Mindfulness and 7 Tips for Getting Started
Other authors define it as the awareness of the present experience, with acceptance. (Germer, 2005). Or the universal, basic human ability that consists in being aware of our mind’s content, moment to moment (Simon, 2007).
The basic goal of technique is to go from a full mind (occupied) to mindfulness (clear). Let’s leave aside what Buddhists call the “monkey mind,” or the wandering mind. That way we can move towards a rational thinking mind, less motivated by disorder and chaos.
When we practice mindfulness, we focus our attention continually on our experience in the present. We continually set aside obsessions over the past or worries about the future. And then, we redirect our attention to what’s happening right now.
The Premises of Mindfulness
What you need to practice mindfulness is:
- A suitable space.
- Some time.
- Good posture and a timer.
Tell your brain when you start your practice: direct your attention to your experience of the present moment, with curiosity, openness, and acceptance (Bishop, 2004). J. Kabat-Zinn (2003) indicates the attitudes that should go along with the process of mindfulness are:
- Not judging. Focusing on observing your experience, without judging the thoughts and feelings that might arise, just letting them happen.
- Patience and persistence. Letting things come in their own time, and practicing often.
- Beginner’s mindset. Seeing the process like you did the first time you practiced it. Keeping your mind open and flexible.
- Trust. Trusting yourself, to begin with, and then what arises from the process, normalizing it.
- Not forcing it. Avoid creating expectations. You just have to do it, nothing else.
- Relinquishing and letting go: Not getting attached to the experience or what arises from it, for example, life circumstances, and just letting it happen as it should happen.
According to R.A. Baer (2015), mindfulness wants you to observe the way you walk through life. It wants you to stop and observe, so you can see what psychological traps you fall into. Traps like obsession, avoidance, emotion-based behavior, self-criticism, and perfectionism.
Mindfulness and the Sense of Presence
This ability to be conscious (mindful), to not get stuck in the past or lean toward the future, but instead to open up and accept anything that might arise from moment to moment, this is a definition of presence.
The psychologist and meditation teacher, Tara Brach (2012), give us another definition. What she suggests is that presence is the feeling of a sense of full attention, intimacy, and tenderness that arises when we’re in the here and now with our experience.
In many ways, mindfulness and presence are synonymous. But still, mindfulness refers to the process of training our mind to be, and stay present.
“Human beings are like a bed and breakfast. Every morning a new guest.
Happiness, depression, a bad thing; in one moment like an unexpected guest, conscience arrives. Welcome everyone, have a great time!
Even a swarm of pains, which clean out your house by violently moving out all your furniture. Even then, you treat each guest with honor.
They might even be cleaning you up for a new pleasure.
Dark thoughts, shame, malice. Look for them at the door, laughing at yourself, and invite them in.
Being thankful to each and every one that’s come, because they’re all sent like guides from the Great Beyond.”
-Rumi, 12th century Sufi poet and mystic-
Truly Commit Yourself to Practicing Mindfulness
Learning the formal practice of mindfulness is relatively simple. But keeping it up over time isn’t. A lot of different challenges may arise once we’ve decided to meditate regularly.
It’s easy to get frustrated. To think we’re not doing it right, or wonder if it’s really worth the trouble. We might also worry that, faced with our daily obligations, we won’t dedicate enough time to this systematic practice. Or we might even stop practicing it completely.
That’s why its important to persist and not judge our practice too quickly. If you’ve just started, commit yourself to practicing it for at least 8 weeks before you draw conclusions.
This is what it means to give it a real chance. Just keep going, without analyzing how you’re doing it, and without expecting any concrete results. Once the 8 weeks have gone by, you can look back and decide if there’s been any change. See how big the change is, and decide if it’s worth continuing.
7 Ways to Keep up Mindfulness Practice
How do you stay motivated despite the uncertainty and doubt in your own mind? Here are some tips.
Make it a Habit
Make it so that meditation becomes part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth. Decide what point of the day is the most convenient, and add it to your schedule. That way you won’t have to think about it anymore. Don’t worry if you don’t feel the desire. As they say, “just do it.”
Not Too Long…Not Too Short
Choose a period of time for formal practice that’s long enough for your mind to settle down. But one that’s not so long that it’s hard for your to turn it into a habitual part of your life. For the majority of people, somewhere between 15 to 45 minutes is about right.
Create a Sacred Space
Maybe you can’t allow yourself the luxury of reserving a whole room to sit in silence, like some practitioners do. But if possible, create a meditation space in a corner of your room, living room, or office. And, if you like, decorate the space with objects and images that inspire you.
Find the Right Way to Sit
If your practice implies sitting, like most formal practices of mindfulness do, try to sit in a way that lets you stay upright, although relaxed and comfortable at the same time. Correct posture will encourage a state of watchfulness and help with good breathing.
Push Away All Judgments
Having too many expectations and judging yourself leads straight to frustration. Instead, remember that it’s not about reaching any specific point. It’s about coming back over and over again to where you already are.
Be Gentle but Consistent
Meditation takes willpower. But putting too much effort in can be counterproductive. Instead, look for the Middle Way. The one Buddha described with a metaphor about the strings of a lute: to make music, they can’t be too tense or too loose.
Remember Your Goal
Why did you decide to practice mindfulness? To find mental peace? To be more present with your partner, your friends, or yourself? To gain more wisdom and be more compassionate with the world?
Having your goal in mind can be a powerful source of motivation. Especially when you feel lost, confused, or discouraged.
These suggestions will help you keep up the habit of practicing mindfulness and get out of it everything it has to offer. If you still can’t manage to be consistent, it might be the time to get help from a professional of mindfulness.