Mindfulness is nothing more mysterious than developing our ability to pay attention to our immediate experience.

This sounds like it must be the most natural thing in the world! However, we are constantly pre-occupied with thoughts and feelings about the past or the future or with fantasies about what should have been or could be. While sometimes these thoughts may be innocent and harmless, more often they contribute to stress, fear and to more suffering.

Practicing mindfulness meditation is training our minds in an awareness of the present moment that does not judge, resist, or cling to anything. By simply being aware, we are able to free ourselves from our habitual reactions and begin to have a friendlier relationship with our experience, ourselves and others. Much of our suffering is a result of regrets about the past, worries about the future or judgments about the present. When we are mindful, we become aware of and explore these habitual thought patterns and ways of reacting. This attitude of curiosity allows us to create new and healthier ways of responding to life’s challenges.

Why and how to meditate.

A healthy mind is one that is like a non-stick (Teflon) pan. When you cook with a Teflon pan, your food doesn’t stick. You use the same technique with thoughts – let them pass through your mind but don’t dwell on them.

It’s impossible to stop thoughts from coming but focusing on one thing such as a particular sound or the breath going in and out calms the mind, giving greater clarity. Slowing and calming the thoughts is about not being a slave to your thoughts.

You start by paying attention to the sensations of your breath going in and out. If you notice your mind wandering you simply bring it back to focusing on your breath. This is the basic mindfulness exercise. The “push-up” for mental training.

Once you have achieved some skill in this you can begin to cultivate qualities such as kindness, compassion or the ability to experience painful emotions without running away.

We use the words “practicing mindfulness” because you are learning the skill of mindfulness. It is the same as learning to play a musical instrument, in that it takes practice to develop the skill. So, practicing mindfulness for 20 minutes has a far greater impact over time than a few seconds. 

You can then use meditation to gain some space or distance from negative thoughts, emotions and body sensations. You can observe your mental and emotional experience like watching a leave float down stream. You gradually learn that you can be aware of anger without being the anger. By being aware of your emotions you are no longer adding fuel to their fire and they will gradually burn down.

You will see benefits in reduced stress levels and an increase in general well being with regular practice.

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”
― Pema Chödrön