There’s so much talk about mindfulness and meditation these days that you may be wondering, is it time I give it another try? Assuming of course that you have tried some form of meditation practice in the past and it didn’t stick, which is extremely common.
What is mindfulness? What is meditation? What are they really good for, and what do you need to know so you’ll want to meditate? This article will answer these questions and help you consider embracing mindfulness as a practical set of skills we all need and benefit from greatly.
Mindfulness is intentionally focusing our attention on the present, while releasing any judgments, being open, curious, and non-striving. It’s a focused way of connecting to our sense of awareness and attention in the present moment while fostering certain qualities or ways of being like kindness and curiosity and compassion.
Meditation has many forms and styles and is a practice that involves training one’s awareness and powers of attention, so we can ultimately be more mindful, more of the time. It especially helps us recognize when we’re not aware and mindful and a sort of inner muscle develops that helps us wake ourselves up so we can choose to be more mindful instead of living on auto-pilot.
The more mindful we can be, the less we will suffer needlessly because, with awareness, we can choose how we wish to interpret and make meaning of the situations and events in our lives. The corollary of this is that we can enjoy greater meaning and fulfilment in our lives, moment to moment.
As a life coach and resilience trainer, most people I talk to say they’ve tried meditating and usually follow that up saying:
- it doesn’t work for me
- I just can’t do it
- it drives me crazy
- it’s so boring
- I get too anxious
- it stresses me out
- I must not be doing it right because it doesn’t relax me
The thing is, they were just starting out and though those experiences may be true, it doesn’t mean it’s not working or that they’re not getting any benefits. Perhaps they’ve missed the point. They were seeking some instant fix and obviously had some faulty assumptions and expectations.
The real point is that we don’t have to suffer needlessly. Suffer what? Some form of emotional and mental anguish is caused by the patterned ways we think – such as rumination or any form of self-deprecation and self-judgement for instance.
Very often, our own thinking patterns developed to protect us from being hurt out there in the world by others by learning to judge, criticize and devalue ourselves either so we fix ourselves up or so we don’t even try, we just hideaway inside. These patterns cause a lot of intense and devastating suffering – which is, needless.
There are pains in life for sure and there is suffering we can’t necessarily control – like the way we feel when we’ve lost a loved one. Let’s not bypass those pains but endure them, find meaning in them, and ultimately, they will pass. But suffering because we’re not aware that we’re causing our own suffering is something we can learn to outgrow.
Every single day, moment to moment we have the opportunity to shape our state of being – which involves choosing how we wish to think about something and how we choose to make meaning of things, which affects how we feel and how we’ll behave. We miss most of those changes. We miss them because we haven’t trained ourselves to be aware and seize those moments. The way we can seize more of those moments is by developing mindfulness, which we can develop through meditation (and almost any other activity such as washing the dishes or even walking).
In essence, we can learn to wake ourselves up and choose how we wish to experience life, among many other meaningful choices and intentions.
Knowing this can help us accept and be willing to ‘sit’ for meditation and develop our powers of awareness and attention.
As a life and resilience coach, I help make mindfulness more practical and accessible for my clients. When working with a person, I help them recognize the value of presence and awareness so they can seize more meaningful moments in their lives. So they can choose how they wish to respond to life instead of being driven by automatic and negative thinking and reactive behaviours.
Though there are several fantastic apps or programs that instruct one in meditation, there is nothing like working with another person who’s present, centred, compassionate and skilled in mindfulness and meditation.
Regardless of how you learn to meditate and develop your mindfulness, I hope you are now willing to give it a second or third try. Don’t expect perfection or a completely calm and peaceful experience at first. Simply notice and accept whatever is in you and whatever the present moment contains. The peace and calm will eventually find you, and you’ll be aware enough to appreciate it.