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I’m a person who has always spent a lot of time in my head, so I’d describe myself as cerebral, logical, and rational. When I want to know about something, I like to dive in and research everything I can. Reading books, researching online, and listening to podcasts – that’s my jam. But mindfulness is really more like cooking or exercising. If you want to bake muffins or take up karate, it’s less about buying cookbooks or watching Karate Kid, and more about the DOING.
Similarly, mindfulness is about the practice itself. And like baking and karate, you’re likely going to struggle, and that’s the whole point.
In my conversations with people, everyone who starts meditating or wants to start meditating always says the same thing: ‘I can’t do this. My mind won’t shut up.’
Awareness of your chattering mind and how maddening it can be is quite literally the whole purpose of the practice. Sit with yourself, notice your thoughts, and bring yourself back again and again and again to your breath.
Mindfulness helps to strengthen your mental muscle so that you can bring more awareness and presence to your daily reality as it unfolds moment by moment.
Many people are hyper-focused on external, visible results. With a recipe, you bake the muffins and you have a visible and tasty output.
With mindfulness, you are sitting with yourself, and there is no visible output. You are focussing on the breath or the thoughts or the sensations of the body. The results are internal, not external. That’s why ‘no judgment’ and ‘no expectations’ are foundational to the practice. You are being, not doing.
Nevertheless, the benefits of consistent mindfulness practice are well-established and well-researched: Better stress resilience, improved pain tolerance, improved sleep, and greater calm and equanimity when faced with adversity are some of the many outcomes. Who doesn’t want that?
For anyone looking to start or further develop their practice, here are a few steps to get started:
- Download a free app like Insight Timer. I personally use Insight Timer which is why I recommend it, but there are others like Headspace, Calm, and 10% Happier.
- Schedule 5 min in your calendar every day to start. Scheduling it means you are taking it seriously like a meeting with your boss or a doctor’s appointment. Gradually increase your time by 5 minutes every week until you get to 15 or 20 minutes daily. Once you find a sweet spot that works for you, do your best to maintain the practice daily.
- Start with guided practices. With Insight Timer, there are lots of options to filter by topic (anxiety, body scan, gratitude) and by time (1 min, 5 min, 10 min, etc).
- Commit to doing the practice daily for a month or two. If you have a journaling practice, note what benefits come up for you.
- Attend a retreat. There are so many great retreat options available all over the world to accommodate any interest or experience level. Retreats are great done solo or with friends. Start with a destination and explore options like yoga, meditation, adventure, writing, surfing, hiking, food, and wine ….the combinations are endless.
I’ve been practicing daily (more or less) since 2016. Whenever I fall off the wagon, my life always seems to fall off-kilter, and the first thing I always go back to is my mindfulness practice.
Every. Single. Time.
Mindfulness is a personal practice that is experiential and beneficial by nature. The more consistent the practice, the more benefits you’ll reap. Like everything, starting is the first step.