5 Recommendations to Achieve Increased Awareness through Present Moment Meditation
“Early in the journey you wonder how long the journey will take and whether you will make it in this lifetime. Later you will see that where you are going is HERE and you will arrive NOW…so you stop asking.”
In the 45 years since the publication of that landmark book, millions of meditation practitioners have sought to follow that advice to find peace of mind and reduce the stress of everyday life. Some have been more successful than others.
A Clinical Psychologist’s Perspective
Dr. Sophie Henshaw has 20 years in private practice as a clinical psychologist specializing in helping women overcome barriers in the workplace. A regular contributor to the Huffington Post and author of two self-help books for women in mid-career, Dr. Henshaw is also an avid practitioner of present moment awareness meditation, which she describes as “simple and easy to use at any time of day.”
Here are her top 5 recommendations for effectively finding and living in the present moment through meditation practice:
1. Establish a daily routine
Choose a set time each day for meditation and stick to it. Generally, the best times are first thing in the morning or last thing at night. As much as possible, always meditate in the same place, such as a quiet room in your home designed for meditation.
2. Understand your goal
The goal of present moment meditation is to achieve a totally relaxed state in which the mind becomes clear and alert. The notion that meditation is “doing nothing” is misguided. In fact, meditation requires a high degree of focused concentration in which you free yourself of self-reflective thinking patterns.
3. Find a comfortable position
You don’t need to sit in a lotus position to meditate. Although in general meditation is more effective sitting upright (lying down can often takes meditators into sleep), any position is fine, as long as you can remain comfortable for a protracted period of time. Remember, your goal is to make your body as relaxed as it would be in sleep while keeping your find fully alert.
4. Imagine a gatekeeper
The goal of present moment meditation is to stop the thinking process. One of the best ways to achieve this is to imagine an internal gatekeeper whose job it is to control what is allowed in, and what’s not — namely, random thoughts. Your gatekeeper works for you, and you need to give him or her clear directions. Begin by repeating silently and with concentration, “Now is the time to be aware of the present moment. I let go of the past and the future.”
5. Focus your attention on something
The chief qualities of the mind are awareness and attention, or as Freud would have it, cathexis — the investment of mental or emotional energy in something external. The mind must be attentive to something, typically a person, an object or an idea. The best way to still the mind in meditation is by focusing the attention on something internal, the first step in present moment awareness.
For some meditators, this is a mantra, but it needn’t be. Some achieve present moment awareness by focusing on sounds, such as their own breathing. For others, focusing on sensations, such the feeling of your hands resting on your lap or your clothing pressing against your skin, works equally well. The specific object of your attention is less important than the process of focusing your attention to achieve internal quiet and relaxation.
The mind is accustomed to certain habits, and successfully substituting new ones takes time. Everyone who has ever meditated experiences frustrations and setbacks along the journey. Often, problems with work or family or health intrude, and maintaining the discipline of a daily meditation routine can seem overwhelming.
It’s best always to keep your eye on the prize: the goal of present moment meditation is to achieve greater peace of mind, increased awareness and enhanced relaxation. When your progress feels like one step back for every two steps forward, remind yourself that you are, nevertheless, making progress. Remain committed to your meditation routine, and you’ll see results.