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