Training Your Mind

Last time I introduced mindfulness as a way of training the mind - developing awareness of our internal world (of the thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations and impulses that shape how we feel and behave and relate to our external world) and managing our mind effectively from a place of greater clarity and calm.

Training begins with our attention.

In mindfulness meditation we practice focusing our attention onto a chosen part of our experience (for example the breath) and directly observing what is happening right now in the present moment. 

As you read this article, take a few seconds to follow each step described and experience this for yourself.

Try this Mini ‘Experiment’ with your Awareness

What is attention anyway? For 30 seconds try closing your eyes and simply noticing where your mind goes - what happens in your moment-to-moment experience?

Go! …

Now you’ve opened your eyes - what did you notice?

Sounds? Thoughts? Physical sensations inside your body? Plans? Day dreams? Worries? Impatience?

Your attention no doubt wandered all around your experience, moving from place to place in the field of awareness and even in the space of 30 seconds your experience was defined by those places that it went to. 

Focus (as best you can!)

In meditation we aim to focus our attention in one place - directing attention as if it were a spotlight. This keeps the mind more steady and brings a stillness to our experience.

This may (or may not) feel peaceful and relaxing - which is great(!) but that’s not our aim here!

By grounding attention in one single aspect of experience our awareness settles there but we more clearly notice where ELSE our attention wanders to.

We notice the busy thoughts, the chatter, the bubbling emotions, the subtle ways our body is feeling.

In acting as observer of the content of the mind we begin to have a new relationship to it - rather than being driven by it unconsciously we become a witness to it. 

A Three-Minute Breath Meditation - Give it a Try!!

Now try this 3 minute meditation as you sit here:

Read these steps before starting and treat this as another little experiment, an exploration of your mind for just three minutes.

1 Sitting where you are, let your eyes close and settle into your seat, feeling your body relax into the chair.

2 Bring your attention into the physical sensations of your breath as the air flows into your body. No need to change your breathing - simply feel it moving at its own natural rhythm. 

3 Follow the sensations of breathing as you inhale and exhale. Really explore the subtle textures of each individual breath.

Notice the depth of each breath. Notice the feeling of air entering your lungs and leaving your lungs. Let your breathing fill your awareness.

4 Notice where your attention is pulled away to. The sounds, thoughts, building feelings or emotions felt in the body.

When you realise you’ve wandered off - simply come back to the breath. It’ll happen over and over so patiently bring it back each time. This is part of the practice.

5 Settle into your breathing, fully alert and awake to the physical experience of the breath. Keep going with this for 3 whole minutes.

6 Finally, when you’re ready, slowly open your eyes.

What happened?

You did it! How was it? What did you observe happening in the mind? What was it like to tune into your breath? Was it hard? Easy? Peaceful? Frustrating even?

There is no correct thing to experience - so whatever you experienced, well done - you managed to observe your mind in action.

This is the first step to awareness and understanding of this internal landscape that shapes your daily life.

(Remember, you can practice these steps for longer if you like and turn this simple exercise into a 5, 10 or 20 meditation.)

Meditation is a Practice 

In meditation we are not striving to achieve any particular state of peace or relaxation - we are opening our awareness to our experience, whatever that experience is.

And every meditation practice will be different - sometimes easy, sometimes less smooth-sailing. No ‘right’ way to feel, no ‘correct’ experience to be had.

The more you try this the more familiar you will become and more easily you will be able to slip into this different mode of being. 

I encourage you to give this a go, maybe try 3 mins in the morning and 3 mins in the evening. 

Have a go and I invite your feedback or any questions!

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