Mindfulness and meditation have become very popular in today’s busy world and are even more relevant right now than ever. For those new to mindfulness and meditation, by definition mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. The interest in mindfulness and meditation has drastically increased in the recent years due to their proven benefits in dealing with stress and anxiety. The organization Our World In Data reported that in 2017 approximately 264 million people suffer from depression and 284 million people suffer from anxiety worldwide.
I also used to have strong feelings of anxiety and depression dating back to when I was just a child, and continuing into my 30’s. I remember feeling disconnected from the life around me and having strong feelings of anxiety immobilize me in normal everyday situations without warning. When I was just a child I didn’t even have a name for these feeling or understand them. They caused me to be very shy, fearful, and introverted. I often wondered if others experienced these feeling as well. In my teens I even went to see a psychiatrist who prescribed different medicines to help me cope with my anxiety and depression but the medicine only seemed to temporarily work. Then one day, suddenly everything changed!
I remember back in 2009 looking at different apps that I could download on my phone and coming across one that taught meditation. At the time I was in my mid 20’s and very stressed out from situations at work, so when I saw the app that could teach meditation I figured I should give it a try. Maybe it could help me be a little less stressed out and anxious? So I downloaded the app and followed the instructions. The app had a beginners guided meditation available first as an introduction. It instructed me to plug in head phones, press play, and close my eyes. It played soft relaxing music and a soothing voice instructed me to just breath and let go of any worries or judgments, it said “let go and just become present.” The meditation lasted for 10 minutes, and when it was done I was completely blown away from the experience. Having tried so many different ways to deal with my anxiety and depression (some good some bad), it was like I had finally found the missing piece I was always looking for.
Somehow in that 10 minutes of meditation it was able to show me that there is something I can do anytime or anywhere that can help me manage uncomfortable and hard to deal with feelings and emotions. I became enthralled with that experience and inspired to find out everything I could about meditation and what I had experienced. As I began to do my own research I came across Mindfulness. I began to see how I could learn to meditate and just sit with my emotions instead of always trying to escape them. While learning to gently bring my awareness to my breathing during meditation, I started to incorporate mindful awareness during my daily activities as well. By meditating in the morning and practicing mindfulness the rest of the day, I was starting to notice a positive change in my life even within the first couple of weeks. Now this doesn’t mean that I never experienced any depression or anxiety and life was perfect, but it did give me the tools to start to be able to understand what was going on inside of me. It was the light at the end of the tunnel. The more I meditated and practiced mindfulness the less depressed and anxious I felt.
I was starting to feel free for the first time in my life, like I was in control. I started to become more present in my friendships and relationships with my family. I was noticing that my mind was becoming more calm and my demeanor more peaceful. Weeks of meditating almost everyday turned into months. And then one day I realized that as my inner conditions were getting better, food was tasting better and music sounded more beautiful. I would even find myself so joyful at times I would just laugh, because for the first time I was really starting to feel happy. I couldn’t believe the effects meditation and mindfulness were having on me! Why didn’t someone show me this sooner? Why is this not tough in school? I wondered, why doesn’t everybody meditate? Mediation and mindfulness were not just something I would do if I was stressed, they became a way of life for me.
Fast forward to the present day and I have been meditating and practicing mindfulness for over 12 years now. Discovering them was the single most impactful and life changing event of my life. Because of the effects they have had on my life and so many others as well, I have been inspired to help anyone I can learn to practice meditation and mindfulness. One important piece of advice I would like to give you if you are interested in learning to practice meditation and mindfulness, is to build the discipline to do it everyday, even if only for 5 or 10 minutes. By doing this you will build the habit and your practice will gain its own momentum which will result in much greater benefits. For those who aren’t quite sure how to meditate or practice mindfulness, I will list instructions down below. I hope that this information can help as many people as possible!
- Sit comfortably in a chair or on a cushion on the ground with the body relaxed.
- If on a cushion, gently cross your legs or you can try half or full lotus if you are able to do so.
- Let the arms hang down naturally with your hands resting on your knees with your palms down.
- Keep the head erect with the chin slightly down
- Close your eyes and relax your face.
- Invite a gentle smile to your lips
- Breath through the nose, not with the mouth.
- Breathing should be quiet, free flowing, slow, deep and even
- As you breath in just bring your awareness to the sensation of the air entering your nose.
- As you breath out count 1,2,3,4,5 however long your natural exhale is. If its 3 seconds long then step on 3 every time.
- Keep your focus on your breathing this way continuously
- Every time your mind drifts off and gets distracted(which will happen a lot), gently bring your awareness back to your breathing and the numbers without judgment.
- Train yourself to do this well. Set aside at least 5 or 10 minutes everyday to practice. Once you feel comfortable with 5 or 10 minutes of meditation you can increase your meditation time as desired.
After the meditation
- Gently open your eyes
- Move your head, shoulders, and body slowly
- Rub your hand together gently and massage your face, ears, neck, body and legs
- If the legs are sore or asleep, don’t stand up immediately
Through meditation you are learning to bring your awareness to your breathing. In mindfulness you are essentially doing the same thing, however instead of just bringing your awareness to your breathing, try bringing your awareness to what ever activity you are engaged in during the day.
If you are brushing your teeth, simply just become fully present with brushing your teeth. This means not thinking about what happened yesterday, or what might happen later at work. Let go of the past and future and just use your awareness to become fully present in the here and now. The opportunity the fully live and bring your awareness to the wonderful miracle of life isn’t in the past because it is already gone, or in the future because it hasn’t arrived yet, it is here right now, this present moment.
It is completely natural that while practicing mindfulness(like meditation) you will get distracted from being present with whatever activity you are doing. So to help me stay mindfully present during the day I set a timer to go off and make the sound of a bell from my phone once every hour of the day from 8am to 8pm unless I’m with a client. When the timer goes off I gently bring my awareness back to whatever I am doing and take 3 deep breaths, and become fully present.
I really hope this information helps you establish a mindfulness and meditation practice and increases your overall quality of life. Thank you for reading.