It happens every time I teach mindfulness meditation: someone does it wrong. I don’t mean “does it wrong” in my opinion, but in theirs. Somewhere, somehow, many people have gotten the idea that meditation is some magical state, achieved by the most perfect of meditators, where the mind is blank and absolutely everything is tranquil and calm. Have you ever had this idea or experienced, what you perceived was, doing it “wrong”: instead of a peaceful, quiet mind you experienced constant thoughts about the past and/or future, disturbing emotions, alarming imaginations and, basically, inner chaos?
If you have experienced such things, no worries: you are normal AND you are “doing it right”. Mindfulness meditation is about being in the present moment, on purpose, with awareness. The gift in mindfulness meditation is being able to “be here now” or to be aware, non-judgmentally, of what is occurring for you. Awareness is the key and acceptance is the next step. Once you become aware of your thoughts, feelings and sensations, you have the opportunity to accept your experience, non-judgmentally. And if you find you are judging what is occurring, again, you are normal! Simply notice the judgmental voice and continue being aware. We are well taught to be critical and judgmental — and this skill is appropriate at times, but not when it comes to self-acceptance. So, begin learning to leave judgment to an acceptable time and place and continue being aware and allowing “what is” to be noticed.
Having a beginner’s mind in meditation is important: each moment is new and each moment is the only moment we have. As the poet Rumi says: “Welcome and entertain them all!”. In his poem, “The Guest House”, he is referring to all thoughts and emotions, particularly the unwanted ones. With a spirit of graciousness, stop for a moment and notice: what is here, now? Can you welcome any thought, any feeling, as if you were the owner of a guest house and as if each thought and feeling were to be welcomed as a guest arriving? As if each moment was a chance to begin again? Why not give it a try?
One-Minute Breathing Meditation
Begin by sitting erect in a chair or on a cushion. Adopt a “dignified” posture, taking your seat in the midst of your life. Close your eyes or lower your gaze.
Focus your attention on your breath as it flows in your body and out of your body. Notice the sensations of each in breath and out-breath. No need to try to make anything happen — just observe your experience as you breathe in and breathe out.
You may notice your mind wandering…often! When it does, simply “escort awareness” back to the present moment, back to this breath. Undoubtedly this will happen often and is actually central to the practice of mindfulness: as many times as it takes, returning awareness to the breath. Think of it as strengthening a muscle…the muscle of returning to “now”.
Notice how there may be moments of calm as well as moments of distress or discomfort. There may be frustration, boredom, anger…we welcome them all as they are fleeting and not permanent. Whatever happens, just allow it to be as it is.
After a minute, open your eyes or look up and once again, take in the room.