Updated: Aug 24
Remembering and beginning again - that is the bulk of mindfulness practice. Most folks I talk to think mindfulness is a good idea, a helpful practice, a way to help manage the negative effects of stress in life. And most folks also have a lot of difficulty establishing a consistent practice around meditating. If this sounds familiar - you are not alone!
First, change takes time and establishing any new practice takes repetition and many other strategies to move from a good idea to a habit. Playing with different times of the day and ways to meditate can be helpful. Finding what works for you is most important. Think about a habit or routine you already have in place consistently and note what it took to establish it. Often some of those same strategies: scheduling it in, creating an intention about it, knowing why it is important to you, setting reminders, committing to do it with others... work across goal setting.
Second, much of the details of our lives seem to work against presence. The constant input of stimulation from media, phones, an an over-scheduled life supports daily habits of leaning into the next moment, a scattered concentration and for many people a constant state of anticipation and preparation. Acknowledging that the busyness of life acts as a block to presence is a first step toward mindfulness. Going a bit further, you can practice labeling your experiences: 'present, past and future' to bring some attention to where you're placing your attention in any given moment.
Third, remembering and beginning again is literally how you establish the habit. Judging yourself at that moment of remembering only reinforces your judging tendencies (and probably makes you not want to sit down and meditate). Instead, when you notice "oh I didn't meditate today (or pause, or notice my breath) using that moment as a cue - "it's time to come back into presence" is a tender, clear way of acknowledging your desire to be more mindful and takes you right back into the action of practice. If you offer yourself some compassion in a moment of judgement, you are actually strengthening your mindfulness in that moment.
Tips for remembering:
Create signals in your life that help you remember. A few ideas:
Artwork that initiates a pause (I have a Thich Nhat Hanh piece of calligraphy sitting in view of my desk that says "breathe smile" and other artwork around the house and on my phone that remind me to be present.
Waiting. Anytime I am waiting I use it as a time to practice mindfulness. You don't have to close your eyes to practice. Instead tune into the sounds around you, shift into a receptive, curious mindset and simply notice.
Find something you already do each day and attach mindfulness to it:
When stopped at a traffic light take a few long slow breathes and acknowledge any sensations, thoughts or feelings that are present.
When you walk through doorways, pause, notice the way your body feels in that moment and breathe mindfully as you enter a new space.
When experiencing an everyday task like brushing teeth, cooking, eating, folding laundry, or pumping gas in your car you can pause and practice mindfulness. In ANY activity allow your mind to settle on that activity alone - feel the sensations of it, the sounds involved, the felt sense of your experience. As you notice your mind wandering away to thoughts/planning/worrying - gently coax your attention back to the activity at hand.
Create a plan. Scheduling priorities is useful for some people. If writing a meditation plan in your calendar helps, do that.
Mostly - not judging yourself when you do find yourself caught in the endless thoughts, stories, worries, planning and explaining of the mind. Just acknowledging 'I am not here', and making a choice to come into the now is the most helpful thing you can do. A mindful moment will beget more mindfulness moments. Taking care of the now will take care of the future...
To practice a short meditation right now: Calm Breathing
Leave a comment, let me know how you remember to come back to presence.