How do we stay mindful for longer periods of time?
We need to cultivate the skill of present moment awareness so that it becomes a part of how we engage with our lives. Through training our mind, we change our brain. In other words, “mental states can be gradually hardwired into your nervous system as positive traits…This is neuroplasticity, the capacity of the nervous system to be changed by the information flowing through it,” explains Dr. Rick Hanson in his newest book Neurodharma.
Meditation is an effective way to cultivate mindfulness, to “use your mind to change your brain to change your mind for the better” (Hanson, Neurodharma). Try building a meditation practice with just one minute a day for an entire week. You can also begin with one minute and then add an additional minute each day. By the end of the week, you will have a 7 minute practice!
The key is to keep it simple so you do it everyday!! Avoid expectations of how you should feel during and after. This is a learning experience, an experiment. Be open to whatever happens.
1. Choose a time each day to practice. Some suggestions are:
2. Find a posture you can sustain for the minute. It can be sitting, standing or lying down.
3. Set a timer for 1 minute (or more if you have the time) on your watch or phone.
4. Choose where to focus or anchor your attention. Some suggestions:
5. Every time you notice that you are no longer focused on your chosen anchor, that your mind has wandered, note “thinking, thinking” and kindly bring your attention back to your anchor.
ALERT: It is important to NOT judge yourself for the mind wandering. The mind thinks all the time. You are not stopping thoughts, you are practicing concentration, which is essential to cultivating present moment awareness or mindfulness.
6. Begin the timer. Take a deep breath in and out as you settle into your posture. Then allow the breath to be natural. And meditate using your anchor to support your present moment awareness.
AFTER THE PRACTICE: Once the timer goes off, show yourself some gratitude. Meditating for one minute is a gift you just gave your mind, body and heart. Soon you will notice how it is a gift to others with whom you engage. Then reflect briefly on the experience – did you notice any shifts in the body or mind? What did you notice about your thoughts? Did any emotions arise?