated on a chair.
If you're using a cushion, try to cross your legs comfortably in front of you. Level your knees at the same level or below your hips.
Pay attention to your posture
Position the upper part of your arm in parallel with your torso. This keeps you from hunching over or being too stiff. Allow your hand to drop and rest naturally.
Then allow your neck to relax. Lower your chin a bit before closing your eyes.
Concentrate on breathing
Close your eyes to remove visual distractions, then take a deep breath and relax.
Follow the natural flow of the air you breathe and become aware of how it moves in and out of your body. You should also feel the rise and fall of your chest and stomach.
Start your meditation
There may be times that you will have thoughts, daydreams, or criticisms that can distract you, and it's okay.
The judgment part is hard to take over. It will take practice to investigate our judgments and diffuse them.
Some things you will notice are body sensation like the tingling of your feet or the itch on your hand. You'll notice sound, taste, smell and other sensory, too. Along with your thoughts, emotions like anger, fear, frustration may start to show.
Accept the presence of all these things without judgement. Make a mental note of what disturbs you when you're meditating then let them go.
Return your attention again and again
Gently return your attention to your breath whenever you get distracted.
Minds are wired to think all the time, that's why it's vital to practice mindfulness meditation. Use the sensation of your breath to anchor you in the present. Another tip to keep your focus is to count your breath.
Once you become used to doing mindfulness meditation, you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily life on mundane tasks like brushing your teeth, driving, eating, and more.
What Happens During a Mindfulness Meditation Retreat?
If you want to have an expert to help you with your mindfulness meditation, you can join different meditation retreats focusing on mindfulness.
A mindfulness retreat gives you the relaxing environment, time, and help you need to start your meditation.
Curious about what is on a meditation retreat? Here is a sneak peek of what you can get from a 5-day mindfulness meditation retreat:
- A morning of mindfulness meditation
- Introduction to mindfulness
- How to be mindful of your emotions
- How to start a mindful communication
- Integrating mindfulness into your daily life
Guided meditation is ideal for beginners to have someone with experience explain how your mind behaves during the meditation process, how to integrate it into your daily life, and help you with a particular method.
Start Mindfulness Meditation Today
Invest in yourself and give meditation a try. Mindfulness meditation becomes more effective when you do it more and when you have a regular schedule for it.
Remember that it takes practice, so don't be disheartened when it's not perfect. The important thing is that you can start now because anybody is ready as they are.
Now that you have an idea of what mindfulness meditation is, find out how to do the exercises and have an expert help you guide your mind for a balanced mental state.
Ready to begin your mindfulness journey? Check out these mindfulness meditation retreats.