Hello and welcome to Friday, February 25, 2022. Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again. Make it meaningful.
As many of you know, I’ll be leaving in the middle of April for six weeks. I’m headed for Spain to do the Camino de Santiago. As I won’t be doing any writing during that time, other than my own journaling, between now and the time that I depart, I want to offer some practical skills that will help you to develop a productive Mindfulness practice.
For this week, I focus on meditation. I start here because I have found that positive change begins with awareness.
If we are to create the best version of ourselves, we need to better understand the obsessive nature of the mind and why it’s imperative to tame and train our mind. Research has demonstrated that most of us are present only fifty percent of the time. My experience would suggest less.
It’s vital that we live in the present not only because that’s where life happens, but also because that’s where we make our decisions. If we aren’t present to make our decisions, then our habits and/or emotions will make them for us. This explains why we sometimes say, “I can’t believe I just did that, what was I thinking?!”
If you are not present, where are you?
The easy answer is, in our mind. And in our mind, we can be just about anywhere, except in the present. Our mind likes to add commentary to just about everything we do. In this ceaseless babble we often get lost in inner dialogue. Imagine that you’re having a conversation with your boss. Following the first couple of words that come out of your boss’s mouth, your mind is sparked by an idea. Your boss continues to expand on her point, and you miss most of what she says because your mind is having its own conversation.
Our mind also likes to ruminate on the past and think about and plan for the future, incessantly. This explains why we enter a room and forget why we walked in there in the first place, and why we miss a turn while driving. One last example, we ‘lose’ our car keys because we weren’t present when we put them down.
We all know that it’s a good idea to be present in the moments of our lives. So, we read books like “ThePower of Now” by Eckhart Tolle and think about how important it is for us to be present. We may even have extended conversations with others about the importance of living in the present moment. And yet, all this knowledge does little to help us to be present. Just because we want to be present and know that it’s valuable does not mean that we have the capacity to do so. In fact, this knowledge and intellect is often a primary reason why we can’t be present – it resides in the mind.
We each have something within us that does have the capacity to experience the present moment – awareness.
Awareness is its own quality. We know this because we can be aware of physical sensations, emotions, and feelings. Furthermore, we can be aware that we are thinking. Awareness is not something that we can develop in ourselves by reading and studying. Rather, awareness is something that can only be developed through practice. The best practice that I have found to cultivate awareness is meditation.
It's important to note that there are many different meditations that are often broken down into two categories: Contemplative and Concentration. If we hope to develop our attentional awareness, we need to practice a meditation that develops that quality. Single point meditation, or Mindfulness of Breath, is a concentration meditation that was designed to do just that – develop your awareness.
The practice is simple, but not easy.
The first step is to find a comfortable place to meditate, not so comfortable that you fall asleep, however. I suggest a chair, a meditation cushion, or you can even lie on your back in savasana.
Once you’re in position, take a little time to ground your awareness in the sensations of your body – maybe where you come into contact with the floor, chair, or cushion. While keeping your mind alert and attentive, give yourself permission to relax and let go of any tension, worries, concerns, and plans. Give yourself permission to nourish yourself through this practice.
After you have taken a few moments to relax, turn all your awareness to the physical sensations of your breath. Though some meditations ask you control your breathing in particular ways, for this meditation, we want to simply observe the breath. This type of meditation is a practice of letting go, so you don’t need to control your breathing, or anything else.
If your experience is anything like mine, you may find that soon after you begin, you’re already thinking about this and that. That’s OK. That’s what happens when we meditate. In fact, every time you become aware that you are thinking, that’s a mindful moment. If you notice a hundred times that you are thinking during your meditation, that is one hundred mindful moments. That is a success!
For this type of meditation, we do our best to hold our awareness on the physical sensations associated with breathing. When we “notice” that our mind has wandered, we let go of the thought or distraction and simply return our awareness to the breath. This is the meditative practice. And, this practice is what helps us to recognize and let go of thoughts as we move through our day.
We will get more out of this mediation if we don’t try to do too much too soon. Quality over duration! Three minutes of mindful breathing is better than struggling to get through ten minutes. We want to finish the meditation feeling like we could have gone longer. This inspires us to keep coming back.
If you prefer, you can find guided meditations on the web or in apps such as “Insight Timer.” Just be sure that you choose a Mindfulness of Breath, or Single Point, meditation. Remember, use the right meditation for the job. I also have downloadable meditations on my website.
Please remember that it’s not knowledge that develops your awareness, it’s the practice.
When I return from Spain, be watching for “LIVE” meditation workshops and retreats. I do believe it’s time!
If you would like assistance in establishing a meditation practice before I leave in April, we have plenty of time and I am here to help.
You are Loved by me, Unconditionally!
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