Learning how to practise mindfulness is valuable because the practise of mindfulness is a powerful life skill that will reduce your stress and increase your ability to think effectively.
Specifically, it is a practise that enables you:
Mindfulness is a natural state. We all have the capacity to be mindful.
The purpose of learning how to practise mindfulness is to develop the skill to do it "on demand" - or to put it technically developing an unconscious competence.
Learning how to practise mindfulness is basically learning a series of
structured mental disciplines and habits that takes your natural and innate ability to be mindful and trains your mind to bring this under your conscious control .
Before you read any more on this page, I recommend that you quickly read through these short pieces of about 500 words each as they will provide context and background to the material on this page and the related pages on the theme of "How To Change Your Life".
One of the best ways to get started with mindfulness is not to follow the steps in the illustration above but to take advantage of the many daily opportunities for practising mindfulness in the simple everyday tasks and activities that we normally do on "auto-pilot".
We have already established that mindfulness is a natural state so let's put it into practise with a routine task such as washing the dishes, or putting the trash out and follow these simple steps.
Don't get me wrong, of course it's a good idea to take time each day to sit comfortably and focus on your breath and observe your thoughts and emotions as they arise.
But, this is a very secondary activity to actually just doing it!
The sitting on a cushion or joining a practise works better for you as a support and reinforcement rather than as an end itself.
One of the disadvantages of joining a mindfulness meditation group or establishing a daily practice of sitting on a cushion focusing on your breath is that your inner narrative that accompanies these activities becomes:
"...look at me doing mindfulness and being mindful..."
and then there is the social side of joining a group and with it comes a social identity:
"...I am a mindfulness meditator I belong to X practise group..."
What tends to happen is that the practise of mindfulness becomes compartmentalised to the day and time that you go and join with the group or go sit on our cushion.
You become like those people who
put on their best clothes on Sunday and go to church, but for the rest
of the week, their religion makes zero difference to how they live their
You become like those people who put on their best clothes on Sunday and go to church, but for the rest of the week, their religion makes zero difference to how they live their life.
Despite its origins in the Buddhist meditation practises of Zazen and Vipasana the practise of mindfulness does not require you to affiliate with any faith tradition or belief system.
Mindfulness practise is actually a very simple and straightforward thing to do.
And here's the rub:
It is because the practise of mindfulness is such a simple, straightforward and natural thing to do, you make it so complicated.
Because your ego resists:
There is a story in the Bible of a powerful and successful Syrian military commander called Naaman who contracted leprosy, and seeking a cure, approached the Jewish prophet Elisha who was a renowned healer.
Naaman was expecting to be greeted by Elisha and given instructions to perform a complex ritual, but that didn't happen. Naaman was very disgruntled when Elisha didn't even come out of his house to greet him and just sent him a message.
The message was that Naaman would be cured if he simply went down to the adjacent river Jordan and immersed himself in it seven times.
Naaman's pride was offended, and in disgust he got back in his chariot and was about to head for home when one of his staff challenged him.
The point was made that had he been asked to, surely Naaman would have fulfilled any herculean task if that was what it was going to take to get him cured of leprosy, so why not just do this simple thing and immerse himself in the Jordan seven times?
But Naaman was still indignant, his pride was very hurt, and he said that was no way he was going down into the muddy, dirty water of the river Jordan when there were far cleaner, fresher rivers at home...
His staff member must have been particularly loyal to Naaman and concerned for his welfare for he challenged Nathan again along the lines of why couldn't he just humble himself and just do this one simple thing if that was all it was going to take to cure his leprosy and save his life.
The story concludes with Naaman finally conceding and going down to the dirt, muddy river and immersing himself in it seven times - whereupon the miracle happened and he was cured of his leprosy.
This story of the leper and the dirty river is a
powerful metaphor for how to practise mindfulness - be humble and just
do this simple thing - the best and most effective mindfulness
meditation training is to just train yourself to be aware.
There are a wide range of ways of practising mindfulness and I will share some of these mindfulness exercises with you, but the key thing I want you to take on board is to just do it - and keep doing it!
Your mind (and your ego) will resist and you will want to become more informed about it and will want to read yet another book on mindfulness.
And yet, this is precisely the time for you to apply the simple mindfulness meditation training of persistent and consistent practise.
The human mind loves to make this simple thing so complicated - yet mindfulness is called a PRACTISE for a good reason!
You mind will get bored and want to be entertained, distracted and engaged. That's what minds do, and that's why they are sometimes referred to as "monkey minds".
If you want to learn how to practise mindfulness - if you are seeking mindfulness meditation training - just be aware - be present - focus your attention, focus your mind, 100% on whatever it is that you are doing right NOW - in this present moment.
If you want some further pointers, you can download:
There are hardware & software reasons why we think the way we do, and these highlight the need for a balanced brain. When we engage with meditation practises, we are re-shaping or re-programming the physical neurological
connections between the left and right lobes of our brains via the
corpus-callosum to achieve the lived experience of a physiologically
better balanced brain!
Being stuck in seeking is the single biggest stumbling block to present moment awareness.It is often the most sincere, the most devout, the most dedicated who are the most stuck in seeking
– in many cases almost as a badge of honour – seeking truth, seeking God, seeking
enlightenment, seeking nirvana, seeking deeper understanding and growth. There is nothing of truth that we can find anywhere but now right here in this present moment.
Mindfulness is a natural state that occurs spontaneously, when we are unaffected by our thoughts and where we are totally present. The practise of mindfulness is simply a series of structured mental disciplines and habits that take those natural and spontaneous occurrences of present moment awareness and brings them under conscious control and in so doing it makes that freedom more possible, more frequent and eventually available whenever we need it.
Although it is human nature to venerate and glorify our
great spiritual teachers and put them on a pedestal, we overlook the
fact that the only basic difference between zen-masters and the rest of
us is that they have practised for considerably longer than we have! The operative word here is "practised"!
There are many daily opportunities for practising mindfulness in the
simple everyday tasks and activities that we normally do on
"auto-pilot". These are excellent further opportunities to learn how to practise mindfulness. Here's what to do...
most important exercises are what I call "integration practise",
applying mindfulness into specific situations and states of mind occurring in
daily life. This is where the mindfulness rubber hits the road of real-life...
Mindful listening is active listening. Mindful listening is when you are hearing beyond the spoken words to their essence, and you are not mentally processing and working out what you are going to say next. The dynamics of active listening differ from "normal" listening in several important respects…
Guided Mindfulness Meditation is designed to help you deepen your practise. It is focused on drawing your attention into a mindful practise or to reflections on various insights and teachings.
My experience of mindfulness in a situation of imposed change is illustrated by the story about a king who sought wisdom and summoned the wise man to
counsel him...The wise man said to the king:
"Regardless of whether you are experiencing good fortune or adversity
remind yourself that this too will pass…." I also learned 3 other ways of applying mindfulness to cope with imposed change.
Zen Enlightenment – is being free of the effects of the mind. Being stuck in seeking it is the single biggest stumbling block to experiencing it now. There is nothing of truth that we can find anywhere but NOW right here in this present moment.
A zen based process that allows for a shift of perspective on demand and creates the opportunity for a facilitated view of the transcendent. In summary:
Return from "How To Practise Mindfulness" to Home Page