Mindfulness Meditation Instructions
By Suzanne Whitfield Vince
What is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is the intentional focus on the breath as it comes in and out of the body. The objective is not to blank out the mind or empty it of thoughts. Rather, it is to intentionally develop the qualities of attention, appreciation and kindness through mindful, non-judgmental, moment-to-moment awareness.
Find a quiet place where you can be alone without distractions. Sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the floor or crossed at the ankles, and rest your hands on your lap. Or, if you’re more comfortable sitting on the floor or a cushion, you may do this as well.
Your posture should be erect, so if you’re using a chair, you may need to place a cushion behind your lower back to avoid slumping.
The back of your neck is relaxed, allowing the chin to come slightly down. The face and jaw are natural and relaxed. Eyes can be open or closed.
Your body should be as relaxed as possible while still maintaining an erect spine. Don’t forget to relax your scalp and forehead, as well as your shoulders.
Breathe from your abdomen (diaphragm). This might feel a bit foreign at first, but after some practice, it will become second nature.
Your breath should be natural. Do not force it. Over time, you’ll naturally notice your breath cycle lengthening.
As you breathe in, feel the breath as it enters your body, filling you up completely. On the out breath, feel your entire body relax as you release the breath. Continue breathing, feeling the expansion and contraction of the belly.
As thoughts arise (and they will), gently bring your attention back to your breath without judging them or yourself. There is a saying that goes something like this: If one thousand times you find your mind wandering, and one thousand times you bring your awareness back to your breath, you have had a very successful meditation indeed.
Seriously, there is no such thing as a “bad” meditation.
If it helps your concentration, you may softly, silently count the breaths, counting “one” on the first exhalation, “two” on the second exhalation, etc., until you reach ten breaths, and then begin again with “one.” If your mind wanders during the counting, begin again at “one.”
Length of Meditation
The duration of your meditation is up to you. If you’re just starting out, you might want to do only five minutes. As you progress, you can work up to whatever amount of time works for you. The best results are attained from practicing for 45 minutes.
If you decide to meditate for a longer duration, say one hour, you can do so in one session or break it up into two sessions during the day.
Working with Distractions
You may hear sounds around you, or feel a sensation such as in itch or a pain somewhere in your body. When you catch yourself focusing on these external stimuli, simply bring your attention back to your breath, again, with no judgment.
Working with Feelings or Emotions
You may feel strong emotions arising, such as fear or anxiety. This is normal. When you do, allow yourself to feel them fully. Breathe deeply into the emotion, and hold with loving kindness, empathy and compassion before releasing them. Do this as many times as you need to in order to fully release the emotion and then return to your breath.
How do I time myself?
You can use an egg timer or the timer on your phone. I downloaded a free app called Insight Timer. There I can set a timer with intervals if I want, and be alerted with a gentle bell when the designated time has elapsed.
Note: If you’re using an electronic device to time yourself, be sure to put the phone in Airplane mode so you are not disturbed by reminders, incoming calls or texts.
What if I get interrupted?
It happens. If you get interrupted, simply resume your meditation and let go of any stress that the interruption caused. Extend the duration of your session if needed.
There are many great resources on Mindfulness Meditation available for free on the internet, but here are a few of my favorite books:
- Wherever You Go, There You Are (by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness Institute)
- A Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Workbook (by Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein)
- Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life (by Steven Hayes)