“Mindfulness practice also helps us to stabilize the mind and the body. It helps us to be less reactive, more responsive and more resilient…Whether praying or meditating, we need to bring our whole being to our meditation practice if the practice is going to have real benefit…A meditation practice is not a quick fix for long-standing mental habits that are causing suffering. Just as the body needs to be slowly stretched for greater flexibility, so does the mind need time for its training.” Roshi Joan Halifax
Developing a practice requires a steady and sustained effort. A participant in one of our trainings tried everything she could to find a time that would work in her hectic life. Finally, she found it: Sitting in her car in a outdoor carport at the hospital looking out at the morning sky. That was her sitting spot. Where’s yours?
THOUGHTS TO “KEEP” IN MIND
- Choose a time and a place that works for you. Keep to that time as best as you can.
- Keep the length short and build up to longer sittings
- Keep listening to different practice styles to familiarize yourself with the instructions
- Keep repeating the instructions to yourself until you naturally remember them
- Keep releasing judgment and criticism and keep returning to the instructions
- Keep calm in the midst of chaos, change, and distress.
- Keep smiling.
Getting Started with Good Instructions
Like learning to ride a bicycle, the first part of the practice is “getting on” the bicycle and then falling off. Beginners benefit from hearing the instructions to mindfulness practice from teachers with established practices and then gradually integrating these instructions into their own daily practice. Listening to guided instructions of varying lengths gives us a structure and will act as a reminder of the practice as we develop more confidence. Choose recordings without background music and trainer’s with pleasing voices. In time, you will hear the instructions in your own head. Your task is to find the “best” fit for you.
How long should I sit?
Choose a length of practice, i.e., 5, 10, 15 minutes and gradually build your sitting muscles and lengths of time for your sitting practice. The body requires time to adjust to the practice and become comfortable and at ease, as does our mind. Mental and physical discomfort may accompany the early stages of establishing our practice, so it is also important to speak to a teacher or mindfulness trainer. They can guide you in building healthy strategies. For this reason, it is helpful to attend an intro course that gives you tools to succeed. Starting with shorter periods, you may build towards a goal of 20-25 minutes which is excellent preparation for attending a meditation retreat.
What style of mindfulness should I practice?
Today, we have amazing access to guided practices across both the secular mindfulness community and the various schools of Buddhism. Thus, we often say “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Take your time to explore as many styles as you can. Experiment with local teachers and audio practices until you find the one that best suits both your temperament and your meditation goals. We hope you find this web site to be a resource hub that supports your “journey” to manifesting an engaged mindfulness practice. Mindfulness practice is one part of the training…..
The next aspect is learning the various skills of “focussed attention” known as shamatha in Sanskrit. These core elements include: concentration, noticing various states, labelling them, developing non judgment and non reaction. Through these skills you learn to let go, to relax more calmly and to become more accepting of where our mind travels. Following this, you develop an enhanced mindfulness skill called “receptive awareness” or vipassana from the East. This enables us to gain insight into the nature of how the mind becomes tangled and to see how this leads us to distress and suffering.
What am I focusing on when I practice?
Traditional and modern instructions all include guided steps in bringing the mind into relaxed ease. Beginning with Body Scan, Breath Counting and Breath-Body awareness, the guided practices will focus on your senses and to what arises moment by moment. At first, you learn to concentrate and focus on an object like the breath, the body & the seven points of posture and the actual practice of bringing the mind back every time it wanders. However, there are many other “objects of focus” for our practice including contemplative skills focussed on compassion, death & impermanence, forgiveness, equanimity, lovingkindness, generosity, etc.