How to Start a Mindfulness Practice, Part 3

Part 3 of 3: The last thing that every beginner needs to know is that you will keep thinking during your mindfulness meditation practice and THAT IS OK! In fact, thinking is an important part of the practice.

Mindfulness meditation + Thinking = Good Mindfulness Practice!

I know you don’t believe me. I know you think you have to stop thinking in order to be mindful. You believe you aren’t practicing mindfulness when you’re thinking. It’s a common myth and one that’s really hard to let go of… I imagine this is because we come to mindfulness thinking that our thoughts are the problem and we want to get rid of them!

Mindfulness doesn’t get rid of our thoughts. Mindfulness helps us work with our thoughts in a way that makes them less of a problem. Mindfulness doesn’t make the problem of thinking go away, mindfulness makes friends with thinking and turns it into something we work with – not against.

What if you’re knee was misaligned and really painful because you’d been walking in a way that hurt it. You probably wouldn’t want to cut it off. Instead, you could work with it, re-train how you walk and eventually re-align your knee. This is how mindfulness works with your thoughts. We don’t try to cut them out, we train ourselves to work with them in a better way.

And you don’t have to believe me! This is the best part. To find out for yourself, practice for a while, and experience for yourself what the present moment includes for you. Notice if you have thoughts and experience if you are able to be aware of yourself thinking. Experience how this begins to change your relationship with your thoughts.

How to Start a Mindfulness Practice, Part 2

Here are some simple decisions you’ll want to make to start your mindfulness practice…

What practice to start with and the importance of choosing one that’s right for you. An easy practice to start with is Simple Breath. It’s easy and a good foundation to have as breath is the basis of 85% of all meditation practices that I know of. Other practices to try after that are on Meditation Practices.

Picking a time and place.

Tracking or logging your practice is a great idea if it helps you.

Choosing a posture or position. For more on choosing a posture check out this blog, Is there a proper meditation position? Also, for clear, specific suggestions on a classic sitting posture, check out posture the Zen Way. Have fun exploring with what’s best for you!

 

 

How to Start a Mindfulness Practice, Part 1

Several people have asked me lately what they need to know to start a mindfulness practice, so here are the basics

In Part 1 I share two important concepts to understand when starting: What is mindfulness or presence? and Why is mindfulness important and what are the benefits?

Note that the word mindfulness refers to two things: a state (a la “being mindful”) and also a meditation practice, called mindfulness meditation. The state is what we’re practicing when we do mindfulness meditation.

Savoring Summer

Summer is filled with wonderful moments! Time with our family, our friends, our favorite past-times.

How can we make these moments last? Easy! Take a deep breath and let it all in. Take a moment to notice all of your senses… what can you feel, hear, see, smell and taste? Breathe in the richness of the moment and let it sink in.

Body Strength Challenge 3 (Plank)

(video 55sec) Here is the third body strength exercise that Personal Trainer, Joey Hunter, challenged me with. She asked me how long can I hold 3 simple exercises & what goes through my mind as I do them?

I decided to see what would happen if I did each exercise a second time while practicing mindfulness. Would it change my experience? Would I be able to hold it longer?

Above is the third exercise, a plank, done ‘normally’ and while voicing my stream if conscious.

Below is me doing it mindfully! (video 1:16min)

Try this yourself! On your hands and the balls of your feet, hold your body as straight as you can and  and see how long you can hold it. Then do it while practicing mindfulness meditation and see if you can hold it longer.

Body Strength Challenge 2 (Wall Squat)

(video 49sec) Here is the second body strength exercise that Personal Trainer, Joey Hunter, gave me. She asked me how long can I hold a few simple exercises & what goes through my mind as I do them?

I decided to see what would happen if I did each exercise a second time while practicing mindfulness. Would it change my experience? Would I be able to hold it longer?

Above is the first exercise, a wall squat, done ‘normally’ and while voicing my stream if conscious.

Below is me doing it mindfully! (video 2:04min)

Try this yourself! Put your back against a wall, thighs parallel to the ground and see how long you can hold it. Then do it while practicing mindfulness meditation and see if you can hold it longer.

Body Strength Challenge 1 (Static Arm Hold)

(video 2:38min) Personal Trainer, Joey Hunter, gave me some body strength challenges: how long can I hold a few simple exercises & what goes through my mind as I do them?

I decided to see what would happen if I did the exercise a second time while practicing mindfulness. Would it change my experience? Would I be able to hold it longer?

Above is the first exercise, a static arm hold, done ‘normally’ and while voicing my stream if conscious.

Below is me doing it mindfully! (video 3:57min)

Try this yourself! Hold a water bottle at arms length & time how long you can hold it. Then do it while practicing mindfulness meditation and see if you can hold it longer.

How to Calm Your Mind, Part 2

(video 12:04min) In Part 1 we covered the idea that when we’re practicing mindfulness, and when we’re being mindful we’re going to keep thinking… And that actually we WANT to think (gasp!).

And now we want to know why we’re told during practice that we should “let go of our thoughts”? If thinking is ok, then why do we need to let go of it?

Great question! On to Part 2!

How to Calm Your Mind, Part 1

(video: 9:44min) “I can’t stop thinking!” is the number 1 complaint I hear when people start practicing mindfulness.

We’re stressed! We want the madness to stop! Doesn’t mindfulness help us calm our minds and let go of thoughts?!

Well yes, and no… Mindfulness helps you change your relationship with your thoughts. It does NOT make them go away. This new relationship is less stressful and more calm.

For most of us, this new relationship takes a bit of explanation to understand. Most instructors know it’s actually more comprehensive for you to experience it than try to explain it to you… which means that before you experience it you’re confused about your goal during practice. You think you’re supposed to stop thinking.

 

So what are you supposed to be doing? And how will it help? Here are two videos to help you unravel this mystery.

Why is it important to practice mindfulness regularly?

(video: 5:31 min) Does mindfulness ever become permanent? Will I ever be mindful all the time with out having to practice it regularly?

Well yes. And no.
Yes in that you can reach a stage where mindfulness is something you’re doing all of the time, as a behavior, a habit or an state of being.

And no in that until it becomes an ingrained habit, you need to keep reinforcing the behavior by practicing it!

Why? Because your brain learns and changes based on your behaviors. What you do today is changing your brain. You’re either creating & maintaining neurological structures for mindfulness today or you’re creating structures for something else.

Thanks to Dr Lara Boyd on TEDxVancouver for making the relationship between our daily behaviors and our brain so clear.