Sometimes, all we have is the gentle touch of a piece of tissue. Live in the only moment we have. The goal of meditation is to fuse mindfulness practice into daily life.
I feel relaxed in meditation sessions, but the impact of meditating is far beyond feeling relaxed while meditating. Instead, we treat meditations as little experiments. We spend time observing our mind, notice how are we easily distracted, how a single piece of negative thought can grow into a depressive thinking stream. We gain insights on these and apply the observations in our daily life, for instance, when a negative thought pops in, I know how to notice it without fuelling it with more negative thoughts, the result is greater control over daily thinking and emotional pattern.
Therefore, the daily meditation session is crucial.
Mindfulness is no difference: we need to nurture a habit to be constantly aware of the state of our mind. The habit is hard to nurture. Meditation itself is a painstaking activity. Boredom, agitation, reluctance or tiredness might strike anytime.
Mindful Awareness Practices for Daily Living - UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
These feelings may even stop us from meditating. But the habit, once acquired, is of immense power. Good things happen in life. Bad things also happen in life. External circumstances govern our reaction without our deliberations. Heard some offensive words?
But awareness of mind adds a layer in between the external circumstance and reaction. The transition is a bit like from an audience of a movie to the director of the movie. The movie of our life. Such transition is not an on-and-off button of course. At times I react without thinking much too.
There is, however, a pretty clear trend of improvement of how much I am aware of my thoughts in retrospect. Mindfulness can rewire the brain and change its biological structure, but it takes time.
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Give it time. Well experienced the benefits of meditation, I joined a day meditation retreat in a Buddhist temple. It was a full-time, hard-core experience. As I stepped into the door of my dormitory, I was greeted by an overwhelming amount of ants. These ants were everywhere: on the floor, on my bed, and in my bags. The daily routine was all about meditation. There was no recreational activity in the day period.
Meditation sessions progressively increased from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. I was doing 8—10 sessions per day. It was a very exhausting mental activity. Approaching the end of each session, I noticed my mind was at unrest, and also the body because of the cramped posture.
How to Meditate Daily
Ten days felt so long, but it eventually came to an end. Stepping out the temple, I found the city seemed more splendid than ever. Sights of the street, a touch of the wind played a lively drama in my mind. Indulging myself in urban reunion, I lost my wallet in a foreign country right after I left the camp. For a short moment I panicked, but soon the meditation training kicked into my mind.
Mandalas and Meditations for Everyday Living
I observed my anxiety and aggrievement, and it was like I put them in a container — they were still there, but unable to affect me. The trigger should be something you already do regularly, like drink your first cup of coffee, brush your teeth, have lunch, or arrive home from work. Find a quiet spot. Sometimes early morning is best, before others in your house might be awake and making lots of noise. Others might find a spot in a park or on the beach or some other soothing setting. A few people walking by your park bench is fine.
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Sit comfortably. Others who can sit cross-legged comfortably might do that instead. Still others can sit on a chair or couch if sitting on the floor is uncomfortable. Zen practitioners often use a zafu, a round cushion filled with kapok or buckwheat.
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Any cushion or pillow will do, and some people can sit on a bare floor comfortably. Start with just 2 minutes. This is really important. Most people will think they can meditate for minutes, and they can. But this is not a test of how strong you are at staying in meditation — we are trying to form a longer-lasting habit. And to do that, we want to start with just a two minutes. You can expand to minutes if you can do it for 7 straight days, then 10 minutes if you can do it for 14 straight days, then 15 minutes if you can stick to it for 21 straight days, and 20 if you can do a full month.
Focus on your breath. Concentration is the ability to stay mentally focused on an activity for a long period of time, without being distracted. In modern society, the pervasiveness of screens ipads, smartphones, etc. In zen, the practice of concentration encourages us to pay attention to what we do, whether we are using our computer or cutting vegetables. Being fully aware of the moment, learning to appreciate the present moment, become the treasures of our everyday life.
The aesthetics of zen is characterized by its purity: a flower in a vase, and a lot of space around it. A life cente- red around respect for the environment. In zen monasteries, dojos and groups of practice, rituals give another dimension to the practice of meditation. At meal times, especially during retreats, Buddhist chants invite us to feel gratitude for everything that contributed to the simple fact that there is food on the table, and to think of those who are not so lucky.
Indeed, meditation goes way beyond personal development.