Chapter 1 – Learning How to Practise Mindfulness & Meditation
Welcome to another day in lockdown from Colombia. I few weeks ago started practising Breathing exercises and Kundalini to calm my anxiety. I also started checking some interesting authors talking about Mindfulness. This time I am reading in Spanish APRENDE A PRACTICAR MINDFULNESS (Learn to practise Mindfulness) by Vicente Simón and, before I knew it, I was taking notes to share here with you. Nothing new for many I am sure, but very powerful for me at this present moment.
I wouldn’t call myself an expert in meditation, so when I say “for beginners” I include myself. I really like Simon’s point of view about both theory and practical exercises to develop our own practices for Mindfulness. In particular, I like that the main tool to be mindful is Meditation and his suggestions to start practising at home. Let’s take a look first at what Mindfulness and Meditation are.
What Is Mindfulness?
There are so many definitions (even just in this book, please check its bibliography) you will need to choose one that resonates with you, I like this one: “Mindfulness is a conscious practice to help us be more present in the moment. Meaning, to PAY special attention to what is happening, WHILE happening and WITHOUT judging it”. Although this description is both clear and simple, nothing will explain in full what Mindfulness means. So, the invitation here is to try to experience it.
Is Mindfulness the same as Meditation?
Although, sometimes I see these two terms as synonymous, it is important to know they are different: Simon uses Mindfulness as a more general, scientific term to discuss theory or research. He uses Meditation as one of many day-to-day tools we can use to be mindful. So, Mindfulness is more general and Meditation more specific.
So, Should we aim to practise Meditation or Mindfulness?
Well, both: First using Meditation as a way to reach Mindfulness. Simon encourages us to create a habit of Meditation in this order:
A. We learn how to enter into a specific mental state,
B. We repeat step A until we can stay in that mental state for longer,
C. We keep practising steps A & B until we might start feeling permanent changes in the way our brain works.
What kind of changes…I hear you asking?
“Calming down the mind to see clearer”, is one of them. This assumes our mind is never calm, and always agitated or, at least, in a constant dialogue (Monkey Mind). This kind of mind produces uninterrupted and repeating thoughts all day long! Making it really hard for us to focus on one single thought. Simon compares meditation to a big, still, steady stage light illuminating one single point long enough so we can see it clearly and understand it better.
Cool, what do we need to start practising?
There are 4 basic things we need:
1. Set aside a specific space for meditation
Outdoors or indoors, just make this place special – flowers, Buddha pics, incense… Anything goes! Just make sure it is quiet and with a soft light. I use the space between my bed and the closet because I want to start practising right after waking up, even before start talking with anyone. I clean and clear it the night before and leave everything I might need for the practice.
2. An ideal moment/set aside regular time
Think which time of the day your mind is more awake and willing to be still (also less likely to have external interruptions) and book it! How long and how often can be decided later as you go. My suggestion is to start small and increase as you feel. I have also noticed my mind and body can feel different every day, so try to listen to that too when choosing.
3. A good posture
Simon recommends to try different postures until you find the “ideal for you”: not too comfortable that you might fall asleep in one sec, or too hard you won’t be able to think of anything else but those ankles about to break!Try lying down on a hard floor, with a mat or even a bed; sitting down on a chair with a hard back and seat where your feet can reach the floor; or sitting down on a meditation cushion/crossed leg/kneeling position you can hold for a while. Whatever you choose, please also keep your:
- Back flat
- Gaze forward
- Eyes closed/or slightly open (looking down and forward to a fixed point)
- Hands in Mudra position (if sitting, a common one is left hand on top of right making a semicircle, thumbs touching. If lying down, they can be alongside the body facing up)
- Keep a blanket close, the body temperature tends to drop
4. A timer (a mobile phone will do!)
The last but not least of the Basic Tools to start this adventure is setting up a timer if you decide to go meditating alone. This might take away one of the biggest distractions in meditation: “Is it already 10 minutes?… Only 2!”. So, set your time and carry on! But, don’t worry about this last point just now, I recorded the first guided meditation so you can just follow the audio. Choose a posture you feel comfortable and can hold for around 15 minutes.
Let me know how it goes!