What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present. It allows us to be in full awareness of where we are. Not to mention what we’re doing. And mindfulness helps us to not be overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. And yet, while mindfulness is something all of us can do, it’s really hard to cultivate. This skill only can occur when you practice it on a daily basis.
You are mindful when you get in touch with your senses, thoughts, or emotions. There is growing research that shows that practicing mindfulness actually helps to remodel the physical structure of your brain! Mindfulness is not obscure or exotic. It’s familiar to us because it’s what we already do, how we already are. It takes many shapes and goes by many names.
We all already have the capacity to be present, and it doesn’t require us to change who we are. But we can cultivate these innate qualities with simple practices that are scientifically demonstrated to benefit us in many ways.
Mindfulness meditation is unique in the fact that it doesn’t change us. Instead, it helps us become aware of how we already are in each true moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is. The sitting practice of mindfulness meditation gives us exactly this opportunity to become more present with ourselves just as we are. And this in turn, shows us what it truly means to be alive.
How Do I Practice Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness is available to us in every moment, whether through meditations and body scans, or mindful moment practices like taking time to pause and breathe when the phone rings instead of rushing to answer it. Mindfulness helps us put some space between ourselves and our reactions. And mindfulness helps us to break down our conditioned responses.
1. Set Aside Some Time
Honestly, you don’t need anything fancy to practice mindfulness meditation. All you really need to do is set aside some time and space.
2. Observe the Present Moment as It Is
The aim of mindfulness meditation isn’t to quiet your mind. Nor is it the attempt of achieving a state of full relaxation and calmness. The goal is a simple one. Pay attention to the present moment. Do your best not to judge it.
3. Let Your Judgments Pass
Judgments aren’t good for anyone or anything. We may notice judgments arise during our practice. You can check on them and make a mental note of them. But do your best to let them pass by.
4. Return to Observing the Present Moment as It Is
We often tend to get carried away in thought. That’s why it’s important to practice mindfulness meditation. It helps us continue to return to the present moment.
5. Be Kind to Your Mind
Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up. Do your best to practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off. And when that happens, gently bring it back. You might get really caught up in your thoughts. And you may have forgotten that you’re sitting in the room. That’s okay! Gently bring yourself back to your breath.
How Long Should You Practice?
If you are new to mindfulness meditation, try to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Once that feels comfortable, gradually increase to 20 minutes. Then try increasing it to 30 minutes. Eventually, you could extend it to 45 minutes. Or even an hour! It’s up to you!
Last, But Not Least
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remember that mindfulness meditation is about practicing being mindful of whatever happens. It is NOT about getting ourselves to stop thinking. Many people have a mistaken idea that becoming blank is the goal of meditation. Perhaps it is in some approaches, but it’s not in mindfulness meditation. You will find yourself thinking. So, include it in your thoughts what you notice.
Don’t try to get rid of them. It won’t work. And it’s the opposite of the spirit of the practice. We are trying to be with ourselves as we already are. We are not trying to change ourselves into some preconceived notion of how we ought to be instead.
Want to Learn to be Mindful?
Mindfulness meditation can be overwhelming. If you feel like you need some guidance, don’t hesitate to call us. There is no shame in needing a bit of extra support. Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has three locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients. So check out our videos to learn more about how we can help come out of therapy.
Tiffany Song is a cognitive behavioral therapist at heart. However, she often incorporates other treatments (exposure, mindfulness, meditation, behavior modification, etc.) to meet her client’s needs. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh in 2003. And has been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker since 2006. In 2011, she completed a 10-month intensive training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of working with clients of various ages learn new ways of thinking. In doing this, they can live the lives that they want to live.