Meditation is a word frequently tossed around for all sorts of actions, even those which would better fall under the label of “mindfulness,” rather than “meditation.” Mindfulness is any act taken into the deepen one's awareness, empathy, or to elevate one's consciousness. Meditation, on the other hand, is a specific act of mindfulness where an individual focuses on clearing the mind of needless thought in order to reach a state of stillness. Even guided “meditations” are technically visual forms of mindfulness, rather than “meditation.”
Although I'm not planning on holding anyone to these specific semantics, I do feel that it's important to focus at least one of these Monday Mindfulness blogs on this original type of meditation. This type of meditation isn't always the most accessible, since we live in a busy world where our thoughts run rampantly, filled with anxiety and worries, and most of us struggle to slow down. We also often want quick fixes and simple solutions, which stillness and presence meditation—like this Monday Mindfulness—is not. Yet, it is essential to know about, because someday we should all aim to practice this sort of meditation, even in small moments of our day to day lives. It is the foundation of inner peace and the basics of all mindfulness and healing.
So how does one seek the present moment and find stillness through meditation? It's surprisingly simple. Although it takes practice and dedication, meditation itself is not difficult to figure out. The frustration with it, which deters many people from this practice of mindfulness, comes from not accepting that thoughts will and should arise in the beginning of our practice with this sort of meditation. The goal is not to immediately erase thoughts, but to lessen their impact on our life and to distance ourselves and the thoughts that don't serve us, or those that are promoting incessant and meaningless chatter in our heads.
As we slowly release our dependency on our thoughts, we will more closely acquaint ourselves with the present moment and our overall quality of life will increase. There are many articles and studies on how people who think less and live more in the moment are happier, have more energy, and retain memories better!
- Begin by first finding a place of stillness, not meditatively yet, but a location you will not be disturbed in. Most likely the beginning of this practice will take no more than 10 minutes and may take as little as one. The time that you need to secure all to yourself is very slight.
- Start with some conscious breathing, paying attention to the inflow and outflow of air. A pranayama meditation may be beneficial at this moment, as the source of breathing meditation will naturally ground you into the moment themselves. Yet, if you're just beginning your meditation practice, it may not be very easy to focus on an in-depth version of conscious breathing. All you need to do here, is simply pay attention to your breath as it is and slow down even slightly.
- When you center yourself into a place where you feel comfortable beginning a deeper meditation, imagine yourself stepping back from your thoughts. You are not your thoughts, here you are a witness to your thoughts. Listen to what they're saying as a neutral observer, do not let yourself be swayed in any direction by what they are. It's possible that your mind will produce excuses of other things you “should” be spending your time doing, rather than meditating. Even with this, pay attention to the thought and simply allow to be there in your mind. Recognize that the thought is not you and is not a necessity to act upon in this moment.
- While paying attention to your thoughts, gently swipe them out of your mind. Some people, when beginning meditation practices, will use visualization to accomplish this. You may picture the thought being swept away by a broom, swiped away like on a tablet computer, erased from a chalkboard, or text that is highlighted and deleted. Any visualization works.
- Frequently, these thoughts will reappear in your mind. This is common and natural and there is no need to allow frustration to build up if this happens. It is normally here that we become frustrated with this practice overall and abandoned our pursuit of accomplishing it. This is why it is vital to recognize that we are accomplishing this pursuit simply by being in the meditation and trying. Every time we release a thought, whether it appears again or disappears permanently, we have succeeded with this meditation. We are learning to distance ourselves from our thoughts and becoming closer to a constant state of stillness.
- Your meditation may consist only of these first five steps, or you may wish to continue expanding your awareness. To do this begin to focus on both your breath and the sensation in one of your hands at the same time. Do your best to simply be with both feelings at the same time, rather than mentally comprehending both parts of your body. Your mind does not need to process this through thought. If you feel that you're thinking what you're feeling rather than just feeling, surrender these thoughts and swipe them away.
If this part becomes too frustrating, return to the earlier portions of the meditation and just practice releasing your thoughts once again. If you wish to continue expanding your awareness, focus on other parts of your body simultaneously to the parts that you have already paid attention to. Most likely, you'll begin to feel more and more still and content staying present with your body and the natural sensations of being.
- When you're satisfied with the time spent in this meditation, you can simply leave it. It doesn't require an in-depth closing, because this meditation itself is very grounding and stabilizing. A stillness meditation can be used to close out any more in-depth meditation as well. Just take some deep breaths, flutter your eyes open, and come back to the space you are in.
Keep in mind that this meditation takes a lot of practice to actually feel a steady sense of stillness. You're successful just for trying, even if there is no immediate effect. Over time the results will be momentous and impactful, as this meditation naturally improves focus, awareness, and mood.
If you deeply enjoy stillness meditations, or you want to try some similar and more accessible practices, here are a few other Monday Mindfulness blogs to check out. This one is for pranayama breathing, and this one is for moving that breath throughout your body. During this meditation, you can use stillness to release the pains of your past. Here is a selection of meditations that help to bring you into the present moment during everyday tasks. Give them all a try and see what works best for you!