The most important aspect to establish a daily mindfulness practice is a clear intention. Why do you want to sit?
There are many benefits to this practice of slowing down, sitting still, and becoming aware of your inner world. Many people experience a calmness of spirit, if only for the time they are sitting. Others are quickly transfer the lessons learned from sitting still into their life, transforming relationships and more actively engaging in their own life.
After a sustained effort of two or three weeks, a daily mindfulness practice will often bring insights, memories, and answers from deeper in the subconscious.
The subconscious as a constantly turning machine, like the buzz of electricity that runs through your home, whether the lights are on or not. The subconscious is always at work, and never forgets any of the experiences that you’ve encountered. Mindfulness and concentration practices help connect the conscious and subconscious mind until the proverbial lights turn on.
With a little bit of practice, it does not take more than twenty minutes to slow down the mind. Even though the mind seems to be in constant motion, it is possible to re-train the “monkey mind,” guiding it into a place of rest in the heart. What may be most surprising is that the mind actually likes to rest! Like a young child who doesn’t even realize they are tired, the mind needs guidance and permission to slow down and stop its constant jumping from one branch to another, one thought to another, endlessly on and on.
A good place to start is twenty minutes a day, for ten days. Vipassana meditation retreats, which are free and take place worldwide, offer ten-day, silent meditation retreats. This ten-day period is a long enough time to establish a practice, and learn how to carry it forward on your own.
Here’s a little more information about beginning a sitting mindfulness practice. These are tips; remember the most important thing is to have the intention for your mindfulness practice so you are motivated from within.
- Find a place to sit. Choose or create a space that will be quiet, and place some items that help bring peace to you. A candle, photos, and flowers are all helpful to settle the mind. If you’re able to comfortably sit on the floor, do so with your legs crossed. If a chair is more comfortable, that’s fine also. The most important thing is to sit with a straight and relaxed spine for twenty minutes.
- Breath deep into your belly. The body is designed to receive air through the nose. Breath full breaths into your belly, feeling your abdomen expand and contract with the breath. If it helps, repeat silently: “inhale, exhale,” “in, out,” or any other words or phrases that calm your mind.
- Focus your mind on the breath. As you breath in and out, bring your mind’s attention to the breath. The mind calms when it has something to focus on. Continue to silently repeat a word or phrase, or enter into silence.
- Observe thoughts, feelings and emotions. As you sit and focus on your breath, thoughts, feelings and emotions will arise. At first, these will be superficial and mundane. (Did I turn off the oven? I forgot to return that email!) Continue to breath, and observe without becoming attached. The breath is your anchor, and if you find yourself lost in thought, calmly and gently return to the breath.