Mindfulness helps us decrease stress and feel better. The practice is about perceiving the present moment non-judgementally. But what does that actually mean? How does it look like?
I was recovering after being sick for a week. Still, I had nose full of something and a headache. I do mindfulness training regularly, and even when I am sick it helps feel at least a little better.
So yesterday I sat down to start again.
Meditation for beginners
Observe, don’t judge
You sit in an erect and relaxed position. Watching your breath. Everything you observe, you do so with no judgement. You accept everythig as it is without trying to change your experience.
The belly goes up and down. You observe. As if you were watching TV, you know that? You can say to yourself how my body is breathing on its own so nicely. You don’t try to control it. You just sense it. Every in-breath, every out-breath.
No judging. No effort to change anything.
So let’s say your breath is shallow. Your task is only to keep noticing that your breath is shallow and how this feels, what body sensation it brings and you feel.
Or let’s say it is deep. You just observe and feel that it is deep. With calmness and clarity.
Then, your mind wanders suddenly (what if tomorrow I do this or that … = future). With kindness, which is especially importnant in mindfulness, you notice that your mind has wandered – you can even say to yourself “that is completely normal, that what human’s mind do, my mind has just wandered to thoughts about future and now I gently return back to my breathing.” You can even smile while saying that, that helps too besides naming where the mind has wandered to.
It doesn’t matter how many times this happens. Be it a hundered times, you return hundered times back.
You continue watching your breathing (what if I had done this differently, now it could be… = past). Again, noticing it and returning with kindness back to feeling the sensations of breath in your body.
You can observe anything
While practicing mindfulness it is technically impossible not to practice it. Whenever your mind wanders out of the present moment, to future, past, daydreaming, worrying, or elsewhere – you only notice it and say “my mind has wandered there or there”. That is all. By observing this slipping you train too. By waching the fact your mind is NOW elsewhere means being mindful again! Easy as that.
Breath is the anchor
You start with breath, you return to breath. And you observe anything that shows up – without judgment without an effor to change your experience. Breath is a great anchor. Anytime you get lost, you can get back to it. It is sort of a blue dot in Google Maps for you..
It is possible to watch your body too. Or to alternate breath/body/breath/body/…/…/thoughts/breath/../..
By watching your body you learn to recognize your emotions and feelings
Observing the body now, the touch of the body with the chair or the floor. You sense warmth, coolness, vibrations, pulsations, tension, relaxation, pleasureable feelings, uncomfortable sensations, anything. Or you don’t feel anything at all. That is also a valuable observation because or goal in mindfulness is to just be with our experience as it is now – and notice it.
The most important is to give up on the judgements and analyzing that mind does so often. When it occurs we just notice it – there was a judgement and you return back. The same way you did when mind-wandering happened. What a tough job you might think! No worries it is not, mostly, let’s go on.
When an uncomfortable feeling comes, it is usually connected with some body sensations. As far as I can tell, I feel heaviness on my chest when feeling sad or have cold hands when worried and fearful.
When such a feeling comes, so you want to start swearing ‘damn, that is not comfortable at all” instead of being non-judgmental.
Of course, you can do that, but non-judgmentally. What does it mean? You can non-judgementally observe and notice that it is not comfortable and that you have just said “damn it”. You notice with no judgment that you are being judgmental. You are always one step above this experiences watching it with distance, not identifying yourself with them. Why? Because you are not your feelings, you are not your thoughts, you are not your body sensations, you are the calm and non-judgmental observer who notices these things showing up in mind and body.
If you are lucky, you will also get to see how these things change. How tension comes and goes aways, and again. That is a wonderful and liberating experience, I can tell. Because at that point, you will experience for the first time that you are the observer. And that is a huge difference in mindfulness practice and life than just knowing it from theory mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Mindfulness style – how to cope with stress using mindfulness
At one point, a body sensation is almost unbearable. But you face it bravely, mindfulness style – you keep noticing the heaviness on your chest representing all the worries and setbacks of past weeks. You keep noticing curiously while watching your breath.
The sensation grows in a moment, then it shrinks and goes back and forth for a while. Then it dissolves and goes away.
You realize how volatile the sensation was, the same way was the circumstance causing it.
In this you can find the magic of mindfulness.
When we are stressed out or feel bad, we want to feel better. We all know the paradox that the more we want, the worse we feel. Mindfulness does the opposite. It teaches us to turn towards the unpleasant and be with it. We don’t want to change it, we observe it non-judgmentally. What happens suprisingly is that the change then comes much more quickly.
The end of the practice. I feel fresh, full of strength. I have overcome several moments when I wanted to quit the practice as it proceeded. There were several heavy feelings or body sensations or even impatience.
I pratice using a recording.. Today, it took 40 minutes. It is more difficult to practice when feeling like not to, when being sick, upset, tired. But that is the time when it helps the most.
Before I started, I noticed a shallow breath, at the end it was calm and deep. Also, I noticed that my headache had gone and I felt much better. Air seemed to go more easily through my nose.
This is mindfulness.
Useful Thoughts of Mindfulness Practice in 5 Steps:
- Observe, don’t judge
- You can observe anything
- Breath is the anchor
- By watching your body you learn to recognize your emotions and feelings
- Mindfulness style – stress can be managed by noticing non-judgmentally its body manifestations