Mindfulness Meditation and Being Present in Your Life
I found mindfulness meditation by accident.
In one of those odd kismets of fate, I was given a book by the title "Wherever You Go, There You Are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn. My friend gave it to me as a joke (he thought the title was funny).
He didn't know that I was dealing with extreme anxiety and struggling with everyday life at the time. This gift started me on a path of healing and self-care.
Getting through my days and acting "normal" was challenging. It was hard to get out of bed. I couldn't focus on anything, my stomach was in a knot, I was losing weight, and felt awful.
Now I know that I was dealing with hormonal changes caused by perimenopause. At the time, I had no idea what was going on.
As far as I was concerned, my life was good, what did I have to be anxious about? Which, of course, caused more anxiety.
"Wherever you go, there you are" is a book about mindfulness meditation. At age 42, it was my first introduction to meditation and being present in life.
So what does "being present" in your life mean?
As normal human beings, we want to avoid pain, including emotional pain. In our avoidance, we try to distract ourselves in many ways.
We lose ourselves in books, watching television, social media, shopping, eating, and traveling. We may try new jobs, relationships, and places to live, always chasing that nirvana that doesn't exist.
Because wherever you go, there you are! We cannot escape ourselves.
Being present means letting go of all of those distractions. Let yourself feel whatever emotions or memories you are trying to avoid.
It means allowing yourself to be okay with those emotions, even inviting them into your life.
And then remind yourself that in that very moment...no matter what happened in the past, no matter what may happen in the future...you are okay in that moment.
One way to escape the vicious circle of our mind is to face the pain head-on and allow it into our life.
This is where mindfulness meditation comes in.
There are hundreds of different ways to meditate. Some forms use a mantra that is repeated over and over. Some use bells or chimes to focus on, some use visualizations.
Mindfulness meditation brings awareness of what is happening at that very moment.
You can focus on your breathing, sounds, and smells around you, even whatever you may be thinking, without judgment.
How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
The basics of mindfulness meditation are simple, but the magic happens when you practice it regularly. Setting aside even 10 minutes a day will help make being present in your life a habit.
To get started:
- Sit comfortably on a cushion with your legs crossed or on a chair with your feet on the floor
- Let your arms rest lightly on your legs.
- Become aware of your surroundings
- Close your eyes and take 3 slow, deep breaths in and out
Next, breathe normally and feel your breathing. Notice how your chest rises and falls.
Feel the air going in and out through your nostrils or mouth. Can you smell anything?
What sounds do you hear? What do you feel with your hands?
As you concentrate on your breath, sounds, and smells, you will have distracting thoughts coming into your mind.
Notice the thoughts without judgment, and bring yourself back to your breathing.
When you first start, you may feel like you are spending your whole time chasing away unwanted thoughts.
It's okay. Don't beat yourself up, keep going, and keep bringing yourself back to your breath.
Notice the "monkey mind," and then return to your breathing.
The “monkey mind” is that voice in your head that chatters about all those things you did wrong in the past, and worries about the “what ifs” of the future.
The thoughts that lead you away from the present.
“I’ve had many worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
- Mark Twain
You can use mindfulness meditation techniques anytime to stop that monkey mind from taking over.
When you fall into the trap of worry, bring yourself into the present.
Focus on your breathing, a sound you hear, or a physical feeling in your body.
You don't need to be sitting in your living room to do this. You can be standing in the line at the grocery store, sitting at your desk at work, or walking down the street.
Just pick something to concentrate on. You cannot be in the past or the future if you are concentrating on something that is in the present.
I wish I could tell you that learning about mindfulness meditation solved my anxiety issues back in my 40s. Unfortunately, I couldn't integrate it into my life quickly enough.
Although meditation didn't work at that time, it is now a regular practice for me. I don't only use mindfulness meditation. I also like using visualizations, usually guided, via an app.
If I have trouble getting to sleep, I use a body scan meditation (starting at the feet, concentrating on relaxing each part of the body).
Again, I prefer guided meditation because I'm always asleep before I get to the upper body.
There are a lot of meditation apps available (watch for an upcoming post where I will go deeper into which apps are best).
If you are ready to jump in today, one of the most popular apps, especially for beginners, is Headspace.com.
This app offers guided training sessions based on your experience level to help you build your meditation practice. The training sessions are free, and a paid version offers more variety in guided meditations.
If you enjoyed this article, have any questions, or would like to share your experiences with meditation, I hope you will comment below. I love hearing from my readers!
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