With the blizzard of the century approaching, enjoy a great post on meditation by guest blogger Jennifer Wells.
Many people practice meditation for a variety of reasons, and there are several different methods and forms. However, since we talked previously about the importance of mindful living, it might be helpful to discuss how we can strengthen our ability to live in the moment, and nurture the seeds of gratitude, joy, and inner peace.
While it may be possible to practice mindfulness without a formal concentration practice, training our minds to focus on the here and now becomes significantly easier if we can find the time to devote to meditation. Sitting quietly for 30, 20, even 10 minutes a day to practice focusing our attention will greatly benefit us in our goal of living mindfully.
While more detailed explanations and information about meditation can be found all over the place these days, very simply put, mindfulness meditation is about making the mind calm and stable, keeping it focused and steady. We observe our thoughts, emotions, and sometimes bodily sensations arising and then disappearing. We practice not attaching to them, just observing, and not judging or even pushing them away. Sometimes it’s helpful to think of ourselves as an investigator, a scientist of our own mind, objectively watching all the thoughts, feelings and chaos as it comes and goes.
It is very difficult at first, as it is so easy to get caught up in the thoughts and emotions and forget to just be the observer. Many teachers advise of using the breath to anchor our attention. Using a natural breathing pattern, we focus our attention on breathing in and breathing out. When something arises in the mind, acknowledge it as “thinking” or “feeling”, but let it go. Let. It. Go. Otherwise, we end up sitting on the floor daydreaming for 20 minutes! Many times, our minds will even want to convince us that we are having a really important thought and it must be dealt with immediately, but that is not true. We can tell ourselves gently that we can process that thought at a later time. And then return to the breath.
Of course posture is of great importance, so sitting on a firm cushion on the floor cross-legged, with a straight spine, is the optimal position for meditation. But it can also be done sitting in a chair, standing, or lying down, if necessary. Five to ten minutes a day is a good goal to start with, working up to 30 or 40 minutes after a good practice is established.
If living mindfully is a sincere goal, mindfulness meditation is a great way to put us on a path to living with more peace, joy, and understanding in our lives.
Text: Jennifer Wells
Photos and captions: Slava Bowman Photography
Jennifer Wells is a homeschooling mom of three, ages 7 and under. She loves to share with other parents her discoveries and challenges in cultivating mindfulness, compassion, equanimity, and authentic joy in our daily lives. She is passionate about living simply and in harmony with the natural world, and revitalizing the idea of strong community connections. Her other interests include learning about and practicing sustainable living, homesteading, nutrition, growing food, hiking, camping, amateur photography, reading, learning, and discovering the world with her children. You can follow Jennifer’s blog here.