Experience Your Mind by Beginning a Mindfulness Meditation Practice
Apr 17, 2020 02:23PM
By Samantha Dorian
Beginning a mindfulness practice entails inviting our self to be curious about inner patterns: thought patterns, patterns of desire and behavior patterns. It’s a practice that invites us to learn our own minds, to notice our inner experiences—as they arise in the moment—without trying to fix or change them and without judgment. Mindfulness trains us to allow our inner environment to just be.
Essentially, a mindfulness meditation practice can be done anywhere while doing just about anything. It is a practice of becoming acquainted with the mind/body connection and allowing for the space to be fully alive to experience living in the first person present.
For example, while working on our laptop, we can focus on tapping keys rhythmically, and become conscious of many things within our field of awareness. We can feel the couch beneath us as our body presses the cushions down and feel the texture of the clothing we are wearing. We might feel a breeze coming through the window. Then we notice a stretching in our hips, so we put a small cushion beneath our knee. With an in-breath, we settle and take notice of thoughts arising. Perhaps thoughts about aging, about passing time, a desire for our body to be other than it is. We observe these—there is nothing to do with them; they are just thoughts. We watch them pass like clouds.
How to Begin a Mindfulness Practice
Begin with the heart and always within a comfort zone. If you can’t yet sit—walk; if you are in a wheelchair—roll. Just pay attention while doing it. Be kind and gentle to yourself; know that you are worth it.
Pema Chödrön writes in the very first paragraph of Start Where You Are, “We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye from begin fully awake.”
As our mindfulness practice grows our field of awareness widens and we might, for example, hear birdsong coming through our window when only moments ago we didn’t. Thoughts swirl too, almost hijacking the experience; thoughts about birds, about sounds. We can allow these thoughts to pass, gently inviting the mind back to the immediate experience of knowing what’s here—the birdsong, the breeze, the rustle of leaves. With another deep breath, for this moment, we can be right here, without distraction, just being.
Sharon Salzberg, meditation teacher and author of 10 books on the subject, teaches that mindfulness is mostly about learning to love ourselves and the world around us. The practice begins in our hearts, with curiosity and compassion. She says, “Mindfulness isn’t just about knowing that you’re hearing something, seeing something, or even observing that you’re having a particular feeling. It’s about doing so in a certain way—with balance and equanimity and without judgment. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention in a way that creates space for insight.” The experience of the practice is the practice; there is no goal or final achievement—only insight into yourself.
Samantha Dorian is a sculptor. She teaches mindfulness to veterans suffering from PTSD, holds an MDiv from Harvard University, is a member of the International Mindfulness Teachers Association and has been practicing for nearly 30 years.