By better I mean being FREE from all the nagging DOUBTS & FEARS that most of us carry to the grave. I’m talking about having utmost confidence in your capabilities and decisions so that you’ll no longer worry what people think of you, no longer think the worst about situations and no longer create make-believe catastrophes in your mind (which would probably never happen anyway).
By more enjoyable I mean feeling HAPPIER, CALMER and IN-CONTROL in even the most stressful & difficult situations. You’ll be able to relax deeply at will so that the pressures of work, family and life in general no longer bother you. You’ll no longer be a slave to NEGATIVE EMOTIONS such as anxiety, worry & depression.
Oh, and don’t be surprised if you SLEEP BETTER as a result of this too. Most people who practice mindfulness meditation find they are able to relax very deeply and no longer have difficulty sleeping.
Yes, this remarkably simple mindfulness meditation technique can literally change your life for the better. And the best bit? It need only take 10 minutes.
You might well have already tried meditation and found it difficult or frustrating.
I know exactly how you feel.
I was initially drawn to it twenty-five years ago (as a stressed-out student and young parent) while searching for a cure for my insomnia. I also liked the promise of being able to concentrate and focus easily instead of having to fight with a constant stream of unhelpful thoughts.
I worked hard to make the technique work but I never felt like I was getting anywhere. Seasoned meditators talked of feeling ‘more connected’ and being in a ‘place of deep stillness and tranquillity’ but I always felt I was doing something wrong.
Needless to say, full of frustration, I gave up.
But a few years ago, when going through a particularly difficult patch, I found a really simple but extremely powerful mindfulness meditation method that really worked. There are no weird routines or ceremonies with this technique. There are no religious connotations and there is no need to adopt new beliefs of any kind. What’s more this same mindfulness meditation technique is used by millions of people around the world to help with all kinds of emotional pressures as well as physical pains and problems.
Simply put, mindfulness is being fully aware of the present moment.
You can try it right now if you like by taking a moment to turn your attention to everything that is happening for you as you read this article.
You can notice how your body feels; you can become aware of any sounds around you and perhaps notice any thoughts that start to come up.
If that left you feeling a little flat and thinking ‘what’s so special about that?’ I’m not surprised. I felt the same way the first time I tried this too – I wondered what all the fuss was about and was convinced I was doing something wrong.
Where were all the benefits everyone talks of? I didn’t feel particularly focused. I didn’t feel any happier. If anything, paying more attention to all the crap buzzing around in my head made me feel worse than ever.
There are two reasons why this first taste of mindfulness might not have been as life-changing as you hoped. The first is that changes are usually incremental. The more you do this, the more you notice the benefits. Believe me, the benefits DO come and it doesn’t take long. The second is that there’s an extra piece of the puzzle which I haven’t mentioned yet.
You see, with mindfulness, it’s not just about paying attention; it’s about paying attention in a very particular way.
Normally when we talk about paying attention we think of it in terms of ‘tuning in’ to the object of focus. We think in terms of needing to shut out and exclude whatever else is happening so as to concentrate 100% on the task in hand.
Mindfulness isn’t like that at all.
Although there is an element of concentration – we don’t just let our minds float around following whatever thought or sensation is most appealing – the focus we adopt is ‘looser’ and more generalised.
By that I mean that we don’t try and exclude anything.
We allow the thoughts, feelings, noises, sensations and other potential distractions to come and go.
In this way we release the need for control. Mindfulness meditation is not about control; it’s about letting go of the need to control.
We don’t need to clear our minds by trying to control or stop thoughts (good luck with that). We don’t need to have total silence by stopping or controlling background noise. And we don’t need to swat the fly that’s buzzing round the room. We don’t need to control any of these things. Instead we just notice that our attention has slipped towards these distractions and then gently tip it back to our mindfully aware state.
In fact, these distractions and others like them – noises, sensations, thoughts and feelings – are actually essential parts of mindfulness meditation. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to practice and apply the art of letting go.
And it is this continual process of noticing when our attention has drifted and then gently bringing it back without getting worked up or annoyed which leads to peace and happiness. Why? Because we are essentially learning to be ‘ok’ with whatever is going on right now. And that’s when the fun starts. Because once you learn that you don’t have to change or control your circumstances in order to be happy, you are no longer a slave to circumstance. Unpleasant things can happen and you can let them go. Worries can pop up and you can let them go. People can say things and you don’t need to react. You basically learn to disassociate from your reactive, emotional self. And that’s REAL freedom.
So let’s put it into practice.
This method is incredibly simple but don’t let that affect the way you approach the practice. If you are diligent and follow the instructions below while maintaining an attitude of openness and non-judgemental acceptance as we’ve discussed above, the results can be profound.
Are you ready? Here goes…
1. Sit comfortably in a relaxed but upright position. It’s good practice to take some time to get your posture right – not tense, but not slouched. In a relatively short time your back muscles will start tp wake up and the position will become very comfortable.
2. Pay attention to your breath. Some people describe this as ‘following’ the breath. It’s a broad, accepting quality of awareness as opposed to an intense, narrow focus. And you don’t want to control the breath in any way – just allow it to settle into its own natural rate and rhythm. Your job is just to pay attention to it.
3. When you notice your attention has wandered, gently come back to your breath. Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander. You’ll get caught up in thoughts, worries, plans and dreams as well as various sensations, noises and other distractions. When you get around to noticing this has happened just return your attention to the breath. This is a continual practice of ‘going away’ and ‘coming back’. Very, very simple. And deceptively powerful. The trick is to just keep doing it. Just keep doing that for ten minutes each day for the next week and see how you feel.
What? You want more? In honesty there really isn’t a lot more to it than that and lots of theory can actually get in your way – you’ll make far more progress by just doing this mindfulness meditation technique rather than reading about it.
However, if you prefer a little more substance served with your ‘how to’ instructions, I’ve put together a more complete set of instructions (together with an additional mindfulness exercise) in the following free guide…