“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Consistent practice is the key to habit formation.
Routine, ritual, rythm - all help us develop a practice that feels normal and natural.
Mindfulness helps us develop the habit of living in the present moment, aware and awake in the world.
My key piece of advice for anyone who wants to develop a meditation practice is this - keep it simple, and start small.
Taking time to sit down and pay attention to the present moment each day becomes easier as it becomes habitual. During practice, returning the focus to the breath again and again likewise becomes easier with repeated practice.
You can take a few mindful moments each day, every day either at home, while commuting or as a pause in the midst of life during the day.
How long should you sit for?
This really is a personal preference, but I recommend starting with 6 minutes and increasing every 4-6 weeks if that feels comfortable. I have a 6 minute guided meditation here if you are looking for somewhere to start.
Importantly, on days that you struggle to find time, simply sit for a shorter period! It is better to sit for 2 or 3 minutes just before bed, or on the train, than to leave it until you can fit in 6, 8 or 10 minutes the next day.
Consistency over length of the session, every time.
A Super Simple Practice
In October 2015, I participated in the Mindfulness Summit run by Melli of Mrs Mindfulness. It was a great experience and I learnt a lot.
Professor Mark Williams offered the following three minute/three breath practice that you can try any time of the day.
Take a minute or so running through the stages below. This could form the basis of your simple daily practice. It is also simple enough to try on the train or bus, in the park on your lunch break, or even at your work desk when you need a quiet moment.
- How does the body feel right now?
- What is going on in the mind?
- Can you tune into your attitude to this present moment? How are you relating to your experience right now?
- Notice the breath in the body, notice the inhale and the exhale
- You can place your attention on one specific area of the body - nostrils, chest, abdomen
- Become aware of the entire field of bodily sensations
- Alternatively, rest with the sensations of the whole body breathing
- Aware of the body sitting, watching the breath
- Aware of sensations, thoughts, emotions, images in the mind as they rise and fall
- As the timer rings, thank yourself for taking this time to practice
- Take a deep breath in and out, before proceeding with your day
How habits form
Each time we practice mindful awareness of the present moment, we use particular neural pathways to facilitate this experience. The more frequently we intentionally shift our attention in this way, the stronger these connections become.
As they say, neurons that fire together, wire together. Repetition is key.
This rewiring of the brain, and training of the mind doesn’t require complicated tasks or a huge amount of effort. We can change our brains and learn to live with more awake awareness through simple, small moments of mindfulness taken everyday.
Keep it simple, start small, and keep going.