Whether we are taking a digital detox, a walk through the woods, or a yoga class, it seems we are all on the endless quest for being truly present. To be aware, to feel, to witness a single moment takes practice and mindfulness, given the breakneck pace of our daily lives. But what does mindfulness even mean?
Take a deep breath. You just clicked “Read More” and, thus, are committed to this moment. Pay attention to your breath. Lengthen it, pull air deep into your belly. And exhale. You are doing great!
Mindfulness is a cornerstone practice in the Buddhist traditions, used to develop self-knowledge and wisdom that gradually leads you to enlightenment, or the complete freedom from suffering. The Buddhist term for mindfulness: “sati” translates to "moment to moment awareness of present events", and "remembering to be aware of something.” This practice is all about bringing our attention to the experiences occurring in this present moment. Even though most of us may never reach the heightened state of enlightenment, we each have an innate capacity for practicing mindfulness. And this practice does strongly correlate with greater well-being and perceived health.
The antithesis of mindfulness is all of the rumination and worry that clutters our brains, and can contribute to depression and anxiety, among other physical and mental illnesses. So the next time you feel your judgy, frantic mind taking over, simply:
1. Take a seat. Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
2. Set a time limit. If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as 5 or 10 minutes.
3. Notice your body. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, in lotus posture, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position you can stay in for a while.
4. Feel your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes out and as it goes in.
5. Notice when your mind has wandered. Inevitably, your attention will leave the sensations of the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing this—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
6. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.