If you’re like most busy professionals I know, you probably spend most of your week moving between meetings, with a mile long to-do list, and a pile of personal commitments. This means you are not only physically busy, but you’re mentally busy and may be overloaded. One of the most in-demand topics from my coaching clients and groups is how to build mindfulness practices into their daily lives to counter life’s hectic pace. So today, I’m bringing this topic to all of you – the friends of Point of Arrival.
The brain is hard-wired for continuous thinking and has 2 preferred time zones – it spends most of its time churning on past events or planning and worrying about future ones. The body, on the other hand, only lives in the present. Mindfulness joins the body and mind together in the only space and time we actually have - the present. Researchers have long studied the benefits of meditation – increased creativity and problem solving skills, improved concentration, self-control, memory and emotional intelligence, and reduced stress and reactivity – just to name a few.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a renowned mindfulness researcher, defines mindfulness as “the act of paying attention on purpose and being aware in the present moment without judgment or attachment.” While we can do this anytime of day and wherever we are, one of the most beneficial ways to practice mindfulness is through mindfulness meditation.
I have good news! Mindfulness meditation is simple! And yes, even if you’re one of those people who are terrified to be alone with your thoughts, even you can do it! So, here we go…
- Take a comfortable seat – either in a chair or on a cushion on the floor. If possible, do not lean your back on anything. Sit upright with good posture so you feel a lift through your spine but aren’t straining
- Set a timer – I use the free version of the Insight Timer in the Apple App Store – it has lovely sounds to ease you in and out of the practice
- Close your eyes or take a soft gaze a few feet in front of you on the floor
- Focus on your breath and body – what it feels like to breathe in and out through your nose, how your chest rises and falls with each breath, scan your body and release any tension, feel your heart beat in your chest, with every breath soften and tune in
That’s it! It really is that simple. I know what you’re thinking…. ‘What about my monkey mind? I’ll be terrible at this!’ First, it’s important to remember that this kind of meditation is a non-evaluative experience. You cannot be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at it – you are just where you are, and it’s perfect for today. It’s normal, especially for beginners, to have streaming thoughts during meditation. Each time you have a thought, notice it, label it as 'thinking', and come back to focusing on your breath. Through this method, you are not giving your thinking any credence, attachment or judgment.
When you catch your mind making a grocery list, thinking ‘I hate this right now’, or stressing about work tomorrow – recognize and label it. Say to yourself, ‘that’s just thinking’, and come back to your breath. You might do this every few seconds. Remember, meditation is a practice, and its benefits are cumulative. Like any new practice, I promise it gets easier with time. In short order, you will notice you’re training your brain to quiet its noise. You’ll feel clearer, calmer and more focused both on and off your meditation cushion.
What are you waiting for? Give mindfulness meditation a try, and commit to sticking with it for a few weeks. How much time is ideal? Whatever you can do consistently that feels accessible! Start with 3 to 5 minutes and gradually increase your time. Daily is best, but a few times a week is better than none! Try it for yourself, and send me a note to share your experience.
My favorite spiritual teacher, Pema Chodron (check out her incredible audio collection on Audible), reminds us through her teachings that meditation is not about feeling good. In fact, it can feel darn right hard and uncomfortable. Instead, meditation is about showing up for yourself on a regular basis, and learning to hold space and sit with the full range of human experience – the good and bad, the joy and sorrow, the pleasure and pain – without grasping or aversion. Through this practice, we begin to know ourselves more deeply and become self-aware of our triggers and patterns, of what serves us and what does not. From that place, we begin to adjust, grow, and more capably respond to whatever comes our way in life.
Here’s to your inner peace and wisdom, Katrina