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4 Powerful Mindfulness Practices

Woman sitting cross-legged on the beach looking out to the ocean with a rainbow affect over the picture and clouds in the background

Hopefully by now you’ve heard enough to know that developing a mindfulness practice is a very useful thing to do. Many consider it THE key to a happier life. While it is basically simple, it is certainly not easy. Our overly active conscious minds are busy and often don’t cooperate with getting still. Like a young dog, training makes for happier and more effective relationships, both with self and others. And often our dogs are better trained than our minds!

To get started try each of the following methods and notice which one works best for you. Sometimes combining them is useful, however start with each one as a separate practice until you have some familiarity.

Follow your breath: this is the most common and simple way to come into the present moment. Typically, sit in a quiet place, body relaxed, spine and head upright, eyes closed, take a big breath or two to settle your body. Direct your attention to your breathing as it is always in the present moment. It's easiest to notice your breathing at your nostrils (where the air comes in and goes out), or you can notice the rise and fall of your rib cage.

Count your breath: if my mind is very busy, I may focus on my breathing as above, and also count each breath- it gives the mind another focal point, besides thinking.

Ladder: The goal is to create a pause between your exhalation and the next inhalation. Inhale, exhale, pause, and repeat. In the first cycle, pause for a count of 1. In the second, pause for 2. Continue like this until you get to 10, then reverse. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. For some people pausing for 10 is a long time. Start with 5 and work up. While best to do this eyes closed at first, you can use it eyes open, walking down the hall, across a parking lot, etc. This is a very easy and rapid method of calming your mind and body, even if you started in an anxious or fearful state (almost any unpleasant emotion will improve).

Body Scan: Start by following your breath, and as son as you begin to get still, notice your body. Do this systematically, head to toe, or simply notice where your attention goes in your body.

With each of these methods, its important to embrace an attitude of acceptance. Observe whatever you are experiencing the way it is, rather than labeling it as bad or good.

REPEAT: No matter which method you choose, typically, after a few minutes, your mind will wander. When it does, gently bring it back to the method you are using. Each time the mind wanders, bring it back again, without judgement. Repeat until time is up. Twenty minutes or more is ideal. Whatever you will do is better than none, so give it a try!

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