Jon Kabat-Zinn's (2003) definition of mindfulness is useful for our discussion: "Paying attention to something, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally." What exactly does this mean and how can you incorporate moments of mindfulness into your days? "Paying attention to something:" While the object of attention is often the breath, it can also be anything else of interest or of presence in our world: (sound, food, nature, thoughts, bodily sensations, for example). "...in a particular way, on purpose, non-judgmentally:" The process includes being focused on the object, noticing that thoughts will arise (it's not about having an empty mind), when thoughts arise, you can acknowledge the thought (some may even say "thought"), not judge the thought, yourself, or get caught up in the thought; rather, dismiss it, bring yourself back to the object of awareness (breath, sound, food, body, movement). As you practice, the ability to attend will become more natural, both within your scheduled practice and as a state of being.
If you find yourself resisting beginning or maintaining your practice, the following suggestions may help:
- "I don't have time." Schedule time for it. To this day, I have a section in my journal which is checked off to indicate I have completed the practice for the day. If I miss a day (and I do), I put a circle- no judgment. Scheduling it is a conscious decision to make time for something I value. For some people with a less flexible schedule, scheduling an actual time will help. Also, you can break up your practice to 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there, a minute here, etc. Start small. It will vary. My sitting meditations can be as short as 10 minutes to longer 1 hour sitting meditations.
- "I get bored." Being able to sit with boredom is a good skill to cultivate. However, if it feels particularly difficult to sit with a boredom you may experience, try to select an interesting object of attention, or activity. For example, taking a mindful bath, eating a mindful meal, listening to the sound of nature, doing a walking meditation, etc...
- "I can't stay focused." Your mind will wander. Even for individuals who have been practicing for years, our minds wander. It will get easier and you will likely find your mind less active with practice. Just notice the thought, dismiss it, and bring your focus back to the practice. You're exactly where you need to be.
- "I fall asleep": Perhaps you really need sleep and through your intended meditation time, you've received it. It's OK. It will happen. If this is frequently the case, see if you have adequate, quality sleep during the night. Also, see if a nap can be helpful to you. Next, set an intention, commit within to not fall asleep. Practice when you're not so tired. If you still fall asleep, try choosing a position such as kneeling or a practice such as walking meditation.