What is Mindful Meditation?
Mindful meditation is a type of meditation that has its roots in ancient Indian tantras such as the ‘Vigyan Bhairava Tantra.’ Gautama Buddha practiced this type of meditation 2,500 years ago. Today, it has become part of the Buddhism spiritual practice. It is often referred to as ‘mindfulness meditation’ and has since become widespread, adopted by regular people like you and I, wanting to attain inner peace and a sense of self-awareness.
The popularity of mindful meditation has spread around the globe as researched findings show benefits from individuals who practice it. It has been shown to improve focus, concentration, precision, enhance the quality of communication and relationships, heighten intuition and clarity of thinking.
People who practice mindful meditation have been shown to have greater peace of mind and a sense of well-being. They are able to manage stress and are more resilient to life changes. In addition they have a greater sense of self-confidence, are more caring, and feel more authentic.
Of course these benefits are for all types of meditation, also most of these benefits are not just qualitative but also quantitative. Its been shown that people who meditate for a short period, such as 30 minutes for 8 weeks show measurable changes in brain gray matter density.
The benefits of meditation such as mindful meditation is tangible and I experienced those changes first hand. Before I started practicing meditation, I felt my mind cluttered, thoughts would stream through my head and felt I had no control over them. I found out about mindful meditation, and its simplicity appealed to me.
After practicing it sporadically two to three times per week for 15 minutes each, I experienced many changes. I was able to put my mind at ease quicker after each successive session, it took awhile for this to happen as my mind did tend to wander a lot in the very beginning.
After awhile, I was able to gain greater control over my mind and I was able to clear my thoughts quicker. In addition I experienced a sense of stillness and inner-knowing after I am done meditating.
The other major benefit I acquired from meditation is the ability to become mindful of your thoughts. You will come to the realization that if you observe your thoughts, and these include ‘self-talk’ in your mind, they are more than likely negative thoughts. It is this initial realization that will lead you to not only become the observer but also the curator of thoughts in your head. I was able to dismiss negative thoughts that come to me, and even thoughts that I observe does not yield the positive results I wanted.
“Peace is only a thought way.” – Jill Bolte Taylor
Below is the guide to mindful meditation. When you follow these steps, it may not be easy at first, it will require constant focus and concentration, both are something that early beginners will need to practice.
Mindful meditation is a practice of letting go and clearing the mind so you are able to focus on the now. It will require clearing the chatter in your mind and controlling your focus within your inner self.
How to Practice Mindful Meditation
Any place will do, I had often practiced mindful meditation on my commute. A place where no one can disturb you and you are free of distractions from the real world. This include putting off the TV, and yes your cell phone! Make sure nothing will disturb you throughout this time.
Get comfortable. Sit. Whether you sit in a lotus position on the ground, or just sitting regularly in your favorite chair does not matter as long as you are comfortable and you are able to keep your concentration and focus for period of time.
2. Keep your body straight, your head, neck, and back should also be straight.
Do not become rigid, but instead be flexible and comfortable. You can choose to keep your eyes open or closed. Mindful meditation can be done in either cases. I suggest you try both and see which you prefer.
3. Clear your mind.
Make an effort to set aside all thoughts, including your worries or your tasks for the day. This is the hardest part for beginners. You will find that there is a lot of mental chatter within you. You most concentrate to clear it all out. When your mind wanders, it is ok — return it back to focus. Do not think of the future — the ‘what will I do next’ thoughts or the past, the ‘what had I done yesterday’. Instead clear it all out.
4. Now that your body and mind is at ease, concentrate on your breathing.
The air moving in and coming out of you. Be totally relaxed. By focusing on your breathing your mind will return to the present moment, the ‘now’-ness. This is what you are striving for, disregarding all thoughts aside from your breathing. Feel your body rise and fall as you breath. Listen to the sound of your breathing and the noise you make. Pay attention only to your breathing and nothing else, no other thoughts. Do this until the meditation sessions ends.
5. During this meditation session, thoughts and emotions may come forth in your mind.
Do not hold it back, let it come and as you breath out let it go. Let them come and go, re-focus to the present moment as by observing your breaths. You should be in a state of relaxation, and if you stay in the present moment, you will realize that negative emotions are products of your thoughts about past and future. Let them go.
6. Follow this practice for a minimum of 10-15 minutes. If it helps you, set a timer.
Once you are done, get back up and return to your normal day. You will realize that eventually you’ll want to do this practice longer as the time you spent meditating is so relaxing and you feel good and weightless afterwards. Feel free to add more time as you begin to get the hang of it.
“Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
– Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
Mindful Meditation Benefits.
As you become a regular practitioner of mindful meditation, you will begin to notice these benefits and changes in yourself.
- Concentration and Focus.
The ability to focus and concentrate will be enhanced, you will realize that as you clear the chatter in your head, you can begin to command your mind in a better way to pay attention to things more directly and in a deeper level.
You will become more in-tune with your own body and your own emotions. This perceptiveness of your own emotions and thoughts will mean you can have more control of your responses and not let it control you. The gap between stimulus and response will be widened for you, as your become more aware you can choose the most appropriate and positive course of action instead of haphazardly letting your emotions take control.
- Loving-Kindness Meditation.
The most important benefit of mindful meditation is to get in touch with your heart. One of the oldest practices taught to the followers of Gautama Buddha himself is this loving-kindness meditation. The act of mindful meditation will bring you close to unconditional love for yourself and therefore for others. This will become apparent in your day-to-day life as meditation will bring you closer to making decisions with your heart and not with the mind, you will become more patient and also more kind to yourself and to others.
- Improved Self-Esteem and Awareness.
As you focus on the present moment, it will lead to a better self-esteem. You will realize that your thoughts make your world, and as you are able to control the negative thoughts that is in your head, you are able to gain more confidence, your self-esteem will improve. You will begin to become more optimistic about yourself and about your current situation. You will know what you can and cannot control — as you become aware. This is one of the best benefits you can gain from meditation. I was often pessimistic about situations and myself — but as you gain awareness and self-confidence, you will become optimistic about you and your life. As you focus on the present moment, and live in your heart, you will become more grateful of every moment and everything you have.
Mindful meditation is a great beginner meditation, if you are looking for a practice of meditation to start. The gradual benefits and change in yourself will become apparent as you practice mindful meditation on a regular basis. I recommend you start daily. If you do not have time, find time — by tailoring the practice to your day-to-day routine. I find doing this meditation on my commute to work helps, I often close my eyes and do the steps as if I am taking a nap. Some people find doing this meditation after they work out, or at the end of the day after work. Either way, incorporate this meditation the best way you can — and you will find that it will improve your life.