How to get started with mindfulness
A common question. How do I get started?
It is rather a bit like getting dressed of a morning, and initially takes just as long!
We all get dressed each morning. There is a finite number of clothes to wear but we never wear exactly the same as anyone else. Mindfulness is also quite simply but then gets rather complex the further you go with it. No humming (unless you like that sort of thing) and no dinging bells (unless you like that sort of thing!).
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us
mindful.org where the above quote is from can be a good starting point for the basics. Other books/websites/people exist in an almost an infinite variety to get you started. Some will cost you money but all have the basic same theme which can be summarised above.
The two main basic things to do are:
- Breathing meditation – calms and enables reestablishment of the present moment
- Body scan – this relaxes the body and will help focus your mind
Whilst you may feel a bit silly at first and but, practice as it will bed in.
Start with breathing meditation. You need nothing more than a quite place. Get a towel or blanket – fold & sit on it, cross-legged if possible with a straight back. Relaxed but not stiff. Now just breathe. Admittedly, you were doing this already and doing it quite well but now all you have to do is concentrate on breathing in & out. Don’t speed up or slow down, just be normal. Your mind will wander within about 5 seconds, this is normal! Accept that thought & move away back to your breathing. The skill becomes being able to just breathe. Little by little you will be able to last longer but a thought will be just pop up. Bat it away & go back to your breath. Try one minute at first then 2 and build. Make it a habit. Do it anywhere. You don’t need to sit cross-legged, but you do need to get into the ‘zone’.
Next, you will need to practice the body scan. This will take longer so you need to set aside about 45 minutes at first. This exercise is about noticing not necessarily relaxing although at first you may go off on a tangent & fall asleep! Try not to, though!! You will be curious about you body and it’s sensations. Lie or sit down, I prefer to lie down. Start with the tips of your toes of your left foot. Explore your sensations in detail and pay deep attention as if you were experiencing for the first time your toes. Do not attempt to judge a sensation as good or bad, it just is. Like with the breathing exercise, intrusive thoughts need to be batted away and return to the observation of sensations. Move upwards from your toes to your feet, ankle, knee, upper leg, abdomen then down to fingers tips & up the arms to the chest, onwards up the neck to the head. The are lots of sensations in the head so you could spend all your time here! As before, no judgments just a concentration on awareness of your body.
I have an apple watch so I use the breathe app. I gather Fitbit has a similar app but otherwise just have a watch in eye shot to monitor the time.
Now that you have done them once, repeat! Set aside similar times each day. I do when I wake (I always wake before the alarm so I can spend a productive 20 minutes) which tends to be a body scan. At other times I do a couple of minutes of breathing, usually at the end of morning & evening surgery to enable me to reconnect with calmness before moving on to the next task in hand.
I hope you can follow a similar journey and achieve some mindful serenity.