Mindfulness to create calm and clarity
by Jacquie Wise
How would you like to access inner tranquility, heightened clarity of mind, more happiness and flow in your life, a deeper connection with yourself, with loved ones and with a sense of purpose and meaning?
And while we’re at it, more restful sleep and greater energy? Sound too good to be true? Yet it’s simple! (What—and you want free steak knives too?)
Just as the ocean has quiet depths, untroubled by the agitation on the surface, so have we. In those silent, calm depths, we can find peace, clarity and happiness.
As the pressures of our world multiply, many are turning to meditation as one step toward a calmer, richer life. It does not necessarily mean sitting cross-legged on the floor for hours, chanting ‘Ohm’!
There are many different meditation techniques for different purposes—for stilling the mind, for insight, for self-understanding, for relaxation … for a heightened awareness as we learn to focus on the details we miss when we go through life giving things (even people) no more than a cursory glance.
We are often put off by unnecessarily complex or unrealistic recommendations, such as reserving at least 30 minutes a day. As I’m about to show you, benefits can be gained in just one minute at a time, here and there.
Even in literally just one minute at a time, you can attune yourself to the peace and harmony that exists deep within you.
Before we get into specific techniques, there are a few essential principles:
- Ideally, find a quiet, private place, but if that’s not possible, it can be done at your desk or on the train!
- Sit in a comfortable position with spine erect, but not stiff. Avoid leaning on anything or crossing your legs, because even in just a minute, the pressure on your body can distract you. Some prefer to lie down, but you can too easily fall asleep—not conducive to attaining a higher consciousness! If you fall asleep too easily, you might like to keep your eyelids open just a fraction.
- Deliberately withdraw your attention from all outer stimuli and focus totally on yourself. (That in itself is a challenge because it doesn’t require that you DO anything. It’s just a state of BEING that becomes easier with practice.) This is called ‘mindfulness meditation’, leading to a heightened awareness
- Practice one of the specific techniques outlined in this article
- Radiate the peace you have experienced outward to others
At the centre of most meditation processes lies the quest to access our pure consciousness, which we can experience once our minds stop being busy. It’s been called the “monkey mind”. It’s that stream of consciousness that keeps flitting from one thing to another like a monkey jumping from branch to branch, constantly chattering about that unresolved problem, that regret, that project.
Some strive to clear the mind, but that’s impossible for most of us—the mind is structured to think— so attempts at meditation become a frustrating strain. We can’t force the mind to be still, but we can withdraw our consciousness from its restlessness by focusing on something else.
Mindfulness in a minute
Here are a few ideas – each of which can be done in 60 seconds at a time.
(One minute is great—five minutes is better). They’re all directed at stilling the mind for just one moment, until it becomes an easy habit. In just one minute you can relax, refocus, and re-energise. Do it often enough during the day and you’ll be better able to roll with the punches.
1) Concentrate on your breathing. Begin by taking a couple of deep, slow breaths, sucking the air right down into your stomach. This will help release tension. Then allow your breath to return to its natural, steady rhythm. Keep your awareness focused on your breathing. This will slow down your mind and keep your concentration in the present moment. If your breaths are fast and shallow, practice slowing them down, without forcing them. Be mindful of how you are breathing at different times, depending on the mood of the moment.
2) Observe yourself, sitting there. Feel the pressure of the chair under you, the floor under your feet. Observe where your hands are placed. Observe the play of light and colours under your eyelids. Just observe. Open your eyes, and gazing straight ahead, observe, without looking, what you can see in your peripheral vision.
3) Be mindful of your body. Run a mental scan over your body and notice parts that are tight or stiff, maybe aching. Just observe, without analysis. Be a witness to the signals your body is sending you that you might be stressed, or holding a bad posture.
4) Focus on an object. You can choose a symbol, a favourite sculpture, a colour you love, or a candle flame. Or examine a flower— observe the transparency of the petals and the way they curl; observe the subtle colour variations, the scent. This will not only give your mind a moment’s break from its chatter, but will also develop your concentration.
5) Observe the monkey mind. Be mindful of the thoughts or images floating into your head and gently allow them to float away, without analysis or judgement. Just watch them float in and out, as if you were watching a parade. It becomes easier with practice, until you are easily able to switch off thoughts of work. If a thought persists, imagine yourself blowing into a balloon, tying the end, and watching the balloon float high up into the sky towards a brilliant white sun, where it simply evaporates, taking the persistent thought with it.
6) Observe your emotions. This is what is meant by learning to ‘listen with your heart’. Become aware of your reactions to the events of the moment. You will understand yourself better as well as be better able to find the right solution before a problem grows too big, unnoticed. Pause for a minute periodically, throughout the day, to tune in to your feelings. Observe how thoughts affect your emotions. Learn to switch from negative thoughts to positive ones, and watch how you feel differently each time. Witness changes in your temperature, in muscles tensing or relaxing, changes in the rate of your breathing. Be mindful and fully aware.
You may like to teach your children some of these ideas—make it a family tradition. The greatest gift we can give our kids is the ability to find peace within, and a greater mindfulness that leads to more fulfilling relationships with ourselves, with others and with the world
Peace does not mean to be in a place
where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.
It means to be in the middle of those things
and still be calm in your heart. (Unknown)
I’d love to know what you think of what I’ve said here.
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