If you chose to watch this video, you probably already know something about mindfulness, so I’m not going to into that in detail, except to say that it’s the practice of being present, aware, and without judgment.
In the classes, workshops, and retreats that I lead, I work with people to begin a practice of five minutes of daily mindfulness meditation. What often happens is that people soon get discouraged with their practice because they can’t still their minds for five minutes, then give up the practice altogether!
That’s so sad, because the point of mindfulness is not all about achieving a blank mind—it’s to train the mind to not react so quickly and unconsciously to the myriad of thoughts and emotions that pop into our minds and bodies in a given moment. We can have brief moments of a quiet mind, and perhaps after years of practice, our minds are much quieter than they used to be. But that takes a lot of practice, and most of us aren’t there yet. In the meantime, we practice and practice and practice!
Every moment, thoughts and feelings are coming and going in our minds. When we’re unaware of them, they inevitably drag us in one direction or another. If I’m working at my desk and suddenly start thinking about the doughnut s in the kitchenette down the hall, I can notice that thought—be aware of it—and remind myself that doughnut s are not the kind of food I want in my body; and besides, I don’t even like doughnut s!
If I’m not present with those doughnut thoughts, they will dance in and out of my head for a few minutes before I feel compelled to go have a doughnut that I don’t even like!
Our actions and attitudes follow our thinking!
Whatever spends time in our heads guides the rest of us!
When we do our mindfulness practice—or any type of meditation practice—we are doing just that: Practicing. We are practicing observing our thoughts as they come and go. We have our anchor or focal point that we bring our attention back to gently, noticing our minds wandering, then bring our minds back again.
It’s like lifting weights. We don’t go to the gym, lift one repletion, then think we’re done and now should be able to lift 500 pounds! We repeat those exercises a couple dozen times, several times a week, slowly building those muscles.
Mindfulness builds the muscle of the mind so that our conscious awareness is more in charge of us than our unconscious thoughts and emotions that pop in and out of our minds all the time.
Maybe you already have a meditation practice, or maybe you’ve come in and out of one. Either way, remember that while a quiet mind is wonderful, the practice of observing the busy mind and bringing it back to your anchor is how your mind’s focus and attention muscle is built!
In a five minute daily practice, if you have to gently redirect your mind 1,000 times, that is success!