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Published on December 25, 2019

What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

You’ve probably heard about the growing trend in mindful meditation, and all the benefits of the practice. You might even be interested in giving it a try, but don’t know where to start. Maybe you’ve even tried meditating, but had trouble figuring it out.

It took me several years to fully understand meditation, but once I did, I realized that it is actually quite simple. In fact, it is so simple that I can teach it in less than an hour. In this article, I’ll cover the “what, why, and how” of mindfulness meditation in its simplest form, so you don’t have to spend years trying to figure it out like I did.

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness meditation, sometimes called mindful meditation, is a non-religious form of meditation that is basically a training of the mind to help us calm our mind, and live in the present moment. The main goal of the practice is to attain freedom from suffering. We accomplish this by developing self-awareness, or mindfulness, because it is our inaccurate views of the world that trigger our painful emotions and harmful actions.

With mindfulness meditation, we can develop an awareness of the true nature of reality. By observing what is happening within our mind, body, emotions, and the world around us, we’ll begin to see the sources of our suffering. Then we can work to transform them, so we can be free of them once and for all.

There are various techniques in the mindfulness meditation practice. But it generally involves relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, guided imagery, and awareness of the body, mind, and emotions.[1] These techniques are designed to calm your mind, so you can become a more objective observer of yourself and the world around you.

Is Mindfulness Meditation the Same as Meditation?

There is a great deal of confusion about what mindfulness meditation is, as it relates to meditation. The term “meditation” refers to the practice in general. It describes a group of practices that are designed to help calm and focus the mind. The term “mindfulness meditation” refers to a specific form of meditation, as describe above.

You see, there are several different forms of meditation, such as transcendental meditation, relaxation meditation, and contemplative meditation. In addition, most religions have their own form of meditation. While the various practices are similar, their goals and techniques can vary.

My general advice to beginning meditators is to pick one form of meditation, and learn that practice well. Then, if you find that that form doesn’t suit you so well, feel free to try another form.

If you begin by dabbling in all different forms, you probably won’t become proficient with any of them, and your results will be poor. And when you don’t see much results, you’ll just end up quitting within a short period of time.

Why Practice Mindfulness Meditation?

You’re probably wondering why you should practice mindfulness meditation. Well, there are so many benefits that I could write a whole chapter to explain them all, and the scientific research behind them. Here is a summary of what you can expect:

Better Physical Health

Researchers have discovered that mindful meditation helps people overcome many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and chronic illnesses, which cost millions of dollars in healthcare—not to mention all the pain and suffering. The practice also improves the immune system, and slows the aging process.[2]

Lower Stress

Numerous studies have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation improves people’s ability to cope with the pressures of modern life, and avoid the health consequences. By calming their mind, they calm their emotions and achieve greater peace of mind. This also leads to better sleep at night. [3]

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Improved Mental Health

Mindfulness meditation is so effective in treating mental and emotional disorders that mental health professionals are now using the practice to treat various conditions, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, substance abuse, and more. Practitioners are also reporting higher self-esteem and self-confidence.[4]

Improved Relationships

Mindfulness meditation helps practitioners improve their relationships by gaining greater control over their emotions, and by learning how to practice such skills as deep listening, mindful speech, and forgiveness.

Improved Social Skills

Those who practice mindfulness meditation tend to be more outgoing. They develop greater love, compassion, and understanding of other people. This leads to them becoming more open and receptive to others.

Also, as they develop greater inner strength, they become more resilient to personal attacks.

Improved Cognitive Abilities

Researchers have also found that mindfulness meditation helps people enhance their mental capabilities, such as concentration, abstract thinking, memory, and creativity.

Benefits to Organizations

Studies have shown that the practice has many benefits to organizations, such as reduced stress levels, lower healthcare costs, greater teamwork, increased productivity, greater leadership, and increased profitability.

As you can see, the mindfulness meditation practice can improve your life in so many ways. And the great thing about it is that there are no negative side effects, which are usually associated with most medications used to treat physical and mental illnesses.

7 Ways to Practice Mindfulness Meditation

The mindfulness meditation practice is quite diverse. There are various techniques you can incorporate into your busy schedule, some of which don’t require you to sit in meditation. Here are the main techniques.

Sitting Meditation

At the heart of the mindfulness meditation practice is the sitting meditation session. This meditation session usually consists of 3 parts: relaxation meditation, concentration meditation, and mindful meditation. They are described below.

You generally want to pick a quiet time and place to meditate. The time of day you meditate is entirely up to you, but you want to choose a time when you feel alert, as you are trying to develop awareness.

You can sit either in a chair or a meditation cushion, whichever you prefer. Don’t meditate lying down, as you’ll probably fall asleep. The whole idea of the sitting position is to be alert and comfortable. The position of your hands is also a matter of choice. You can either hold them interlaced in front of you, or simply resting on your thighs.

1. Relaxation Meditation

Remember, the goal of mindfulness meditation is to develop mindfulness. That is, we want to be able to observe ourselves objectively. But we can’t do that if our mind is agitated, and we can’t have a peaceful mind if our body is tense. That’s why we usually start a meditation session with a short relaxation meditation.

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To practice relaxation meditation, close your eyes, and begin following your breath. After a couple of minutes, turn your attention to your body, beginning at the top of your head. As you slowly move your attention down through your body, make a conscious effort to relax the muscles in each body part as you exhale each breath. This relaxation meditation should take about 5 minutes.

2. Concentration Meditation

The next part of a mindfulness meditation session is concentration meditation. If we want to observe something on a deeper level, then we need to be able to keep our attention on it. Concentration meditation will help you develop mental discipline.

If your mind is agitated, then your observations will only be superficial. Concentration meditation will help you steady your mind, so you’re able to observe things on a deeper level. This process is the key to developing greater understanding, that is, wisdom.

For example, if we have a painful emotion we don’t understand that keeps coming up, then we need to be able to keep our attention on it in order to identify the source. Only then can we transform it, so that it ceases to cause us pain and suffering.

To practice concentration meditation, begin counting your breaths 1 through 5 silently in your mind. When you get to 5, simply start over again. Keep your attention focused on the air passing through the tip of your nose. When you find that your mind has wandered, immediately bring your attention back to your breath.

Concentration meditation can be challenging, but it’s important to do your best to keep your attention on your focal point. Your mind is going to wander a lot. That’s normal. Just keep bringing it back to the air passing through the tip of your nose. It will get easier as you progress.

3. Mindfulness Meditation

After doing relaxation and concentration meditation, you are then ready to do mindfulness meditation. The relaxation meditation has helped your body and mind relax, and the concentration meditation has helped you focus your attention. You are then better prepared to observe things on a deeper level.

Remember that the mindfulness meditation practice is a training of the mind. We are training our mind to see with greater clarity. Then we take our improved observation skills and apply them to everyday life. It is much like training in the gym, so we can perform better in sports.

After a few minutes of concentration meditation, transition to mindful meditation. Continue observing your breath. However, instead of counting each one, observe the entire breathing process mindfully. Observe it in a more relaxed manner, without forcing your mind like you did with concentration meditation. When distracting thoughts arise, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

4. Emotional Awareness Meditation

An alternative to the mindful meditation portion of your meditation session is emotional awareness meditation. As the name implies, you’re training yourself to observe your emotions. Over time, this type of meditation will help you gain more control over your emotions, and develop greater inner strength.

To practice emotional awareness meditation, do the relaxation and concentration meditations first. When you finish the concentration meditation, turn your attention to your emotions. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” Are you feeling happy, sad, angry, lonely, hurt, restless, bored, or some other emotion?

Some emotions arising from your subconscious mind may be quite subtle, and harder to identify. They tend to manifest themselves into a general mood without seemingly any rhyme or reason.

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Emotional awareness meditation can be more involved than this, but for now, simply focus on identifying the emotions. If you feel ready, you are welcome to explore those emotions deeper. Look at the thinking behind them, and try to look at the situations differently, that is, from a broader perspective.

Other Techniques

The mindfulness meditation practice has several tools and techniques besides sitting meditation to help you develop mindfulness. Here are a few simple tools you can use.

5. Walking Meditation

This is something you can do if you are too restless to do sitting meditation. You can also do it in lieu of the relaxation meditation. Walking meditation is another way to help calm your restless body and mind.

The way to practice walking meditation is simple. Preferably, go some place that is quiet, and has beautiful scenery. Begin walking at a much slower pace than normal. Apply the same techniques used in concentration and mindful meditation described above. But instead of focusing your attention on your breath, focus on your footsteps.

Alternatively, you can focus your attention on your whole body as you walk. Notice the movements of each body part as you take each step.

A variation of the walking meditation is mindful walking. The techniques are the same, but instead of making a meditation session out of walking, practice mindful walking during the normal course of your daily routine. For example, when you’re walking around at work, home, or any other place, walk mindfully instead of getting on your cell phone, or letting your mind wander aimlessly.

What mindful walking will do is prevent your mind from getting too agitated. And the great thing about it is that you can do it anytime of the day without taking up any of your valuable time.

6. Writing Meditation

This is a technique I developed to help people reprogram their subconscious by assimilating positive affirmations, mainly the loving-kindness meditation practiced in Eastern traditions.[5] The affirmations are basically meant to help you become more loving, compassionate, understanding, etc. It also helps you stay committed to your practice.

Instead of reciting, listening to, or meditating on the loving-kindness meditation, you simply copy the affirmations by hand in a notebook. You do this for about 10 minutes a day. That’s it. You can do it at any time, and you don’t even need a quiet environment.

After a few days, the affirmations will begin manifesting themselves in your behavior, as your attitudes about other people will begin to change. It is great for healing and improving your relationships.

7. Mindful Activities

You can turn just about any activity into mindfulness meditation. Choose an activity that requires little attention, such as washing dishes or folding clothes. These types of activities are so routine that we do them without thinking, and we usually just let our mind wander off. Now you can use them to help you develop mindfulness.

To perform activities mindfully, start by doing them slower. Don’t be in a hurry to finish them, like you usually do. Pay close attention to every action you are performing. For example, when folding clothes, pay close attention to how you’re folding them, how the clean clothes smell, and how they feel to the touch. You may even want to fold them a little neater than you usually do.

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I know this may sound boring and unproductive, but it’s quite the contrary. What you’re doing is calming your mind, and keeping yourself grounded in the present moment, where all reality is taking place. And when you calm your mind, you’ll begin to see the whole world on a much deeper level. Now, how exciting is that?

Suggested Practice

“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” — Confucius

The great thing about mindfulness meditation practice is that it is flexible. There are several techniques you can combine to suit your lifestyle and busy schedule. You can also change things up, so you don’t get bored, or if things change in your life.

If you’re new to the practice, I would start with about 5-10 minutes of sitting meditation, that is, sitting quietly doing the relaxation, concentration, and mindfulness meditations described above. Gradually increase the duration of your sitting meditation sessions to about 20 minutes or more.

I would also suggest adding some walking meditation, loving-kindness writing meditation, or mindful activity to your routine. These not only will help you calm your mind, but they will also keep your mind from getting so agitated in the first place.

It’s important to practice regularly, such as every day or every other day. It’s okay if you miss a few days. Just try to get back on your routine as soon as you can. Also, don’t be hard on yourself if you struggle with the practice in the beginning.

As you meditate, you may notice things going on in your mind that you never saw before. That’s normal. It is the arising of mindfulness, and part of the learning process.

Over time, you will become more observant, and everything around you will become clearer. Not only will you be able to see everything on a deeper level, but you will also begin to see how everything is interconnected. When this happens, the whole world becomes new and exciting again. This is enlightenment.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, mindfulness meditation is not as complicated as you may have thought, and the benefits are tremendous. Sure, there is more to the practice than I have described here, but the basics are quite simple. Remember that you don’t have to do it perfectly to get the benefits. You just have to do it.

One of the great things about the practice is that you can realize some of the benefits rather quickly, especially with the loving-kindness writing meditation. That is a simple practice that yields tremendous results.

The benefits are real, and well within your reach. Just imagine what your life would be like with better health, more control over your emotions, better relationships, and better sleep. Your life would certainly be much more fulfilling.

Here I’ve given you a blueprint to help you get started. If you’re serious about learning how to meditate, I suggest you print this article, read it again, and keep it as a reference. Then get started, and soon you’ll begin to realize the peace and happiness you’ve been searching for your whole life. Good luck!

More About Meditation

Featured photo credit: Martin Sanchez via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Charles A. Francis

Author, meditation teacher, and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute

How to Learn to Let Go of What You Can’t Control How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying 20 Best Guided Meditations for Sleep and Insomnia What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating 10 Ways a Silent Retreat Improves Your Mental Health

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again

Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again

The statistics are dismal. A recent study has found that 69% of people feel trapped in the same old routine, and only 3 out of 10 people are happy with their lives.[1] People are feeling stuck.

Some are feeling stuck in their careers, feeling like they’re too far along one path to make a change. Some are feeling stuck in their personal lives. The toll of the daily grind sucks most of their time and energy. So their relationships, self-care, and personal goals get lost in the shuffle of the treadmill existence.

When people come across these challenges of feeling stuck, the feeling sometimes doesn’t go away. It often intensifies as time goes on. As the stuck feeling intensifies, some people choose to settle. Subconsciously, without even realizing it, they end up pushing their dreams and goals further and further down.

Others, if the feeling of being stuck intensifies to an unbearable point, choose to make changes. They may choose to pivot in their careers, even after years at a successful job. They may end up making big changes in their relationships, or start putting their fitness at a higher priority. They may make drastic changes to finally feel free. These changes can be incredibly difficult to make, especially if a person has lived many years in a certain lifestyle.

Feeling stuck is NOT fun. I’ve been there. I get it.

Why Am I Feeling Stuck?

People feel stuck once in a while. There are many causes of feeling stuck. Many people work toward goals that don’t actually align with who they are at the core or what they truly desire. I call these “False Objectives”.

Living a life of False Objectives can cause people to feel very stuck and frustrated. People can build lives that are very “successful” according to society; but if you’ve built your life based on False Objectives, you’re not going to feel fulfilled. You’ll end up feeling stuck.

Another cause of feeling stuck is not knowing who you are. If you don’t understand how you’re innately wired – your strengths, your gifts, your talents, your passions – it’s tough to make decisions that enable you to maximize those. It’s tough to reach your full potential if you don’t know who you are.

You can feel stuck if you’re doing work that doesn’t allow you to maximize your innate strengths. If you’re doing work that doesn’t bring out the best in who you are at the core, you’ll likely feel some dissatisfaction and you won’t reach your full potential.

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Other people feel stuck because they haven’t surrounded themselves with mentors or peers who have achieved what they want to achieve. They stay in certain routines while craving to do life differently. As Jim Rohn says,

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

If your goal is to run a marathon and you’re spending most evenings and weekends drinking beer with your coworkers, you’re probably not going to run that marathon. If your goal is to live a location-independent lifestyle and work anytime from anywhere, but everyone in your social circle is at traditional jobs; it’ll be tough to break free from the 9-5 mentality.

How Feeling Stuck Screws You up Secretly

Feeling stuck screws up people’s lives. The consequences of feeling stuck can range from mild to severe. People may feel a mild discontentment with life and end up succumbing to the idea that life is “okay,” and settle. (Nancy’s story will resonate with you.) They may never reach their full potential, their highest levels of happiness and satisfaction. And they may not make the impact on the world that they could make, and have a looming sense that there could be “more” to life.

Often, though, the feeling of being stuck comes with much larger consequences. Feeling stuck can hinder career growth and contribute to disrupted marriages. It can lead to huge midlife crises.

The feeling can (and frequently does) increase as the years go on, leading to significant regrets about unfulfilled dreams. In fact, the number one regret of the dying, according to Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse, is, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” She writes:[2]

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Many people had not honored even a half of their dreams, and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”

    Approaching Life Differently

    Thankfully, some highly effective strategies can prevent you from feeling stuck. Using these strategies can help you avoid significant problems in your life. It’s different than conventional living, and it works.

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    Commonly, people live with many set routines. While certain routines are helpful, becoming stuck in the daily grind routine can get frustrating. Many people eat roughly the same foods each week, go to the same place each day, talk to the same people, keep the same commitments, and end up living life on autopilot.

    It’s tough to feel like you’re progressing forward when each day is spent doing the same uninspiring routine. In order to avoid feeling stuck, it’s important to live intentionally. It’s crucial to live in the driver’s seat of your life and get out of autopilot mode.

    First, ditch the False Objectives. Just because everyone in your family are doctors doesn’t mean that’s the best path for you. Just because all your friends are married with a big house, a white picket fence, and 2 kids doesn’t mean that’s the best path for you. Just because everyone you know works 9-5 doesn’t mean that’s the best path for you. It’s not easy to design your life intentionally, but it’s critical in order to avoid feeling stuck.

    Remember, the majority of people feel stuck. So, if you’re doing things like the majority of people, you’ll likely feel stuck, too. You’ll need to think differently and create your life differently.

    2 Questions to Ask Yourself Every Day

    In order to intentionally design your life, avoid falling prey to False Objectives, and prevent feeling stuck, there are questions to ask yourself every day. These questions can help you stay focused on what matters most to you, help you avoid feeling stuck and frustrated, and create the best life possible.

    1. Why Am I Going to Do What I’m Going to Do Today?

    If you’re showing up to work each day and giving your years to your job, it’s important that your “why” is deeper than “to pay the bills.” Knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing can help you make choices that inspire and motivate you.

    By asking yourself why you’re going to do what you’re going to do today, you will be living intentionally. In today’s incredibly busy, easily distracted world, living intentionally and focusing every day on what matters most is unique.

    When you choose to ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing every day, it will help you stay focused on what’s truly important to you. This can prevent you from getting stuck.

    2. What Would Future Want Me to Do Today?

    Imagine yourself, in the future, as the best version of you. What would that version of you want you to do today? Making decisions from the viewpoint of the future you can help you move forward and prevent the stuck and frustrated feeling.

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    When you make decisions from the viewpoint of future you, you will develop perseverance and reap the benefits of delayed gratification. Today’s society is very focused on instant gratification, but a lot of great things in life take time and effort. Learning to take small steps forward by making decisions from the future you’s standpoint can help you progress toward your biggest goals and dreams.

    How to Get Unstuck

    After asking yourself the two questions, work on the plan to get unstuck. I’ve personally tried these strategies and they work for me.

    1. Choose Goals You Truly Desire to Accomplish

    This might sound obvious but we all get sucked into False Objectives at times. When you’re setting goals in your career and your personal life, make sure they are goals that matter to you.

    Working hard toward big achievements that don’t align with your values, priorities, and who you are at the core is a fast-track toward feeling stuck.

    Learn about your strengths, your gifts, and your passions. Choose goals that align with who you are at the core, and work toward goals that align with your inner strengths and gifts. This will help you maximize your potential and minimize the stuck and frustrated feelings.

    2. Watch Your Mindset

    Often, we think we’re stuck, but the problem is our mindset. Being mindful of our mindset and self-talk is important to living a life of freedom and fulfillment. Work on rephrasing your self-talk in order to improve your mindset.

    For example, if you tell yourself, “I could never start a business,” rephrase it to, “I don’t know how to start a business YET, but I can learn.” If you find yourself saying, “I don’t have enough money to travel,” tell yourself, “I don’t have the money right now, but I can make a plan to save money to travel. Rephrasing your self-talk can help you see opportunities and possibilities instead of feeling stuck.

    Occasionally, even the most driven people have days where they feel unmotivated. Check out this article for tips to get motivated when you feel like doing nothing: What Motivates You And How to Always Stay Motivated

    Those tips can help you break free from the rut.

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    3. Get out of Your Comfort Zone and Add Some Excitement to Your Day

    Shaking up your daily routine and adding some excitement to your days can help you get unstuck.

    While breaking out of your daily routine can be uncomfortable, it can be a great way to invigorate your life. You can start by getting out of your comfort zone in small ways. Here are 10 ways to step out of your comfort zone and overcome your fear. As Brian Tracy says,

    “Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”

    Getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing growth can help you to continue to move forward and prevent you from getting stuck.

    4. Surround Yourself with People Who Have Done What You Aspire to Do

    It’s easy to get stuck if you’re trying to accomplish something and you’re struggling to believe it’s possible to accomplish it.

    Instead of letting yourself be isolated and stuck, commit to learning from people who have done what you aspire to do. This can help you believe it’s possible to achieve the same goals. It can also help you to be inspired to progress forward instead of staying in stuck-land.

    You can seek out a mentor, or even read inspiring books or listen to motivating podcasts by the people who have achieved your biggest goals and dreams.

    Final Thoughts

    It’s frustrating to feel stuck. But you don’t need to stay stuck if you know the right ways to break free from the rut.

    Practice living intentionally by asking yourself the 2 critical questions:

    • Why am I going to do what I’m going to do today?
    • What would future want me to do today?

    When you constantly reflect about what you truly want and whether you’re doing the things that lead you to what you desire, you’ll feel less stuck gradually.

    More to Help You Get Unstuck

    Featured photo credit: Krists Luhaers via unsplash.com

    Reference

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