Learning how to Master your own Mind
Are you comfortable sitting quietly with yourself? Or do you need to be with someone or doing something all the time?
Mindfulness – increased awareness of the present moment without judgement
Let’s look at this definition’s three parts. “Increased awareness” is simply giving our full attention to what’s going on. Feelings, thoughts, physical sensations, and sensory experience (hearing, touching, seeing, and smelling). This is much easier if we’re not doing four things at the same time. Research has shown that we’re not really more efficient or effective with multi-tasking. “This one thing I do,” is a Buddhist idea or teaching.
“The present moment” is pretty clear. Our attention is not on the past or the future, but rather on right here and now. Who am I? Not my thoughts or my mind. I am the part of me that is observing my thoughts. Consciousness. Listen to the voice in your head; be there as the witnessing observer.
“Without judgment” is the kicker. How many of us can do this—pay attention to our actions and reactions to life—and do so with complete acceptance and even compassion for self and others?
Mindfulness is a skill, which can become a habit, a perspective and action that we practice throughout the day. Start with one minute—or one breath—and build from there.
If we stop all else and listen, the voices in our head will become apparent. Let’s call it “self-talk,” the continual chatter or static in our mind. Are you aware of this stream of ideas and opinions, commentary and judgments? In 12-step programs, they call this “monkey mind” or “the committee.”
If we’re uneasy sitting with ourselves, this often means we’re uncomfortable with our self-talk. To be at peace with oneself, we have to make peace with the thoughts in our head. This usually includes messages and beliefs we’ve internalized from our parents. This material is often what brings people into psychotherapy. Examples: We notice how certain relationship patterns repeat again and again. Or: We have intense emotional reactions to people and events we don’t fully understand. Therapy allows us to challenge and change the content of inaccurate and unhelpful thought patterns.
Meditation - a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, the breath, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth. Contemplation.
Meditation requires that we pause, stop all activity, and sit quietly for a set period of time. Whereas, mindfulness can be practiced while we go about our day. We can learn to be mindful of anything and everything we do. So, how do we meditate?
First, it’s impossible to meditate incorrectly. You can’t do it wrong. Except, perhaps, meditating on your back, which usually leads to napping.
Second, it’s unrealistic to expect your mind will ever be free of thought. This is a popular misconception. Accept your thoughts as they come and go. Imagine them as clouds moving slowly across the sky.
Notice the gaps between the thoughts. They will be short at first, only a few seconds, but they become longer. You will recognize a peace and stillness inside you, and in time, the sense of peace will deepen.
Third, focusing on your breath is the simplest and perhaps easiest form of meditation. Notice the air entering your nostrils, how your chest expands, any other bodily changes, and then how the air leaves your body.
You can also focus on an object like a lit candle or a flower. Or use a word or phrase and repeat it over and over. This is called a mantra, and “love” is a nice one to use.
Hundreds of books have been written about meditation—and numerous phone apps are now available to support your practice. Two of my favorites are: 10% Happier and Meditation and Relaxation (a blue cloud is their logo).
To increase self-awareness and knowledge by sitting—or living—quietly with mindfulness and meditation is to become nothing less than the master of your own mind, a worthy goal. Both of these activities will lead to increased acceptance and life balance, as well as serenity and tranquility.
Two books for further reading: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle; and The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.