One of the greatest challenges we face when starting a new endeavor of any kind is getting going and building momentum. especially if our endeavor is complex in any way. Here I aim to give you some basic tools and insights as to how you can start a mindfulness or meditation practice without spending money on classes, having to give up free time or feel like you're forcing anything.
First of all, I’d like to define what it means to be in practice of something. A practice is anything that you do regularly, for an extended period of time. This is so key to realize! Often we try something once and if we don’t see profound results immediately we stop and assume it’s ineffective or “just not for us”. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this type of thing from people. And it’s kind of absurd, I liken it to someone attempting to feel better by eating healthy, consuming one salad, not feeling any difference and then being like “well, nothing happened, I guess being healthy just isn’t for me”. You don’t just eat one nourishing meal and then become healthy, you feed yourself well everyday. We set the foundation for healthy eating by shopping for good food, cooking, making meal plans and sticking with the intention over time. So, in order to start a mindfulness, yoga or meditation practice we need to set foundations and perservere for time in the same way.
3 foundations for bringing mindfulness into your life:
1. Active awareness - This is something that you can do any and all the time; observing yourself in each moment. Watching thoughts, body sensations and emotions as they arise. Objectively, without judging anything. Self study and self awareness is incredibly important in cultivating mindfulness. But it doesn’t have to feel heavy or serious all the time. Give yourself the freedom to laugh at yourself, often I’ll catch myself thinking about things that are so ridiculous and contradictory that I actually laugh out loud.
2. Deep Breathing - As you observe yourself in each moment, hone in on your breath. Take deeper breaths all day everyday until your natural breath pattern is deeper and fuller without having to think about it all the time. Visualize directing your breath into the belly, expansive breath cycles with the inhale and exhale both coming to completion. All the way in, all the way out. Ideally breathing in and out through the nose, maybe sighing deeply through your mouth if you’re really feeling stuck or like your mind is racing a mile a minute.
Note that if you spent 5, 10, or 15-20 mins per day doing just these first two things you would have a great meditation and mindfulness practice right there. Boom. Done. You didn’t even have to put pants on for that.
3. Identify obstacles - Where is the resistance? Likely it is some combination of things such as; not believing it is for you, feeling on some level that you are unworthy of feeling true happiness and joy, not making time for yourself due to caring for others, health / mental health issues, misunderstanding the concepts, self avoiding, suppressed emotions, addictions etc. Identifying obstacles is not about focusing on the negatives or your shortcomings, rather it is about seeing the whole picture of where you are at right now. Once you are able to identify and observe the obstacles in your way, you can start to see that they are changeable and that it's possible to get around them. Sometimes when we look at things in an objective way the solutions to our “problems” appear on their own. Again, it comes back to practicing 1 and 2 constantly, lots of times implementing these foundations alone can get us around some of our obstacles. Say that an ever present sense of anxiety feels like a massive obstacle to you. Try deep breathing and sitting with your body sensations for a few minutes and perhaps the obstacle of anxiety has shifted or become more manageable.
Lastly, once you get going, take yourself out from under the microscope every once in a while. Constant examination and focus on your “problems" or shortcomings makes them seem bigger than they really are. You're OK! It’s all going to be ok, and just by reading this and by setting the intention to start your practice you’re making a huge step on the path towards feeling more calm, clarity, joy, creativity and true happiness.