Mindfulness Meditation and Focused Training

Mindfulness meditation is the practice of paying attention mindfully. As Jon Kabat-Zinn describes:  Paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. 

The ability to focus can be learned! Meditation does not have to involve a major time commitment. If you are new to meditation, or if you have limited time, you might want to start with a very simple focused meditation. Even practicing this simple meditation 5 to 10 minutes a day, has been found to have very positive effects on a persons ability to handle stress, their immune system functioning, and their overall health.

Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. Dim the lights in the room. Turn off your cell phone and other technology that may interrupt your practice. Make sure that the room is at a comfortable temperature, and if not, cover yourself with a throw.

Identify the length of time that you want to practice. In the beginning, this may only be five or ten minutes. As you increase your ability to focus, you may want to challenge yourself with longer sessions. However, it is important to set a timer so that you do not have to watch the clock.

Sit comfortably in your chair with both feet solidly on the ground. Try to keep your back straight and lay your hands at your side or fold them together in your lap. Or, alternatively, lie on the ground.

Start to notice that you are breathing. Become aware of the sensations of breathing. This is not about controlling your breath, but is simply about noticing that you are breathing. Notice the air moving in through your nostrils, passing through your throat, and into your belly as you inhale.  Follow your breath out through your mouth as you exhale. You may notice that your breath slows down as you focus on your breath.  A comfortable rate is approximately six breaths per minute (6-7 seconds on inhale and 6-7 seconds on exhale).

As you sit and observe your breath, you will find that your mind wanders to different thoughts, ideas, worries, or plans. This is normal and is the brains natural default state. Rather than engaging with your minds thoughts, simply notice that your mind has wandered and then gently bring your attention back to your breath. If you find yourself feeling frustrated or self critical, again, just simply notice that you had the feeling (without judging) and guide your attention back to the breath.

When the timer goes off, allow yourself to slowly return to your day.

When you practice this daily, you will strengthen the neural connections in your brain that are important in maintaining focus and regulating behavior. As with any skill, the more you practice, the better you will become. Many people find that doing this practice regularly helps them to feel more centered and in control. However, even skilled meditators sometimes find themselves having difficulty focusing. It is during these unfocused times that you are training!

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