In today's world, many people are coming to the realization that searching for happiness through achievements and material possessions simply adds to their rising stress, only bringing them more chaos and unhappiness. As they are forced to re-evaluate the direction of their lives, they begin searching for an alternate road to happiness and inner peace. This is why millions of people are taking up the practice of mindfulness meditation.
Here are 10 steps you can put into practice immediately that will transform your life and relationships.
1. Write a goal statement to stay on track.
Writing a goal statement will help you make the commitment to practicing diligently and consistently. For example,
"I, (your name), realize that through a diligent mindfulness meditation practice, will see spiritual transformation in myself. For the next (period of time, e.g., month), I commit to practicing mindfulness meditation regularly. I will practice writing meditation for at least ____ minutes per day, and will practice sitting meditation for at least ____ minutes per day. I will also attend a mindfulness meditation meeting every __________."
2. Find trusted members.
Choose two or three people your respect who will support you in your practice. A meditation group is great. Share with them the following two things,
(1) your goals of learning how to meditate, and
(2) how you're learning the practice.
3. Have the courage to change.
If you are going to grow, then you -- and everyone who meditates -- must be willing to face the truth about themselves. You must be willing to look at yourself objectively, and let go of your beliefs, no matter how long you've had them. All of us must have the courage to let go of our old self, if we want our True Nature to shine through.
4. Practice sitting meditation.
Find a quiet time and place where you will not be disturbed for about 20 minutes. Get in a comfortable sitting position, and gently close your eyes. Begin following your breathing. Use the counting technique to help you stay focused. During your meditation, count your breaths one through five silently in your mind. When you get to five, simply start over again.
5. Practice every day.
By practicing every day, you'll begin to remove obstacles to your meditation, and begin to develop mindfulness much faster. Remember, meditation is like any other skill--the more you practice, the better you'll get at it.
6. Practice writing meditation.
From the website, try the Loving-Kindness Writing Meditation exercise and spend about 10-15 minutes each day writing it out by hand. This will help you stay focused and committed to your practice.
7. Develop concentration and mindfulness.
Concentration is the ability to focus your attention on one subject or object. We do this by forcing ourselves to pay attention. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is a more delicate activity. It is an awareness of what is happening in the present moment. Both concentration and mindfulness work together to help us look deeply into the true nature of reality.
8. Aim for steady progress, not perfection.
In the beginning, it may be challenging to stop the constant stream of distracting thoughts. That is normal. If you have just a few brief moments of good concentration or mindfulness, consider it a success. As you continue practicing, your concentration will become deeper, and it will last longer.
9. Practice mindful walking.
Most of us do a great deal of walking through our daily activities: at home, work, school, or when tending to our family's needs. These are all great opportunities to practice mindfulness. When doing mindful walking, walk more slowly than usual. Make your walking a smooth and continuous movement, while being mindful of each step. This can have a tremendous calming effect because it forces your mind to slow down right along with the rest of your body.
10. Structure your meditation to fit your lifestyle.
Finding the best time, place, sitting position, and duration of meditation will go a long way toward helping you develop your observation skills, concentration and mindfulness.
Adapted with permission from the book
"Mindfulness Meditation Made Simple"
Mindfulness Meditation Made Simple: Your Guide to Finding True Inner Peace
by Charles A. Francis.
About the Author
Charles A. Francis has a master's degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University, with a focus on health care management and policy. He is the author of Mindfulness Meditation Made Simple: Your Guide to Finding True Inner Peace (Paradigm Press), and co-founder and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute. He teaches mindfulness meditation to individuals, develops mindfulness training programs for organizations, and leads workshops and mindfulness meditation retreats. Learn more at MindfulnessMeditationInstitute.org.