This article is an introduction to mindfulness meditation. It covers the most important first step of how to sit in a comfortable way. It concludes with a short guided meditation on observing and relaxing the body.
What it means to practice mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness is a state of mind where we are open, attentive and actively engaged in the present moment.
The traditional way of practicing mindfulness meditation is to sit quietly, calm the body and then focus attention on a physical sensation. This could be the feeling of breath as it enters and leaves the nose, or the rising and falling of our abdomen.
When one is engaged in practicing this form of meditation, thoughts and emotions will invariably arise. When they do, they are not judged as being good or bad, right or wrong. Instead they are observed without judgment and allowed to leave our mind.
With practice, the ability to identify and let go of inappropriate habitual responses improves, and their hold on us diminishes. We then have the opportunity to explore other, more appropriate responses. In this way, over time, new habits are formed.
The first part of the practice is to get comfortable. Sit in a chair with your back straight and both feet resting on the ground. Possibly put a cushion behind you lower back for extra support. Relax your shoulders and place your hands in your lap, one on top of the other with your palms facing up. Gently close your eyes.
Alternatively, if your legs are flexible, you could sit on a firm cushion on the floor with your legs crossed. Adjust the height of the cushion until you can sit comfortably. Straighten your back. It’s a good idea to place a soft mat under your feet to cushion your ankles.
Mindful of the body
The audio below is a 5 minute guided meditation by Dr Richard Chambers on relaxing our body. This is often done at the beginning of each mindfulness meditation. This is because having a calm and relaxed body helps in observing thoughts. We are in a sense bringing our mind and body together in this meditation.