In a recent post I mentioned meditation is a part of my daily routine but other than saying I spend about twenty-minutes each day meditating, I didn’t expand, so I thought it would be good to share a few thoughts and some of the methods I use to maintain and improve my Zen.
But wait! Don’t run away, I’m not going to bombard you with theory or something that takes years to perfect.
As far as purists are concerned, they may argue that what I do is not meditation, rather, mindfulness practice. That’s just semantics and to be specific, what I’m talking about here is based on the 2500-year old Buddhist philosophy that helps us build better relationships with our thoughts and emotions. By doing that, we can gain a greater understanding of our minds.
- It helps to reduce stress.
- Develops improved focus and mental clarity.
- Has positive effects on working practices and relationships
- Deepens our compassion and understanding of other people
A Practical Guide To Mindfulness
Choose any daily activity that doesn’t thrill you. We all have some of those and we often aim to rush and get them out-of-the-way so we can move on to the things that matter.
Select Your Activity
It doesn’t matter what it is so long as it doesn’t usually thrill you. Today, I choose sweeping the floors. I know there are benefits to doing this, but I find it less than satisfying because it will need doing again in a few hours, it never seems to go away. But mindfulness practice sorts it out.
As I pick up the broom, I notice the feel of the handle in my hands. It’s wooden and quite smooth, not cold. Oh, I just remembered something I need to do. Quiet dear thought, I will get back to you later. I imagine gently blowing it away.
Starting to sweep, I hear the brooms bristles on the wooden floor making their own unique sound. It’s quite nice really. Even relaxing. I notice the occasional knock of the broom against furniture adding to the symphony of sound and the change of the music as I switch to a tiled floor where the colors change from oak to a mixture of pleasing hues on the tiles.
I notice light coming in through a window and micro-dust dancing in the light. That’s frustrating, at some point that dust is going to settle, and I will need to do this again. I simply acknowledge that, smile and bring my attention back to the task. More off-task thoughts drift in, I gently send them away until the time is right, finish the job and smile at this small victory.
One of the things I started to notice after practicing mindfulness techniques like this was how I began to change the way I was looking at things. I also noticed how my less than desirable jobs lists started decreasing while I hardly noticed my input. That continues to have a tremendous feel-good factor and we all know how we get things done when we feel good.
Who? Gelong Thubten is a Buddhist monk, meditation teacher and author from the UK and I’m proud to admit that he’s one of my superheroes and that’s not only because he was the meditation consultant for the Marvel movie, Dr. Strange. He trained actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton in meditation techniques while they were filming.
“Thubten specialises in teaching mindfulness meditation internationally, in businesses, hospitals, schools, universities, prisons and addiction counseling centers, and he gives keynote speeches at major events around the world. He has been teaching for over 20 years and is a world pioneer in the mindfulness movement, as he was teaching in these sectors many years before it became popular”.
I use the techniques below and once you get into the swing of them, they can be applied almost anywhere and during most activities. Just make sure that you practice them in a safe environment because you might find yourself “drifting off”. If you do, that’s fine, you will still have the benefits.
While they are designed to be practiced in just a few minutes, they can also be extended as you see fit.
- Notice in the surrounding room. Explore the light, the shadows and any sounds.
- Feel the ground under your feet.
- Focus on the contact between your body and the chair.
- Switch your attention to the texture of your clothing under your fingers, as your palms rest on your knees or the tops of your legs.
- Notice your shoulders. They may feel tense or tight, but that’s OK.
- Become aware of the front of your body. Feel how the breath moves through your body. Breathe naturally, without effort.
- Whenever your mind wanders, gently return to the present moment, using your body as the focus.
- Look at the sky; it’s clear and blue, or there are clouds.
- Your mind is like the sky; limitless and spacious.
- Feel as if your mind slowly mixes with the sky.
- Keep looking at the sky.
- When you feel distracted, remember that thoughts are like clouds, and the deep blue sky is always there behind them.
- Your mind is bigger than your thoughts.
- Imagine you’re looking beyond those clouds.
- At the end, close your eyes and focus on your body for a few moments.
I hope you’ve found your Zen.
If you have your own mindful practices, please share in the comments below so that others may benefit.