In its most basic form, mindfulness refers to the practice of paying attention to the present moment, without the need to judge, resist or change anything. However, those new to mindfulness can find this definition vague and confusing, as it provides no concrete instructions for performing a mindful meditation. If you are new to mindfulness, there are several simple techniques to help ease you into the practice. To begin a mindful meditation, you first need to find a quiet space where you can sit or lie down in a comfortable position. You can then try one of the following techniques.
Mindfulness of Breath
Breathing is one of the most popular focal points in all types of meditation practice, as it is a constant and rhythmic process that happens automatically within the body. Focusing on the breathing process helps to calm the body and mind, while also slowing down and deepening the breath. During your meditation practice, focus your attention on following the sensations of breathing at one specific point. For example, you may choose to focus on the skin around your nostrils, noticing the sensation of cool air against your skin as you inhale, contrasted with the sensation of warm air when exhaling. You may also like to focus your mind by counting how long each breath takes, ensuring the inhales and exhales are a similar length. As you relax into the process you might find you can even extend the length of time and fill your body with even more nourishing breath each round.
Mindfulness of Body
The mindful body scan is a popular practice that involves paying attention to specific areas of the body. The body scan is best performed lying down, although some people prefer a seated posture, as the practice can make you feel sleepy. Once you are comfortable, focus your whole attention on the toes of your left foot, noticing the sensations that are present, such as coolness, warmth, tingling, numbness, pressure or tension. If you notice tension, you can choose to let it go and allow your toes to relax. Next, expand your attention to the rest of your left foot, including the ball, sole, heel and top of the foot. Then do the same with the right foot and slowly work up from the feet to the scalp, focusing on one body part at a time.
Mindfulness of External Stimulus
The majority of meditation practices are based around focusing on internal stimuli, such as breathing and bodily sensations. However, those new to meditation can sometimes find this unsettling, as it can lead to feelings of anxiety and sometimes even panic attacks. One solution is to focus on an external element, such as a visual object or sound. One of the most popular visual objects for use in meditation is a lit candle, as the flickering flame can provide a fascinating focal point. Alternatively, you could choose to focus on an everyday object, such as a plate, lamp or piece of material, paying attention to the size, shape and contours of the object.
Sounds can also provide interesting focal points for a meditation. You can either use general sounds in your environment, such as the sound of traffic outside or the gentle hum of a refrigerator, or you can play meditation music, nature sounds or white noise to help produce deeper relaxation.
Mindfulness meditation can produce powerful benefits for body and mind, particularly when practiced regularly. Many people get frustrated when they first try to meditate, as it can be difficult to focus and the mind can easily wander. The overactive mind and lack of focus are normal and will become easier to manage as you become more accustomed to meditation. Each time you notice your mind start to wander, gently bring your attention back to your intended focal point (e.g., the breath, body or external stimulus) and continue with the practice.