My Advice to People Getting into Mindfulness
I’ve recently been asked to say, in one sentence, my advice to people getting into mindfulness. There are so many things I would like to say that parsing it down to one sentence seemed like quite a challenge. To help me and (hopefully) you in the process, I will share the advice that I’ve been given and have given to others over the years and maybe I’ll come up with one sentence in the end. Let’s see what happens…
“Just Do It” – This is one of the first and best pieces of advice I ever received. No, it wasn’t advice from Nike, but from Jon Kabat-Zinn and I’m sure he’s shared it with thousands of people around the world. This advice has served me well and has gotten my butt on the cushion to sit in meditation on innumerable mornings. You see, my mind never tells me that this morning is a great morning to get up a half an hour early to do my mindfulness practice. But, I “just do it” anyway.
“Make space for formal practice” – When I say “space” I mean create an actual physical space where you do formal practice (e.g. a particular chair, room, place at work), but I also mean “space” in terms of setting aside the time for practice. It helps if you write it down on your calendar or set your alarm. You can even start with just a few minutes a day and it will make a difference. Try even a couple of minutes during the work day and notice how you feel.
“Relax” – There is really nothing to do. Mindfulness is an un-doing of all the things we think we are and how things are supposed to be. Relax into the present moment with openness and curiosity. One meditation teacher said “stop seeking peace and happiness and peace and happiness are here.” Take a deep breath, relax, and see if you can sense the truth of that statement.
“Don’t give up” – Mindfulness practice is simple but not easy. You keep coming back to the present with kindness over and over again. Eventually you begin to get better at noticing when you aren’t present, and you stay in the present more often.
“Be gentle with yourself” – One of my favorite ways of describing mindfulness is “affectionate attention.” You are gentle and kind with yourself, with others, and with your experiences. We are such perfectionists in this culture. Instead “try a little tenderness” as Otis Redding would say!
“Find a community or support group to practice with” – There is a great power and energy in practicing mindfulness with others. We support and learn from one another in community and hold each other more accountable.
“Realize that everything is practice” – What this means is that you can bring your mindfulness to anything and make it a meditation. In fact, your entire life can be a meditation. You pay attention to all of your senses with kindness and curiosity. You can do that anywhere and anytime.
So, I can’t really sum all of that up in one sentence, but if I only have one this is what I’d say. “ Taste a little bit of mindfulness every day, even if it is one mindful breath, and do it with kindness.”