Mindfulness Basics: Meditation for the Real World

Photo courtesy of Wonderlane

In order to start really enjoying my life to the fullest, I had to learn how to live more mindfully.  If you’re wondering what that means, you’re not alone.  I have been asked many times precisely what mindful living entails, and most people also want to know if there is a difference between mindfulness meditation and traditional meditation.

The concept of mindfulness is the act of paying attention to the things that are happening around us, to us, and within us in order to deliberately notice our responses - with the ultimate goal of increasing our enjoyment of life. A very important part of living mindfully happens to be dedicating time each day to meditate, but probably not the type of meditation you’re thinking of.

Mindfulness meditation means simply becoming more aware of things and accepting what is happening, moment by moment. Through meditating mindfully, we learn how to be more present in our lives without judging or trying to change anything.

In contrast to other forms of meditation, the goal of meditating mindfully isn’t relaxation; therefore, it can be performed anytime, anywhere. Since the goal of living a mindful life is to participate more instead of being mentally absent, regular mindful meditation sets us up for success when it comes to: enjoying all that life brings our way, making changes when necessary, and being more compassionate toward others.

To begin with, meditating with a mindful purpose is usually performed with the eyes open. The exceptions to this would be if you want to simply focus on your breathing, or do a lying full body scan to practice being more aware of each body part.

Truthfully, you can meditate mindfully by focusing your attention on just about anything.  Since mindful meditation is a process aimed at developing better awareness in general, the practice can be carried out during any number of activities, like: eating, running, swimming, walking, making love, getting a tattoo, working, doing yoga, and recovering from an illness. In fact, some women even mindfully meditate through the process of childbirth.

Regardless of the activity at hand, in order to mindfully navigate or “meditate” your way through it, you must anchor your mind to four levels of the experience:

  • Physical sensation of being in your body - Simply become aware of all of your body parts and how they move during the activity.
  • Feelings brought on by the activity – How does your body feel? Does it hurt or feel good? Are you hot or too cold?
  • Your mental state – What emotions are you experiencing?
  • Consciousness mapping - Is your mental state positive or negative?

When you first begin mindful meditation, the most important thing is to focus on your reactions to your own body and mind as much as possible.  Develop a strong connection with your own body and mind before you begin responding to your outside environment. After that, try to keep a good balance of your awareness of your inner and outer worlds as much as possible.

Mindful living can give you the intense experience of being deeply aware of your environment and your life’s adventures. The more in touch you are with your inner self, the more free you will be to enjoy and react to everything external.  Mindful meditation will help you create a quietude within your body, mind, and soul, affording you the ability to notice and focus energy on the beauty and joy of everything that surrounds you.

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