Making a start with mindfulness
There is so much information out there at the moment about how wonderful mindfulness is and how everyone should be doing it. Which I agree with, to an extent, but how do you work out what is good information and decipher what you should do first and how?
This is a very simple making a start with mindfulness guide to convey the foundational information of what it is and how you can begin.
-> paying attention to the present moment, without judgement.
-> it is taking things as they are and as you are.
-> doing is not as important as being, even when you are doing.
Mindfulness has a focus on practice:
-> practices are ‘simple, but not easy’ – one of my most favourite sayings ever by Jon Kabat-Zinn!
The ideas, writings and stories shared about mindfulness may sound simple and like you should be able to practice without too much hassle but the reality is that mindfulness practices are not that easy, particularly in the beginning or for those who have been through tough times. An example I use in my counselling with people to highlight this is when I had anorexia. Clearly I had to eat and I knew that, simple right, but it was the furthest thing from easy I have ever had to do. Anything new to us, no matter how much we want it or know that it could help us and that appears simple, is not necessarily easy in practice.
-> there absolutely is no single or ‘right’ way to practice and integrate mindfulness into your life.
Try things out, play with the practices and notice what feels good or right for you. That will be your best gauge for how you immerse yourself in the qualities and practices you will work through. Know also that what is not right for you now will not always be not right for you.
As you change and your capacity and experience with mindfulness unfolds so will the way you practice it.
-> cultivating a mindfulness practice deepens it.
You benefit as much as you can at any one time from living mindfully and over time what you get from it and give to it increases. It is like any practice in that way, you go to the gym and build muscle and increase what you can lift and when you stop you lose some of that strength. Mindfulness works in a similar way and is why it is referred to as a practice.
Mindfulness ‘myths’ are NOT true:
-> you may not, and probably should not expect to, experience instant peace or a mind clear and free of thoughts.
Research and people sharing all kind of wonder stories about mindfulness clearly speak to how beneficial and life-changing it can be but it can also be confronting and difficult. When people start off they rarely reach a state of internal quiet and calm but they do increase their ability to slow down and become more still. That is the start and with practice peace, calm and an increased capacity to allow thoughts to come and go eventuate.
-> often we are told that the best mindfulness practice is meditation.
I question meditation being the panacea of mindfulness and the thing to aspire to.
I practice mindfulness every day (except those when I don’t) and I rarely meditate in a formal sense (though I do do that too).
Mindful living is about integrating it into how we live and changing our relationship to our world and lives; a deeper more connected way to live that is not reduced in impact or significance if it is not nurtured through intensive meditation practices. Formal meditation absolutely has a critical place within mindfulness but is not the be all and end all.
Tips for creating space for practice and reflection:
-> commit to trying the practices and reflections and schedule time for them.
What is it that appeals to you about living mindfully? When your commitment wanes reconnect to these hopes and intentions and determine how you can stay true to them. It’s easy to think ‘I am too busy’, ‘I am so tired’ or ‘this isn’t working’ but you can work with this. I imagine your hopes matter more to you than repeating what you already do if its not working. If a month seems like too long, try for a week and re-evaluate. Perhaps you would be helped by getting up 15 minutes earlier a day.
When you know what the barrier is you can more easily find a solution, and that in itself is a practice.
-> setting your environment can be helpful for maintaining a mindfulness practice.
Create a space where you will sit with the ideas and practices. Somewhere comfortable where you can ponder, practice and grapple with what you experience, discover and how it applies to you.
-> invite someone else in your life to explore mindfulness with you.
Having someone to bounce ideas off or be an accountability partner along the way is a sure-fire way to deepen your exploration.
-> approach practices and yourself gently.
Mindfulness shouldn’t be a chore for you and there really is no one or ‘right’ way to do it. Remember this yourself and be gentle. If you miss a day, a week (or even more), or if something doesn’t fit for you or you feel overwhelmingly like you are missing something or ‘can’t do it’ then skip it and move on. You can always come back to it and one day/week missed does not mean you cannot continue or link back in with mindfulness at another point of time
-> do what works for you and drop what doesn’t.
Don’t keep trying something that doesn’t feel good for you or makes you feel worse. That is not living mindfully.
Just because the research and other people say how wonderful a particular practice is doens’t mean that you will or that you have to have that same experience.
We are all individuals with our own uniques preferences and histories which means that we respond differently to the various practices and enquiries. In time you will discover what works for you and what is helpful and these are things that you should pursue and nurture.
-> just 20 minutes at a time, even 10 minutes, will make a difference.
A note of caution:
-> don’t push too far too fast.
If you are new to mindfulness or even tried it and are deepening or returning to your practice go at a pace and depth that fits for you. If something feels uncomfortable or causes anxiety then stop and either discontinue or reflect and adjust.
You know yourself best and a core element of mindful living is listening to your needs and meeting them.
If you are wanting to know and explore mindfulness more join me for my free A-Z of Mindful Living email series. 26 emails focused on a key element of mindfulness with an explanation, a practice to try and a reflective question to deepen your enquiry. I also offer Opening to Mindfulness sessions that are tailored to you and about developing a plan for increasing your own awareness and practice.
… with heart.