Mindfulness meditation, or shamatha, has been defined as “the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment.” It involves being kind and forgiving toward yourself and accepting your experience during meditation. Stay with it and it will become easier to accept anything that comes your way during your day to day life. It has ancient roots in Buddhism, but most cultures have some type of prayer or meditation technique. If you find yourself getting caught up in worrying about the future, the past, or feeling disconnected with the present moment, then you may greatly benefit from practicing mindfulness meditation.
Over the last decade, more and more scientific studies have surfaced focusing on the various benefits that mindfulness meditation can bring to your life. Professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, assisted in bringing mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine. He showed that the practice can improve physical and psychological symptoms and also bring positive changes to health attitudes and behaviors. Being mindful helps you become fully engaged in activities and makes it easier to deal with adverse events. It can improve physical health in many ways, such as relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, reducing chronic pain, and improving sleep. It can also improve mental health in multiple areas like depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and anxiety disorders. A review study at Johns Hopkins University found that mindfulness meditation effects rival those of antidepressants. Research has shown that the beneficial effects of mindfulness are increased the more often a person practices.
There are guidelines to follow while practicing mindfulness meditation. It is an active training of the mind to “achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment.” Most people find it takes 20 minutes for their mind to settle, so that is a good time to start with. It is recommended that you set a timer so that you are not distracted by wondering how much time has passed and when you should consider being done. You should find a place that is uncluttered and with little distraction.
Set your posture. Level your shoulders and hips, keeping the natural curve of your spine. Rest your palms on your thighs, drop your chin a bit, and let your gaze fall slightly downward. You may also choose to close your eyes, if that’s more relaxing.
Follow your breath as it goes in and out. Focus on the feeling of air through your nose or mouth, and the rise and fall of your chest.
If your mind begins to wander, no need to worry or block your thinking. Gently refocus your attention on your breathing. You may even say to yourself, “That may be a really important issue in my life, but right now is not the time to think about it.”
Over time, as you keep up the practice, you will begin to notice the increased calmness and harmony in your life.