Mindfulness Meditation involves the practice of intentionally and purposefully focusing on the present moment in a gentle, effortless manner. The idea is to focus, not in a pushed, forceful or strained manner, but rather, softly and persistently on something that exists in the present moment. Focusing on one’s breath is often a good place to start when beginning Mindfulness Meditation, because breathing occurs in the present moment, and our breath is always with us, everywhere we go.
Focused on the breath, my mind is occupied on that which is in the present moment, instead of gravitating toward the usual future-focused “what-ifs” and past-focused distressing regrets, thus providing me with a much needed emotional break. This is not to say that worries and concerns stop invading as soon as I begin focusing on my breath. Those thoughts will barge in, but rather than forcefully pushing these uninvited guests aside, instead, I gently pick up the present moment and softly lay it back down in the cross-hairs of my focus.
If thoughts invade a hundred times, that’s okay; I just gently place my focus back onto my breath a hundred-and-one times, lovingly, without self-abasement for having allowed in the invaders. I simply acknowledge the other thoughts in a neutral manner, without judgment or disdain. They are just thoughts, and I am no less a person because they interrupted my focus on my breath.
As you begin practising Mindfulness Meditation, you will soon discover that sustaining focus on the present moment (on your breath) is no small feat. As simple a task as it is, it can be difficult to accomplish, because your natural placement of thoughts does not generally persist in the present moment. The longer you practice, however, the more natural it will eventually become.
The key to success, however, lies in the gentle, loving nature in which you repeatedly pick up your focus and lay it gracefully back onto your breath.
Over time, you can start to place your focus on things that are in nature, occurring right here, right now. You may decide to focus in on the scents and smells in your environment. At first you may only be able to sustain your attention on these for a minute or so, but over time, you may be able to do so for 5 or 10 minutes. Then you may shift your focus to things around you that are alive: the grass, the trees, flowers, and wildlife. Anything you can see, touch, feel, or imagine in the present moment.
For as long as you have practised focusing on that particular object or concept in the present moment, your mind has been freed from the stresses of the past and the future. Moreover, you have just trained yourself to have a heightened awareness of your world around you. Did you notice sights, smells and sensations that you never really acknowledged in the past on a daily, moment-by-moment basis? Did your appreciation for your Maker’s creation increase?
Once you have been practicing Mindfulness Meditation for a while, you can start to take the skill with you into your active life, focusing in on the people with whom you interact, in a more deliberate way. Rather than going on auto-pilot in conversing with others, pay attention to what they are saying in the moment you are listening. Notice their eyes, their mouth, their gestures. Notice yourself in interaction with them. How are you coming across? What is your body language? Pay attention to it, in the present moment.
As you learn to engage more in the present moment, you may notice your memory improving. Because you paid attention, moment-by-moment to what the other person was really saying, you will have a greater recall of the relevant details of their life, because auto-pilot is disengaged. Having a deep love and concern for others involves paying attention to what matters to them.
This spiritual mindset has the potential to enrich your live and the lives of others.