Starting a Mindfulness Meditation Practice

Mindfulness meditation builds your capacity to be mindful in daily life. As you practice mindfulness meditation, you develop the habit of being present in all moments of your life. Mindfulness meditation practice also creates a safe place for you to get to know your mind.

Start by finding a comfortable place to sit in a chair or on a cushion. Set a kitchen timer or alarm clock to go off in twenty minutes. Over time, you may want to increase the length of your meditation.

Feel your body sitting on the chair or the cushion and remember that your intention is to stay present in your body and mind.

Next notice any places where there is tension in your body. Then relax the muscles in your shoulders and face, and take a few deep breaths.

Now turn your full attention to your breath. It will be your anchor for staying mindful from moment to moment.
You may feel the breath in your abdomen, chest, or nostrils or as a wavelike motion passing through your whole body. Of these sensations, choose the one that is easiest for you to notice, and continue to focus your attention on it.

You will quickly discover that your mind wants to wander to other bodily sensations and to many different kinds of thoughts. Each time you discover that your mind has strayed, pause for a moment and just notice where it went. Then gently but firmly place your attention back on your breath. If it helps you to stay present, you can count your breaths, starting with the inhale as ten, the exhale as nine, and so on down to one. If you get lost while you’re counting, just start over. Do not judge yourself.

As you’re following your breath notice as many of its characteristics as you can. Is this particular breath long or short, fast or slow, heavy or light, shallow or deep? Don’t attempt to control your breath, and don’t get upset with yourself if you do!

If you discover that your mind is obsessing about planning your day, or recalling a difficult conversation, etc., then repeatedly say to yourself, “planning, planning” or “remembering, remembering.” Eventually your mind will be willing to come back to the breath. If a strong emotion comes up, don’t be alarmed. Be patient and kind to yourself as you feel the effect the emotion has on your body and your mind.

In a home meditation practice, you “take what you get,” so don’t expect it to be necessarily calming or restful. Most of the time the mind will not be very concentrated but know that you are learning to stay present in your experience, no matter what it is.