Updated: Sep 3, 2019
"Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans."
- John Lennon
Mindfulness meditation simply means becoming aware that you are aware.
For many of us the busyness of the world offers no end to distractions which can blind us from becoming present to the moment in everyday interactions, causing us to miss out on or misinterpret information coming from our body and environment. Mindfulness gives us a tool to focus our awareness in a holistic way, ensuring that our body, and by extension our environment is heard.
One of the most successful methods for cultivating mindfulness is to find a break from whatever we're doing and focus the mind on a single sound, object or sensation for a period of time, and practice this regularly in order to gradually increase the amount of time spent in non-prejudiced awareness of the present moment.
Quite the opposite of trying to silence all thoughts, noises or sensations, mindfulness does not mean that we withdraw from life, or spend no time contemplating the past or making plans for the future, but that we cultivate a practice of taking breaks from our workload, imagination and memory and occasionally experience the world right here and now, through our five(+) senses, as it is.
One of my favorite objects/sounds/sensations to observe during meditation is the breath. Breath is the meditation tool we carry everywhere we go, and offers us an opportunity for what I call micro-meditations.
Micro-meditations are when we take a break and focus our awareness intently for one complete cycle on the sensation, sounds and experience of just one breath in and out, that is all. We do not judge whatever sensations or sounds arise, nor any thoughts which enter our mind, but for one complete breath sit in open awareness and observation of what it feels like to be in the present moment.
Take a moment right now to try it. You may close your eyes if you'd like, but first and foremost begin by observing without judgement through your ears, all of the sounds in the environment which surrounds you, also take note of any sensations in your body wherever they arise, and while you continue to do so, take one, slow, complete breath all the way in, and then slowly and naturally let that breath all the way out, and truly feel what it's like for that one, long, moment, to be in your body.
...And maybe take another, if it feels right ;0)
Once we've mastered focusing our awareness on the sensations in our body for one complete breath, we realize we can expand upon these moments through the deepening and broadening of that one breath. Later, we can learn to string these moments together into two breaths, three breaths, four... offering an opportunity 960 breaths an hour, 23,000 breaths per day, 8,409,000 breaths per year to practice mindfulness meditation.
...and why might we we want to spend moments in mindfulness meditation?
Recent research into short term mindfulness meditation programs has shown small to moderate benefits in the management of anxiety, depression and stress, as well as migraine and chronic pain reduction.
We can discuss how mindfulness meditation offers a possible strategy for managing pain directly in a future post, or with a visit to my clinic, but in the mean time don't let that stop you from putting this simple exercise into practice right away, and reaping the mindfulness benefits that even just one breath can bring.