It’s been a full two weeks since taking on the challenge of adding a mindfulness practice into my daily routine, and the benefits so far are subtle, but tangible. I’m definitely feeling motivated enough to pursue a more substantial practice as the weeks go on.
First of all a shout out to the Mindfulness App, which has turned out to be a helpful tool – one that I would recommend to any first-timer to help structure your attempt to add time for meditation and reflection into your busy schedule.
The app offers easy, portable access to both guided and silent meditations of various lengths. As a novice, guided meditations helped me get the hang of things by providing an audible narrative providing direction and a clear point of focus. The mind will always wander during meditation – even for seasoned practitioners, I’m told. However, I’m finding breaks in focus are less frequent when I have specific instructions to concentrate on.
Taking an incremental approach to the length of sessions has also helped me. I’ve worked my way up through about ten short sittings, first three, then five, then fifteen minutes in length. Like going to the gym, this helps gradually build mental skill and stamina.
At the start of each guided meditation, I’m directed to assume a comfortable position, in a state wakefulness and presence. That first instruction always reminds me that, while therapeutic, mindfulness is by no means about resting, tuning out or escaping. On the contrary, during the best moments of my practice, I enjoy a level of increased awareness that I rarely experience when I’m in ‘doing’ mode.
Most of us live on autopilot, disconnected from our bodies, our breath, and our thoughts. During meditation, I’m asked to quietly observe these processes, and it’s surprising how much there is to see. In fact, ten short sessions have shown me both how shallow my normal breathing is and how much unnecessary tension I carry in my body. I’ve learned that merely dropping the breath can help replenish the body, just as physical tension, brought on by churning thoughts, can deplete it.
Mindfulness is also teaching patience. The guided meditation always emphasizes a gentle acceptance whatever may arise. Rather than responding in frustration each time my mind wanders (and as a beginner, my concentration often falters). As my guide gently advises, “when the attention starts to wander towards thoughts, fantasies, plans, memories, worries – just notice where it is gone, then gently and deliberately bring the attention back to focus on the breath.” A truism, yes, but it is about the journey and not the destination. It’s about doing it every day, not about perfection.
On a final note, one more thing that’s been a great help – I’ve discovered my workplace has a quiet room, so it’s easy to find fifteen minutes during a lunch break to recharge and start the afternoon with a refreshed sense of attention. More on the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace in later posts, but here’s an article from HRM Canada on the corporate quiet room phenomenon.
In the coming weeks, moving up to thirty-minute sessions, in complete silence.