In this ultimate beginners guide to mindfulness meditation you’ll learn everything you need to know about mindfulness meditation, including:
- How to do mindfulness meditation,
- When, where, and why of using mindfulness
- The health benefits of mindfulness.
- And we’ve created a separate guide to help you teach mindfulness and meditation to your kids.
- And you can always go the easy way with this quick and easy guide to mindfulness.
The Beginners Guide To Mindfulness Meditation: Introduction
Let’s start our beginners guide to mindfulness meditation by defining precisely what mindfulness is.
One of the best ways to think about mindfulness is to think about the sky and the sun.
The mind is like the sun. Both are energy centres. The sun creates heat and light. The mind creates awareness and consciousness.
The beams of the sun radiate outwards, spreading light onto all they touch. The mind radiates consciousness, which illuminates our world.
Without the sun, we wouldn’t see. And we also wouldn’t see if we didn’t have consciousness.
But just as the rays of the sun can be blocked, dimmed, and transformed by clouds, so can consciousness be blocked, dimmed and transformed by thoughts and memories.
The more clouds there are in the sky the less bright the world will be and the more difficult it will be to see the world. The more thoughts, stresses, concerns, and worries in the mind, the harder it will be to see clearly.
Thoughts are clouds. And clear skies are happiness and mental health. Mindfulness clears the clouds. And that, in a nutshell, is what mindfulness is all about. It’s about focusing the mind on the present moment so we stop thinking too much and learn to live in the moment.
Too many clouds block the sun. Too many thoughts block the mind.
When you’re a beginners, learning mindfulness meditation is like the sun breaking through the clouds. Finally you see clearly.
What is mindfulness? It’s focusing the mind on the moment
Mindfulness is the act of focusing the mind on the present moment. When you practice mindfulness you focus on now, on reality (rather than on thoughts). And you focus without judgment and with complee acceptance.
- Focusing on the present moment
- Accepting things as they are
- Being non judgmental
For instance, when you practice mindful breathing, you will focus on your breathing (which is what is happening in the present moment). And you will allow your thoughts to exists as they are (which is accepting) without thinking about them as being bad or good (without judgment).
Those three elements, the present moment, acceptance, and non-judgment, are the keys to mindfulness.
Using those three keys you can be mindful for anything. You can be mindful of your feeling and emotions. You can be mindful of other people. You can be mindful of a task you’re doing (for instance, you can practice mindfulness while doing the dishes).
Mindfulness actually is as simple as it sounds… but…
Mindfulness sounds almost bizarrely simple.
Indeed it is simple. All we have to do is focus on the present moment.
The problem is that we repeatedly forget to be mindful. Thoughts stir in the mind as the clouds in the sky and our consciousness is swallowed up. When the mind is full of thoughts it is very difficult to be mindful. Have you ever experienced days when you were living in your own mind, where you weren’t paying attention to what was happening around you? At those times you might say you were being mindless. You were ignoring reality and focusing only on your thoughts. And you might have noticed that you started to feel crappy (depressed, anxious, sad…).
When you are not mindful you are much more likely to experience negative emotions. And it’s during those times that you most need to remember to be mindful.
Remembering really is the key to mindfulness. And perhaps that’s not surprising given that…
The Word “Mindfulness” means “Remembering” in Pali
The actual term mindfulness, translated from Pali, means “remembering”.
The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to train the mind to remember to focus on the present moment.
That’s the basis of all mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is about training the mind to remember to focus on the present moment.
It seems remarkably simple, doesn’t it? Just focusing on the present moment. That’s all it is. And yet the act of focusing on the present moment, or being mindful, can and will change your life for the better, as it has changed the lives of many millions of people around the world.
There are times when you will be very glad that you practiced mindfulness
There are some times in life when you will be very thankful that you started mindfulness training.
Let me share an example of a friend I taught.
This friend is a professional gamer. He plays in video game tournaments throughout North America. He’s a truly talented guy. He’s so talented that he routinely makes it to the top 8 in tournament (this is out of hundreds if not thousands of people). But he always used to get nervous when he was close to winning a tournament. The problem, we discovered after a lot of conversation, was that he was too aware of how much it would mean for him to win. He’d get close to winning when he’d become too excited or too nervous to focus. He’d make a mistake, and then he would lose. It happened over and over again.
I taught my friend mindfulness so he could stay in the present moment, so that when he was playing he’d just be playing, nothing more. He stopped thinking about winning and simply played the game. This empowered him to play his regular game while in the finals of a tournament. And that, in turn, led him to accomplish what he’d wanted for so long: to stop being second and start being first.
Mindfulness is helpful for everyone, thought. Mindfulness helps you to stay focused so you can do whatever it is you need to do without being distracted. I’m sure you can readily apply that to your own life. After all, who couldn’t use more focus?
Mindfulness enables you to live in the present moment, so you can focus you 100% of your mind on what you’re doing right now.
Mindfulness meditation is about focusing the mind on the present moment so you are living in the here and now.
There are many amazing health benefits of mindfulness
As well as the 100+ benefits of meditation that we’ve looked at before, there are specific ways in which mindfulness is particularly helpful.
A partial list of the proven health benefits of mindfulness would include:
- Improved confidence
- Relief from anxiety
- Relief from depression
- Improved cardiovascular functioning
- Improved sensory observation and awareness
- Relaxation and calmness
- Heightened propensity for love and compassion
- And much more
It’s quite staggering how mindfulness, a truly simple practice, can have such a profound impact on your life. You’d have to be mad not to try mindfulness.
Obviously now that you know the benefits of mindfulness you probably want to crack on with our beginners guide to mindfulness meditation. So let’s take a look at some of the different mindfulness exercises you can do.
How To be Mindful
How To Do Mindfulness Meditation
If you’ve never practiced mindfulness meditation before you are going to be amazed by how simple it is.
It’s three steps.
- Get comfortable
- Focus on your breath
- When your mind wanders bring it back to the breath.
And this is where everyone says, “Surely it can’t be that easy”. Oh, but it is.
Let’s look at mindfulness meditation in details
To start with, mindfulness meditation is a relaxing activity. So you will probably want to find somewhere relaxing to practice. This could simply be a clean and quiet room. Or, for complete serenity, take a look at my guide to designing a meditation space.
You will find it helpful to decide how long you would like to meditate before you begin. Otherwise you’ll probably be looking at the clock quite a lot. And that is not conducive to focus. So, decide how long you would like your mindfulness practice to last. For beginners, I recommend a 40 minute session as it will take a little bit longer for you to find your inner-Zen. And for practiced meditators, 20 minutes is good.
I’ve created a free online meditation timer to hep you. Take a look.
There are other important fundamentals of meditation. So I took the liberty of writing a guide to the basics of meditation to help you out.
Now we’re ready to start. Here’s how to do a mindfulness meditation.
- Sit comfortably and with good posture. You can sit on a chair, on the floor, park bench, wherever you like. Just make sure you’re comfortable.
- Place your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Let you wrists drop so that your hands are placed gently on your lap. You can choose to adopt one of the meditation mudras if you like. But what really matters is that you are comfortable. If you are fidgeting take a moment to get set.
- Drop your chin and let your gaze drift softly downwards. You can choose to either keep your eyes open, to let your eyelids drop so your eyes are partially closed (three quarters closed is good) or completely close your eyes. But do not focus on your vision.
- Relax for a few minutes.
- Focus on your breathing. There are lots of different types of breathing meditations, of which the most important is Anapanasati meditation. You can read those techniques in our Meditation Techniques guide. Or simply focus your mind on your breathing, paying particular attention to how your breath flows between your lips and through your nose. Also be mindful of the rising and falling of your breath in your abdomen.
- At times you will notice that your focus wanders. This is quite inevitable. When this happens simply relax and gently bring your focus back to your breathing.
- When you feel that you need to move, or you get an itch, take a moment to just sit still. Then consciously decide to move. It’s important that you consciously make the decision to move as this will train your mind to be inwardly still.
- When thoughts arise, accept them. Do not try and push them back and do not judge them. Just observe them and let them come and go.
- At the end of your mindfulness practice, open you eyes and lift your gaze. Sit still and be mindful of the sounds around you. Also notice any feelings in your body and any thoughts. Take a moment and consciously decide to carry on with your day.
- To take it further, try these 6 mindful exercises.
More mindfulness exercises
A lot of people tend to think of mindfulness as one specific exercise. In truth it isn’t an exercise at all. It’s a way of being. As Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D [a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin] told The New York Times, ““In Buddhist tradition, the word ‘mindfulness is equivalent to a word like ‘sports’ in the U.S. It’s a family of activity, not a single thing.”
As such, there is no one mindfulness exercise. Instead there are a million different ways in which you can be mindful. You might like to introduce these 25 mindful habits into your day.
Try using these techniques as part of our Buddhist Meditation Plan for the best results.
I truly hope you have enjoyed this introduction to mindfulness meditation. It would mean the world to me to hear from you. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.