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Starting a meditation practice
There’s a lot of talk about meditation and mindfulness – the what, why and the how… but it actually is very, very simple and there is nothing you need to have, get or change in order to practice.
A meditation practice is a personal journey, so there is also no right or wrong. It’s about developing awareness within yourself – and you are unique, so your practice will be too.
…And it is ALL about the journey – there is no goal or endpoint, because that would simply give us something to ‘attach’ to, judge ourselves against and berate ourselves for! (Mindfulness is also about developing compassion for ourselves and others.)
There are no rituals required, no tools, no joss sticks, no books, no postures to master (although if these help you that’s ok!). It’s just you being with yourself and whatever is, now. You can practice anytime; a few minutes whilst standing and waiting for the kettle to boil, or mindfully brushing your teeth. It really is simple and you can start now. To be mindful is simply to be fully engaged and present with what is happening, right now. So if you are brushing your teeth: notice your bodily sensations, the weight of your feet on the floor, any body tensions, the sounds of brushing or others noises surrounding you, the taste, the smell… all of these sense perceptions can be noticed as they occur and then let go of.
Our brains can only compute one sense perception at a time, albeit at a very fast rate so in real time it does feel like we are seeing, hearing, touching… simultaneously. But we’re not. Try listening to your favourite music fully: relax, close you eyes and hear fully every instrument and layer of sound all at once. When we give all of our awareness and attention to one sense perception it can almost be overwhelming. Silence actually can be deafening. Simply focus all of your attention on whatever activity is at hand.
Mindfulness meditation develops self-awareness, insight and objectivity that can transform our daily lives. Practicing mindfulness is about learning to take control of our mind (an amazing tool!) and make it work for us. It’s good to locate the off switch for the voice in our heads! …Especially when this voice is in the mood to criticise!
So practicing is simple, in theory! The practice of being still and present with whatever is however can be challenging at times. There are many obstacles and distractions: boredom, focus, emotions, restlessness… It helps to remember that these are not ‘in the way’ but that they ‘are the way’; a part of our journey of discovery. It’s likely that obstacles we experience in meditation will reflect the obstacles we experience in life. Acceptance is key. We’ve possibly spent our whole lives slaving away to our minds. Switching it off – or stepping back, and just observing, can help us to learn a lot about ourselves.