One key aspect of mindfulness is the ability to calm and focus the mind. By bringing your attention back to the breath each time you feel your mind wandering during meditation, you can strengthen the brain’s ability to focus over time.
Cultivate greater attention with these short meditations from our Editor-in-Chief Barry Boyce.
If you have one minute for meditation, try this:
Tune into your natural awareness:
In mindfulness practice, you’ll often hear the term “natural awareness.” By natural awareness, we mean the awareness that just comes with being a human being. It’s free from judging and characterizing—it’s just noticing and sensing the world.
So, the simplest awareness that just comes as part of the equipment of being alive, without a lot of filters around it or judgments. You can trust that it’s always there.
- Settle into your seat. Begin by taking a seat, or if necessary, standing. The important thing is to feel where your body is touching the seat and touching the ground.
- Scan the body. Sense where your bottom is touching the seat. Sit up straight or stand straight but not stiff. Make sure your feet are completely touching the ground, connecting you to the earth. Your eyes are open, so take in the surroundings of where you are. Lower your gaze slightly.
- Connect with the breath. Pay light attention to your breath as it goes out.
- Follow the out-breath. At the end of the out-breath, let there be a gap while the in-breath is happening. And in that gap you have natural awareness: it’s there already, you don’t have to create it. So, follow the breath out, and out, and out. As thoughts arise, treat them as you would anything else you encounter: Notice it, and use that noticing to bring you back to the out-breath and ride it out. Out, and out, and out.
If you have 10 minutes for meditation, try this:
Tune into your meta-awareness:
The moment of noticing a thought is a very powerful moment. It’s really where the real meditation occurs. That’s because there’s a spark of insight at that point, what in technical terms is called meta-awareness: you’re aware of your thought process, not just caught up in it. Now at that moment, there’s lots of possibility.
You can touch that thought and gently bounce back to attention on the breath and your body. But you might also say “Oh damn, there I go thinking again, I just can’t get away from this thinking and do this meditation.”
The moment of noticing a thought is a very powerful moment. It’s really where the real meditation occurs.
One of the wonderful things about meditation is the fact that it allows for such a monumental amount of failure. Failure is just fine. So, if you’re sitting meditation for 10 minutes and you don’t notice your thought until the bell rings at the end, that’s what that session was about. You learn from it. There will be another one. No big deal.
- First, feel your bottom on the seat, and your feet on the floor or the ground, flat, touching the earth. Your eyes can be open or closed, head tilted slightly down. Your shoulders are relaxed, your hands are resting on your thighs and your upper arms are parallel to your torso. Just take a moment to feel that posture.
- Now we’re going to use the breath as an anchor for our attention. We don’t concern ourselves with trying to adjust the rate of the breath, we just come with whatever breath we have.
- One of the first things we notice naturally as we try to pay attention to breath coming in and out is our mind is filled with thoughts. It’s like a waterfall of thoughts. And in mindfulness practice, just notice the thought. Touch it, and go back to the breath.
- As you hear the concluding bell, no matter what’s been going on in the session, you don’t need to evaluate it, just let it go. As you’re hearing the reverberation, open your eyes, and enjoy what’s coming next.
If you have 15 minutes for meditation, try this:
Tune in to present moment awareness:
As we become more familiar with practicing mindfulness, we can begin to enjoy it as an opportunity to simply be—to inhabit our body and be wherever we are without having to do anything in particular.
No question that simply being is equally as challenging because some scary thoughts might crop up. But as we become more familiar with the process, we realize we don’t have to fully engage those thoughts or get caught up in them.
So, in this longer meditation practice, let’s take the time to enjoy being here.
- We begin with our seat. The point about our seat and our legs is just to have a base, to be supported. Nothing special about it.
- Now, simply pay attention to your breathing. Now we pay attention to the breath as it comes in and goes out. The nice thing about the breath is that it’s reliable. It’s always going to be there if we’re alive.
- Pay attention to body and breath together. As we come back to and notice our breath, we’re also noticing our body, so it’s a kind of a whole body experience, resting our attention on the breath.
- For a little while, practice returning to the breath when the mind wanders. We’re taking time to be present and to develop presence. Presence meaning: able to be present for whatever comes up—up or down, could be very intense thoughts.
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