How Mindfulness Meditation Can Benefit You
There is little doubt that living in a modern society such as ours comes with a whole host of daily stresses. The stress of taking care of oneself or someone else and earning a living have been around for a long time, but now the very technologies that make our lives in some ways better and easier demand that we be ever present. Cool devices like our tablets and smartphones mean you are always available, always connected. I know people who sleep with their smartphones on next to their beds; it’s the last thing they look at before bed and the first thing they look at when they awake.
It’s not just for work either. We are also obsessed with social media, always having to know every detail of our friend’s lives and them ours. Add to this the internet in general, TV, blaring stereos and texting and our minds never get any down time to process. This constant of always being on leads to a build-up of stress over time until it can no longer be ignored.
Stress has several negative physical effects on the human body such as increased inflammation. It can also lead to high blood pressure which in turn can lead to cardiovascular disease. Stress also negatively affects cortisol levels which can lead to obesity and insulin resistance; talk about detrimental to your workouts. So, this is where mindfulness meditation comes in, it has been proven to significantly lower stress levels. In addition to lowering stress it can also lower anxiety, fear and depression while increasing concentration, learning and memory.
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation finds its roots in Buddhist meditation though its secular practice is spreading across America. In the simplest way mindfulness meditation is the practice of fully paying attention to whatever you are experiencing while you experience it. Rather than trying to alter or control ones thoughts or breathing or judging oneself you let what is to be, simply maintaining moment to moment awareness of ours thoughts, feelings and sensations. You can say it’s being fully in the moment. To achieve this awareness of consciousness requires practice using one or various techniques on a regular bases perhaps expanding the duration of sessions accordingly.
You can gain many of the benefits of mindfulness meditation in just minutes a day which means even in your busy life you can find time to reap the rewards. Yes there are those who commit to longer and deeper sessions and you can gradually do this too, however, even minutes a day can be profoundly beneficial. Let’s look at 3 short simple meditation exercises you can do even as a total newby.
Start by choosing a quiet location you are less likely to be distracted in. You want this place to feel peaceful to you. Since you will be here for several minutes you want to be comfortable, this means comfortable attire, a pleasant temperature and a good place to sit. How you sit is less important, it could be pillows, a chair with back support or lotus position (legs crossed) if you prefer. Plan on 5 minutes for the first practice session.
Now let your mind settle, don’t try to control it, just let it go where it will for a minute or two. Now bring your awareness to your breathing. Take a few deeps breaths noticing the flow of air into and out of your body. Feel the sensation of the air as it enters your nose and down your windpipe reaching deeper into you. Follow it as far as you can. Then again feel it as you let it go. Note the rise and fall of your chest as your lunges expand and contract. Is there a warm or coolness to the air, is it moist or dry? It’s common to become distracted or for the mind to wonder, it could be thoughts of the past or future, don’t judge yourself for this just simply focus on the breathing bringing yourself back to the present. After 5 minutes notice your body’s sensations, position and weight. Note its connection to the floor or chair. Mentally appreciate yourself for practicing today.
Let’s start with a strawberry. Take the berry in your hand and gaze upon it. Notice its color and shape, any markings or bruises on it. Now feel the texture against the skin of your fingers maybe your lips. Bring it in close and smell it, breathing it in with several deep breaths. Let the aroma permeate you, is it pleasant? Does it make your mouth water? Does it make you want to taste it? Finally take a bite. As you consume it notice its texture is it pleasant to chew? Note the flavor, is it enjoyable? Is it satisfying? Savor each bite slowly, fully. That’s it, that’s all there is to it. For a longer different experience try another maybe larger fruit like an apple or a pear.
Find yourself a place to walk preferable without too many distractions. As you walk notice your posture and the feel of your feet on the ground. Feel your weight shift from your heels to your toes. Notice the warmth of the sun or the coolness of the air against your skin. Pay attention to the sensation of your muscles stretching and contracting as you move and the feel of your joints bending and extending. Breathe naturally and fully. If your mind wonders simply focus on the sensation of walking and breathing. Start with 5-10 minutes longer with repeated practice if you wish. When it’s time to end stop and experience yourself standing still. Focus on the feel of your body weight on the ground. Take a few deep breathes and return to normal activities.
The idea here is not to necessarily make you a meditation master, but rather to give you a moment of peace and tranquility that allows your mind to take a break from life’s daily challenges. In time with continued practice you should begin to experience a sensation of increased whole body well-being and greater mind clarity.
Forbes.com - 7 Ways Meditation can actually change the brain
Mindful.org - A five minute breathing meditation to cultivate mindfulness
Psycologytoday.com - How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Wikihow.com – How to Do Mindful Meditation
Chopra.com – Mindful Walking Practice: How To Get Started