Why do you stay in prison, when the door is so wide open? – Rumi
Some of you may be thinking Meditation? It’s not for me! or I’m too busy! or even It’s too hippyish for me! Have you ever wondered why an increasing number of people are integrating mindfulness meditation into their daily routine? Why are so many companies all over the world investing money to offer mindfulness programs to their employees? What are the skills one can gain? If you want to learn more about it, read on 🙂
Let’s start with a definition. What is mindful meditation? It is much more than just sitting in silence, doing nothing. It is a training for the mind. In fact, while sitting quietly, one’s aim is to keep the attention focused on what is called anchor. There are different types of anchors, some examples are the breath, body sensations or a mantra, namely a phrase that has to be repeated over and over silently. In a future post I will describe in more detail all these different techniques. If you now choose an anchor and try to keep your attention focused on it, you will notice that after few moments your mind will naturally start to wander. This is perfectly normal and it is exactly where the real practice starts 🙂 Every time you observe a feeling or a thought, like What should I do once I’m done with meditation?, Where can I go on holiday this year?, What do I need to buy at the grocery? or I’m so angry! How could he/she behave so disrespectfully!?,… and so on, you gently bring back your attention to the anchor. Meditation consists in doing this over an over again. Simple, right? 🙂
Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.
― Thich Nhat Hanh
Still wondering why this can be of any help for you? Keep reading 😉
Many people believe that the goal of mindfulness meditation is to control their thoughts, so they get discouraged soon, when they notice that they are not succeeding at it. Be aware that this is a misunderstanding. It is impossible to stop or control our thoughts. If you do not believe me, make the following experiment. Close your eyes and for ten seconds try not to think about a pink elephant… Are you done? What have you thought about? A pink elephant! 🙂 Why? The more you fight a thought, the stronger it gets. Always remember that whatever you resist persists, because your energy flows where your attention goes.
The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting them control you. — Anonymous
In fact, even though we are not aware of it, we spend most of our life lost in our thoughts and emotions. We think we are them. As a consequence we live on autopilot, reacting to our unconscious beliefs. They dictate all our choices: Our career, our friendships and partnerships, the way we live in the world, how we treat other people and, most importantly, the relationship we have with ourselves.
When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world. — Eckhart Tolle
Mindfulness trains us to notice our thoughts and feelings and to avoid getting lost in them. Every time we observe a thought and instead of immediately reacting to it, bring back the attention to the anchor, we create a little bit more space. With time, as our practice deepens, we realize that we are not our thoughts, we are the one observing them.
Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them. — Eckhart Tolle
This idea is key. It is very deep, so pause for a moment and let it sink into you. Have a look also at this short video, where Michael Singer and Oprah Winfrey discuss about it.
There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it. ― Michael A. Singer
As we practice observing our thoughts and feelings, we will become more and more aware of our deep unconscious beliefs. By noticing them and choosing not to react, we will stop living our life on autopilot and we will be able to make our choices freely 🙂
By practicing mindfulness meditation we learn how to relate to our thoughts and emotions in a healthier way. This is very useful, especially when going through though times. In fact, if we do not recognize an uncomfortable feeling soon enough, our obsessive thoughts are going to fuel the emotion and we are going to be pulled in it, spiraling down. The more energy the feeling has, the more difficult it is to manage. When the emotion is very powerful there is not much we can do, apart from feeling it and waiting for the wave to pass. But, if we recognize the uncomfortable feeling soon enough, we are free to shift our attention to an anchor, for example our body sensations. This way we can avoid getting completely lost in the emotion. There is a specific mindfulness practice that can be used to deal with difficult feelings. I will talk about it in detail in a future post.
This is very important: I would not recommend starting a meditation practice if you are currently going through very strong and dark feelings. Be gentle with yourself. Wait for the emotion to pass, and start your training when you feel safe enough. If you had deep trauma in your past, it is better not to do the work alone. Look for a meditation teacher or a therapist who can help you establish your practice and get through the unresolved emotions stored in your body, in a safe way.
Whatever we cultivate in times of ease, we gather as strength for times of change.
— Jack Kornfield
Are you wondering whether there is also scientific evidence of the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation? Over the past decades many scientists became more and more interested in studying its impact on the brain structures. How do they change through regular practice? Would like to learn more about it? In Mindfulness Meditation: What Are the Benefits for Your Brain? you can find more information 🙂
Would you like to try meditating? 🙂 In How To Get Started with Mindfulness Meditation: Some Ideas to Help You Establish Your Own Practice you can find some suggestions that you can integrate in your own routine 🙂
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