Got Mindfulness? (Part 2)

(Read Part 1 here)

This is yoga that inspired me to start a formal mindfulness practice over a decade ago. The regular practice of pairing my movements with my breath led so many unexpected benefits that it did not take too long before I found myself seated on a meditation cushion in the early mornings.

Over the years, mindfulness meditation has been my go-to practice even though it's challenging for me to deliberately let go of engaging with my thoughts. Reflecting on the ability to progress in mindfulness training in spite of being distracted, I suspect that it's the process of noticing my distraction and bringing my attention back to my breath over and over that has actually been beneficial for me over the years. It's like if "failing" at being mindful followed by immediate self-correcting have been more effective in my training in mindfulness than if I had never been failing in the first place. After all, this is what happens in life off the cushion; failing and self-correcting is what makes us develop ourselves, not never failing at all.

Whereas this well-known mindfulness practice where the practitioner sits with a straight spine and directs their attention to the breath is indeed a great way to practice, there are many more options to choose from to get started or add variety to an established practice.

1. Sitting

The only requirement for a sitting practice is to keep the spine straight and choose a focus for the mind such as the breath. Sitting can therefore be done on a chair or stool with both feet flat on the floor, or on a meditation bench or cushion.

2. Standing

The best position for a standing practice is standing straight with the knees soft and the feet slightly apart, weight equally distributed between both feet, and arms relaxed alongside the body. This is mountain pose, in yoga terminology.

3. Movement

Walking meditation, yoga, qi gong, and tai chi are wonderful mindfulness practices consisting on pairing movement with a mental focus on the breath.

4. Recitation

Rather than focusing on the breath, the mental focus is on repeating a few words over and over (mantra, prayer, affirmation) silently or out loud. This can be done while sitting or standing.

5. Guided Practice

This kind of mindfulness practice involves meditating under the guidance of a mindfulness teacher. The verbal guidance consists of exploring a theme or doing a body scan where the attention of the practitioner is brought to each body part in sequential order.

6. Group Practice

Classes and retreats allow meditators to practice together, either in silence or under the guidance of a teacher. It can be a great way to remained engaged and foster a sense of community with like-minded individuals.

As you can see, there are many options to get started with a mindfulness practice, based on what sounds more engaging to you. For some, it's "go big or go home" by signing up for a week-long meditation retreat right away, while for others like me, it's starting (or re-starting : ) with a five-minute sitting practice and adding time progressively.

If you've been practising for a while and would like to switch things up to remain engaged, or if you're prone - like me - to falling off the wagon once in a while, having various options to get back on track definitely helps to stay committed or recommit. Getting advice and guidance from a mindfulness teacher is always a good idea as well. Anything by Jon Kabat-Zinn is valuable and trustworthy in my opinion.

This being said, no matter how you choose to go about your mindfulness practice, do it!