When it comes to starting a mindfulness practice, it’s helpful to clarify what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
Joseph Goldstein, one of the founding fathers of meditation in the West, describes mindfulness as, “being present with what is.” At its core, mindfulness invites you to engage with life as it unfolds, bringing a sense of openness, curiosity, and receptivity into the present moment.
In pleasant situations, such as taking a hike at sunset or sipping tea with friends, these qualities may be readily available. You might naturally bask in the beauty of your surroundings or enjoy the rich flavors of food without even trying.
In less pleasant situations, such as during a disagreement with your partner or challenge at work, having an open, curious attitude toward your feelings – or anyone else’s, for that matter – can seem like the last thing on your radar. Instead, you might unconsciously distract yourself from attending to the real issue – and no judgment if you do!
In either situation, it helps to implement practices that strengthen and deepen your capacity for curious and open awareness so that over time, it’s more natural for you to live your life with more ease.
It’s important to underscore upfront that building a mindfulness practice takes time. As we tend to be an instant gratification, results-oriented culture, it’s easy to tip into frustration when things take longer than you think they should.
In terms of how to get started, my strong recommendation is to lightly familiarize yourself with guidelines from a reputable book, teacher, or company (like eMindful!). Then, build upon these ideas to create a practice that’s tailored to your needs, values and interests.
Below are 6 Essentials steps to Create Mindfulness Practice
Want to learn more about what mindfulness is? We’ve covered it in a previous article.
Identify Your Type of Practice
Are you drawn to setting aside a certain amount of time to listen to a guided meditation or join a live, interactive class like the ones we offer through eM Life? Or, would you prefer to weave mindfulness into your life more organically? For example, you can bring presence to an activity you already do each day, such as walking the dog, drinking coffee or tea, or taking a shower. Note that one isn’t better than the other, and you can always change it up!
Explore Your Posture
It’s helpful to explore a variety of postures. Whether you lie down, sit on the floor or in a chair, stand or walk, choose one posture that’s relatively comfortable. And, because our bodies require different things all the time, don’t be afraid to accommodate your changing needs! Sometimes, for example, my lower back flares, and I find it most soothing to lie on my back. When I first started practicing, I might have considered this wrong or weak, but now I’m grateful for the chance to take care of myself.
Find Your Best Location
Where do you feel a relative sense of safety and ease? Whether you practice in your home and/or in the workplace, is there a place in which you feel safety or enjoyment? For example, if you find you’re on pins and needles when you listen to a meditation at your desk, or feel restless and annoyed when you practice next to your child’s room, full permission to find a new spot! Also, if you’re practicing outdoors, consider areas or paths that put your nervous system at ease.
It’s helpful to minimize distractions in order to allow your nervous system to cycle into a state of rest. Some examples are: leave your phone in another room (and put it on silent), sign out of email, turn off notifications, tell family members what you’re doing and what you need. I’m not suggesting you migrate to a dark cave when you practice. It’s just that the process of learning how to stabilize and soften your awareness can be slightly smoother if there are fewer competing interests.
Set Your Intentions
What is your “why” for setting aside time to grow your capacity for open, receptive, kind awareness? Initially, you might say, “I read an article that said it would help me sleep better or feel more calm.” However, I’d encourage you not to stop at what others say. See if you can dig a little deeper.
Why does more calm matter to you? What will it give you more – or less – of? How do you want it to impact your work, relationships, or sense of self? Do you want more confidence in social situations? Less self-criticism when things are out of whack? Give yourself full permission to simultaneously want what you want from the practice and let go of what others want for you, or have for themselves.
Define Your Needs
I’ve personally found that centering my practice on what I need helps me feel more recharged and empowered. Consider if you need to be with people or prefer to practice by yourself. You may also find that you need a combination of the two! Additionally, do you want to set up your environment a certain way by bringing in, for example, objects that inspire or relax you? Needs change daily, if not momentarily, so it’s good to get in the habit of checking in with yourself regularly by asking, “What do I need right now?” Then organize your practice accordingly.
Ultimately, it’s best to honor the unique person you are when you build a mindfulness practice. Rather than compromising your needs or values to fit into a prescribed method, create a practice(s) that builds upon and enriches what’s deepest and truest to you.
Start Your Mindfulness Journey Today
eM Life offers multiple live, interactive programs a day to help build your mindfulness skillset to increase focus, improve resiliency, reduce anxiety in the work place and more. Visit eM Life today to create your free account.
About the Author
Breon Michel, MAPP, is a MBSR teacher in Phoenix, AZ. Also a mother of two, her mission is to support parents who are doing the hard, uncertain work of raising children in modern times. Providing families with tools to feel more connected, balanced and peaceful while creating an environment for children to thrive, in both the short- and long-term. Breon writes about various mindful parenting topics on her blog page & on Instagram, @breon.michel.