If you’re here because you saw me on WMAZ, then welcome!
What is Mindfulness?
Simply paying attention to what is happening right now without trying to change it. That’s it. There are two parts:
1. Repetition of a focus of some sort–breath, a prayer, a focus on the body, a sound, or (more advanced) whatever thoughts pass in your awareness.
2. Acceptance of what is. Whenever thoughts, distractions, worries, the grocery list, physical pains, or any other kind of thought grabs your attention away from your focus, the moment you notice it, you gently return your attention to the focus. The hard part is is to accept that you have been distracted, in pain, worried, or wandering around in your thoughts. Do not judge it as good or bad. “It is what it is,” as people say.
The link above is to the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center’s free mindfulness downloads page. If you are starting out, these are great, short mindful practices you can do every day. Try it daily! 3 minutes a day is better than 20 minutes once a week. The point is to practice frequently to train your mind to be present and non-judgmental.
What if I’m not into “Eastern Religion?”
This is not an Eastern thing. This kind of practice appears in all faith traditions. Much like the Golden Rule, it just makes sense to Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and people of all faiths and people of no particular faith at all. If you want a specifically Christian practice, look at the centering prayer page here. While you are there, have a look at the Lectio Divina practices, too.
I tried it and I’m not good at it!
Yes you are. You are supposed to be distracted. The gentle act of will you engage when you turn your attention back to the focus IS the practice. If you have a million thoughts or distractions in three minutes, you have a million times to practice moving your attention back to the present moment. Inner silence may come in brief moments after you’ve been doing this a long while, but it’s impossible to stop the mind from making thoughts. It’s what the mind does. Just like the stomach digests, the mind makes thoughts. The work here is moving your attention back to the focus. The only way to do it wrong is not to do it!
The Harvard research team: relaxationresponse.org
Jon Kabat Zinn lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gViiux9ANMk
A TED talk by Daniel Seigel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiyaSr5aeho
Have an experience to share? Post the comments! I’ll try to moderate and approve them as they come in.