Developing a Mindfulness Practice
I have been practicing meditation on and off for over half my life. And my routine has changed and developed over the years.
Recently I have realized that my mindfulness practice was starting to get a little stale – although I was teaching a lot of meditation, I wasn’t giving my own practice the time it needed. So, once again, it was time to review. I have kept a reflective journal for most of my life but for the last month I have been keeping a journal of my meditations and this has been a really valuable experience. It has reminded me of why I practice, where my struggles and my joy comes in my meditations, and has inspired me to continue.
So whether you are new to mindfulness or have been doing it for a while, it is useful to stop and reflect on your motivation:
- Find yourself a place where you won’t be disturbed. Find a comfortable seated position and lightly close your eyes.
- Notice a sense of being grounded – feel a sense of being supported by your chair or cushion. Notice your breath and your emotions.
- Ask yourself the following questions:
- What was I like when I first began to practice mindfulness?
- In what ways has my life changed?
- Which practices do I find most beneficial?
- How can I support myself to stay focused?
- Notice how it feels to reflect in this way.
- Open your eyes when you are ready.
When I am teaching mindfulness courses, often the same questions come up again and again. The limits of time and the challenge of having a busy mind are common themes. The phrase that comes to mind (which I am borrowing from Danielle) is patience and perseverance. We are learning a new skill (even if we have been practicing for years!) and we need to have a sense of gentle discipline with ourselves.
Developing a Meditation Practice: FAQ
- How long should I meditate for?
- With meditation practice, as with any practice, you tend to get out what you put in. Generally people notice positive effects more quickly if they are able to commit more time. However it is better to practice little and often rather than undertaking a marathon session once a fortnight. Ideally it is good to have a daily practice, even if this is just for ten minutes.
- Where should I meditate?
- It is important to find a space where you won’t be disturbed. This might mean negotiating with the people who you live with to find a time when they won’t disturb you by playing loud music or coming in and asking you for things! It is good to have a space that is dedicated to your meditation practice – some people find it helpful to light a candle or some incense or to sit near something they find beautiful such as a vase of flowers or a relaxing picture.
- It is too noisy in my house. I can’t meditate!
- It is virtually impossible to meditate in complete silence. Maybe you can hear traffic outside or noise from neighbours. Instead of seeing this as a distraction, why not observe the sounds with curiosity and allow the sounds to be part of your practice?
- When should I meditate?
- This varies from person to person. Some people are morning people and some people aren’t! Some people have regular routines and some people don’t. Maybe explore meditating at different times of day and see what happens.
- I get easily distracted. Am I doing it wrong?
- Becoming distracted is normal. Everybody has thoughts that come up during meditation. Meditation is not about emptying the mind but is about how we work with distractions. If we have particularly busy or stressful lives it is understandable that it may take time for the mind to settle. Some people find that it is helpful to reduce input before meditation – so maybe not sitting to meditate immediately after answering your emails or watching TV might be helpful.
- I don’t have time to meditate. Isn’t this another chore?
- Sometimes meditation can feel like a chore. We do have busy lives! It is important to notice what you are doing rather than beating yourself up for what you are not! Maybe allow yourself to do shorter practices for a while, or focus on the informal practices within your regular activities. Be interested in and curious about your own resistance. Reflect on why you are practicing meditation, is it because you want to or because you feel the need to. You are much more more likely to practice if you want to!
- I don’t feel relaxed. This isn’t working!
- Mindfulness is not a relaxation practice! It can be relaxing but this is not always the case. Sometimes we become aware of just how stressed we actually are – but this gives an opportunity to choose to respond. See if you can resist the temptation to try for a particular outcome and just be curious about what is happening moment-by-moment. If you are bored, be interested in the boredom!
Rachel Jones-Wild, Managing Director, Mindful Therapies