What is mindfulness? Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leader in Mindfulness Based Stress Therapy, states that, “simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness.” You can do it right now. As you’re reading this sentence, pay attention to how your eyes are darting across the page, how your body feels as you’re sitting, how your breath is coming in and out of your lungs. You’re present for this very moment. This is mindfulness. You can be mindful at any moment during the day. You’re being handed 3 EKGs at once… you can recognize that at that exact moment your heart rate is increasing and you’re getting a pit in your stomach. It’s non-judgmental. You are just noticing what is happening. You’re becoming an active participant in your own body.
What exactly is meditation, and should you do it? Meditation is taking a personal “time out” to get rid of the constant brain chatter. It can be for as long as you can manage at any given moment. It is a small break in your routine to quiet your mind. For some, spirituality and prayer accomplishes similar goals. For a beginner (like me) here is a basic way to start. You get yourself in a comfortable position preferably away from distractions of kids, dogs, or the TV, set your alarm for the time you feel you can spare at that moment, and just focus on your breathing. If your mind starts to wander, just gently, and non-judgmentally, bring your focus back to your breath. When the time is over, go about your day. Don’t expect some miraculous new feeling to instantly pop up. Don’t feel like you’re “doing it wrong.” Don’t worry that you’re not doing it for long enough, or frequently enough. Eventually after doing it for a while (days? weeks? months?) things start to shift. You might be able to have a new perspective on an old problem. You’re open to new ideas. Your sleep is better. Your relationships are more meaningful. It’s different for everyone. Even if you don’t feel that you want or need new ideas, how about a longer lifespan? More vitality? Slower aging?
Take a few minutes out of your day (maybe start right now) to practice mindfulness and meditation. Focus on your breathing and clear your mind. Repeat daily.