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Mindfulness Meditation Made Easier

Though some call Buddhist mindfulness meditation a spiritual practice, it can be seen as a psychological technique as well. Now common even outside of Buddhist traditions, mindfulness exercises involve the cultivation of an awareness of bodily functions, sensations, thoughts, perceptions of the immediate environment and of consciousness itself. It is essentially a way in which the practitioner can ground himself more firmly in the present moment. It is most often practiced in the context of meditating, but here are some variations that will not appear as meditation to most people.

Before we look at what it does for you and what options are available, let's outline a very basic mindfulness meditation...

Sit still on the floor, in a chair, or anywhere and in any position that is comfortable. A traditional posture is not necessary, although if you are a meditator it may help to sit as you normally do. Close your eyes and allow the tension to drain from your body. If it helps, do this one step at a time, working first on relaxing your face, jaw, and neck, then the rest of the body. Breathe deeply through your nose (if possible), and then allow your breath to fall into a comfortable pattern. Pay attention to each breath as it comes and goes, returning your attention to this when your mind wanders.

After a few minutes, when you are relaxed and your mind is starting to calm down, become aware of the tension in your muscles, wherever it may exist. Bring attention to the feelings in your body, the sensations on your skin, and the thoughts going through your mind. Paying attention to all of this as much as possible, expand your focus out to the sounds in the room. If you get distracted, just ease your attention back to an awareness of your body, mind and surroundings.

After ten minutes or so let your eyes open slowly and allow yourself to become aware of what you can see, but without focusing on any one thing in particular. Maintain an awareness of your body and mind as well. When your eyes have been open for several minutes, and when it feels right, just stand up and look around. That's it.

Here a decent video on Mindfulness...

What's It Good For?

People who practice mindfulness meditation will often say that it makes their lives more balanced. The fact that "balanced" is not a well-defined word in this context does not make it meaningless. Some things are just not easily explained, and experience proves what explanations can only hint at. More specific effects include stress reduction, and a clearer mind following a session like the one outlined above. This is probably due to the "in the moment" aspect, another meaningful if hard to define concept. We are often, in our minds, living in the past or future, thinking about what we have done, must do, or what we have said or would like to say, and so on. Resting our minds in the moment makes it easier to rationally think about what needs to be done right now.

This is something you can try right now to experience what it does for you immediately. But the benefits are not limited to what you might notice right away. Mindfulness practice is now used in western psychology to help treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. It's also used to help prevent a relapse in those who suffer from depression and drug addiction. For more about the benefits of meditation in general see the following page: Benefits of Meditation.

Easier Forms of Mindfulness Meditation

Some mindfulness training exercises are aimed at developing a greater awareness throughout one's daily activities. The goal is to be more continuously aware and in the moment. These practices often rely on cues that are meant to trigger short exercises. For example, every time you see a clock (if that is your "trigger") you might stop and take three deep breaths while noticing all the sensations of your body, the thoughts in your mind and your surroundings. Using a trigger and short exercise in this way is easier for those who have a hard time finding the time to meditate and/or those who find it difficult to maintain concentration.

The maintaining of attention, the relaxing of the body, the calming of the busy mind--these do not always come easily. Fortunately there is an easier alternative to traditional mindfulness practices. It is to use brainwave entrainment. Whether you use CDs or MP3 recordings, listening to these will make the relaxation and meditative parts easier, so you can focus on giving attention to your thoughts, feelings, and environment. Our page on Walking Meditation With an MP3 Player details how to do a walking session with brainwave entrainment, which is in some ways a kind of mindfulness session (or can be if you approach it in the right way).

If you want to try this, here is one source of downloads for MP3s (they also have CDs):

Our Recommended Meditation Recordings

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