Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment which one can develop through the practice of mediation. Inspired by Buddhist practices, today Mindfulness is available as a wholly secular practice that emphasizes stress reduction, the cultivation of focus, and the development of tranquility.
The goal of becoming more mindful isn’t to stop thinking or to empty the mind. It means becoming more aware of where you are and what you’re doing, without becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.
More recently, mindfulness is taking hold in the business world, and everywhere from Wall Street to Silicon Valley is adopting its practices for work productivity. But how can we stay Mindful? Here are three concepts to get you started.
- Practice the first thing. Practicing mindfulness as soon as you wake up will help set the tone of your nervous system for the rest of the day increasing more ‘mindful moments’ as the day progresses.
- Keep it short. The human brain responds better to bursts of mindfulness so being mindful several times a day is more helpful than a lengthy session or even a weekend retreat. While 20 minutes seems to be optimal, starting at a few minutes a day is good too.
- While you’re waiting. In our fast-paced lives, waiting can often be very frustrating. Everything from queues to traffic jams can ignite our nervous systems and while it might seem like a nightmare, waiting is actually an opportunity for mindfulness. While you’re waiting bring your attention to your breathing. Focus on ‘the flow of the breath in and out of your body, from moment to moment, and allow everything else to just be, even if what’s there is impatience or irritation.
How to practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a natural quality we all possess and if we take the time to appreciate it, it becomes readily available. Through the practice of mindfulness, we practice the art of creating space for ourselves – space to think, space to breathe, space to react.
However, while it may sound simple, mindfulness is not always easy. The real work comes in the form of making time for it every day. Here’s a short practice to get you started:
- Take a seat. Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
- Set a time limit. If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose shorter periods of time, such as 5 or 10 minutes.
- Notice your body. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, in lotus posture, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position you can stay in for a while.
- Feel your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes out and as it goes in.
- Notice when your mind has wandered. Inevitably, your attention will leave the sensations of the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing this—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
- Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the
That’s the basic practice. You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as often as possible for the best results.