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.
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.
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.
(video: 2:45) Having a hard time sticking to your New Year’s resolutions?
You want to start running, but you can’t get out of bed? You want to practice meditation everyday after lunch, but you’re just too busy?
The trick is to remember why you want to do it… BEFORE you do it. Laying there in bed, motivate yourself by remembering how good you feel when you exercise. Let tuer good feeling motivate you to get up and go running! Sitting at lunch, remember how calm and collected you feel when you meditate. Let that sense of peace motivate you to take a few minutes before you rush off.
You know you’ll feel better! Remember that feeling before you do things and mer that good feeling be your motivation!
How can you make them more relaxing so that you enjoy them to the fullest?
One thing that you can do it think about the things you like to do to relax & de-stress in everyday life… What kinds of things do you do that help you relax normally? Do you like to exercise? Do you have a cup of tea? Do you read, go for a walk, or play with your cat?
Now think about how you can you set yourself up to do those things over the holidays. How can you do those things wherever you are? Can you bring your running shoes or a few weights or exercise videos? Can you take your favorite tea and share it with other relatives, making it into a nice shared moment of relaxation together? Can you bring a great book or magazines? Can you plan daily walks, perhaps after big meals with the whole family or by yourself in the mornings to get out and enjoy the world waking up?
Whatever will work for you, set yourself up with a few things and create a Relaxation Toolbox to use every day and to pull out whenever things get a bit too hectic. You will appreciate it and so will your friends and family!
Prepare for relaxation and make your holidays bright!
(video 4:12) I listened to the Science of Meditation Summit presentation by meditation teacher Susan Piver who said one of the myths about mindfulness is that it is a form of self-help. “It’s not,” she says, and after listening to her explaination, I totally agree.
Mindfulness as a concept is simply being present, aware of ourselves, and pure mindfulness practice is simply noticing ourselves. What ever we’re doing, thinking, feeling, we simply notice. We don’t try to change anything, we simply notice.
Self-help is another set of meditations, therapies and tools that we use to change what we notice. If, using mindfulness, we notice that we’re angry a lot and inappropriate with how we express it, we might take other steps to create healthier expressions of our anger. Now we’ve added self-help.
I find this distinction really useful for understanding the role of mindfulness and the role of self-help. Mindfulness is for being aware of what is happening. Self-help is for changing what is happening.
(Video: 4:57min) Ujjaya breathing is a yoga breath that is fun to do because you can actually hear your self breathing! This is great for people who like to focus on sound.
Watch the video for instructions if you want them, and enjoy using this tool during stressful situations. I use it when I’m stressed and I want something else to listen to for a moment besides my speeding train of difficult thoughts.
Using ujjayi breathing a great way to stay engaged in the moment and to give myself some perspective… there are other things in my life right now than this upsetting thing that is happening… like my noisy breath!
(Video: 4:40min) This is a very quick, body based practice that I do when I’m super stressed and want to regain equilibrium.
This is part of a much deeper practice that I learned from Will Johnson’s wonderful book, Aligned, Relaxed & Resilient. This version is simple enough to do in crisis.
First, inhale and let the breath softly lift your body up straight and tall. Second, exhale and let the body melt and relax into this gently upright position. Let the body slowly align itself, gently lifting and relaxing with each breath.
This is a great meditation practice to do at any time, and works best during crisis if you teach yourself how to do it first when you’re not stressed… Then in crisis you already know how it works and it’s just a simple matter of doing it.