Meditation for mindfulness: how to keep your head in place
Whenever I heard about the benefits of meditation for mindfulness, I went ahead and said it was not for me. After all, I live in an apartment on a busy avenue in busy South of France. I have no way of sitting daily in the lotus position to watch the sunrise from the top of a mountain. Let alone enjoy absolute silence. In addition, my head is like YouTube: just show me any kind of subject and it already triggers an endless list of related suggestions – or not so related. For this and others, “thinking about nothing” was out of the question.
Meditation for mindfulness in the age of hyperconnectivity
In addition, we live in the age of information, hyperconnectivity, rapid changes, unimaginable volumes of data, news, updates, books, audiobooks, podcasts, magazines, series, films and applications that measure everything in this life, with just one click. .
All this volume of information and possibilities, combined with my naturally restless mind as a translator and a personality that does not believe that there is a useless culture, began to weigh and overwhelm me. It didn’t take long for me to experience the symptoms of anxiety, difficulty sleeping and anguish for feeling that I was always in debt (of information), always struggling with so much content to consume and tasks to accomplish.
Multitasking or what?
To try to “handle everything”, I trained myself to be multitasking. I brush my teeth while opening the windows of my apartment. I always ate listening to podcasts or reading the news, and with that, I swore I was optimizing my time. Was not. And it was then that I realized that almost everything I did in life was on autopilot.
Look, I’m not here to vilify autopilot, no. We would not survive if we had to focus 100% on all of our activities. It’s a matter of survival. But letting that be the pattern that dictates the pace of our lives and deifying the ability to do several things at the same time is also not the way.
Lack of Attention Can Even Be Fatal
To give an idea of my mental state, due to lack of attention at the present moment, I locked my wife inside the house and took mine and her keys – twice. I managed to get back before she found out. I already turned off the kitchen power breaker when we left to travel. It spoiled everything that was in the freezer and refrigerator, and the smell, after 15 days, was one of a crime scene, even after a very good friend gave a cleaned up before I returned home).
And raise your hand here who has already rescued socks from the trash can, which obviously should have been placed in the basket of dirty clothes. Nothing serious, I know, despite the inconvenience. But in extreme cases, lack of attention can even be fatal. It is not for nothing that the need to put the sign “Before entering the lift, be sure there is a carriage at your floor.”
The interpreter needs to listen, analyse, produce speech and store information in short-term memory
My work as an interpreter already requires, by nature, that I divide my attention between different and simultaneous efforts. According to Daniel Gile’s Theory of Effort Model, the interpreter needs to listen and analyse, produce speech in the target language and store information in short-term memory. All at the same time and all the time. As my job requires all this concentration, I knew that I needed to strengthen this unnatural capacity and give my brain a break.
I knew that something needed to change in me. And it was with the certainty that it would be a great challenge to relearn how to do everyday tasks with more attention.
It was necessary to learn to slow down, to breathe, to choose to do one thing at a time. In other words, to search for meditation for mindfulness.
“Meditation for mindfulness is a place to breathe in the whirlwind of life,” according to my former Australian yoga instructor. “It is a state of mind in which you breathe, allow your mind to stabilize and provide clarity of thoughts.”
Practising Meditation for Mindfulness Does Not Require a Zen Environment
In a very simple way, to practise meditation for mindfulness you don’t need a privileged view or a Zen environment. You can be present and mindful like that, exactly the way you are now. It doesn’t matter if you have an airplane flying over your house or an ambulance siren going off.
If you decide to lower the dust of your thoughts, sit comfortably (preferably without laying down so you don’t fall into the trap of total relaxation and drowsiness). Keep your feet flat on the ground. Close your eyes and pay attention only to your breathing, the way your chest moves when you inhale and exhale, the temperature of the air, the amount of air entering and leaving the lungs until the timer tells you that you have reached the end of the practice.
Is it easy? No, it’s not. At first, 5 minutes of this practice seems like an eternity. All you think is, “Is there still much left?” Your head begs you to give up, provokes you with thoughts of “I can’t do it”, “I’m tired”, “I’ll stop before, just this once”. But if you persist and let go of those thoughts, practice becomes more comfortable. You can increase the time and reap the benefits of a more peaceful mind.
An exercise alternative is to focus only on perceptions, not breathing. It is a scan of every bit of your body. The sensation of your right foot inside the shoes you are wearing now, the points where your body touches the seat and back of the chair, the texture of your clothes touching the skin, the existence of tension in a specific part of your body. It is crazy to realize that these things were there all the time and we don’t give them the slightest attention.
By having more self-awareness, we start to notice these forgotten parts of the body. And by exercising to be more present, we come to know ourselves better and understand that, many times, what we were feeling was not hunger, but thirst, which is irritated because a piece of clothing is uncomfortable or even learns to appreciate, in a totally new way, the taste of common everyday foods.
Daily exercise strengthens our mind during your meditation for mindfulness. Without realizing it, we remember to breathe better in times of stress. We learn to calm down when faced with difficult decisions, to prioritize our demands clearly.
Today, Many Applications Help, but Don’t Delay
Nowadays, there are many applications, such as Headspace, Lojong that offer guided practices. All of them have free and paid versions, and it is worth downloading at least one and getting started today!
Look, if you thought everything was incredible, but you decided to start on Monday or prefer to wait to have time to practise mindfulness, I already say that this will not happen. You have to create that time. Let it be 4, 5 minutes a day, every day. Needless to say, even when we claim we don’t have any time, we “get lost” for much more than these minutes in the abyss of social networks and the pitfalls of the internet.
Can’t you do the formal practice? Try informal practice. Choose any task of the day to do with mindfulness. This time, you will not focus on breathing or the body, but on performing a specific task. If you are going to brush your teeth, for example, do it as if it were the first time in your life to do this activity. Pay attention to the colour of the paste, the smell, the appearance, the shape of the brush, the material it is made of. See the amount of paste you put, the flavour, the texture, the temperature of it. Pay attention to brushing movements, as the brush touches the teeth, the gums, the amount of foam that forms.
I know it sounds like crazy talk, but I guarantee it will be a rich experience to realize the little pleasures hidden in an ordinary day, like enjoying the feeling of the light morning sun warming your face.
Practise, Persist and Accept Yourself With Meditation for Mindfulness
In short, practice, persist and accept yourself. Let the thoughts go. When thoughts arise, instead of clinging and giving too much importance to them, turn your attention to your breathing or where you have decided to anchor your concentration. Don’t judge yourself and be patient with yourself. It is human nature to have thoughts, expectations, impatience, feelings of avoidance. When these thoughts arise, be kind to yourself, acknowledge their existence, turn your attention to your breathing and sustain as much as you can without judgement.
Finally, as a support for always, I suggest you follow the One Mind Meditation Podcast. It is a channel created by a veteran meditator that brings content for you to better understand your mind and emotions and live in peace with yourself.
Be welcome! May you be well.