Hello. My name is Doug MacLean and I am a teacher of mindfulness in Calgary for the last 8 years. September is coming and you might want to consider starting a mindfulness practice and building it into your routine now that the fall season is approaching. Here’s how….
Let me start with telling you what mindfulness is. Mindfulness is defined as the awareness that comes from paying attention from moment to moment to your experience. By experience, I mean what we apprehend through our senses, including hearing, tasting, touching, seeing and smelling. Mindfulness also includes paying attention to your experience without judgment. Practically speaking, the mind is often making judgments automatically. Consequently, mindfulness asks you to notice when the mind has made a judgment and to suspend the judgment
To be mindful is to tap into the capacity of your mind for paying attention and holding the attention of whatever you experience. It can be thought of as a way to self observe experience.
Mindfulness becomes the knowing of your experience and may be thought of as a container that holds all experiences regardless of their qualities. Mindfulness is cultivated through formal practices where you focus your attention on an object and then you try to maintain your attention on the object over a period of time. I teach this practice through a secular approach using either meditation or gentle yoga. In meditation, the object of attention will vary, however, the breath is often used for this purpose. In gentle yoga, the object of attention is either the breath or body sensations or both together.
The suggestion is that you can observe your experience. This enables one to find some space between the experience itself and how you respond to your experience. Through finding this “space” one is able to choose a response rather than being carried away by habitual reactions that are characteristic of being on auto pilot and usually a result of our past experiences and conditioning.
Here are some suggestions for starting a mindfulness meditation practice. Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted for a set period of time – it could be just 5 or 10 minutes to start. Sit upright on a firm chair with your feet flat on the floor and lower your gaze. You can choose to close your eyes if you are comfortable with that. Embody a feeling of calmness and stability in your physical body. One easy way of doing this is to repeat silently the words “calm” or “calmness” a few times and see if you can connect with your potential for physical calmness. Next, turn your attention to your breathing where you feel it most dominantly in your body. Focus on the feeling of each breath as it comes in and out. When your mind wanders away from the feeling of the breath, which is normal, gently and with compassion, return your attention back to the breath. When you think the time you set aside is up, check the clock. If it isn’t, return to the breath. Once the time is up, simply return to the activities of your day.
I suggest that you start with 5 or 10 minutes. Over time, you can increase the time. Practice daily as this will promote strength and your capacity for calmness and stillness. Finally, it is easy to get impatient. If you notice this arising, intentionally bring patient and persistence to the practice.