Resources for Mindfulness
What is Mindfulness:
Starting mindfulness practice is easy, and requires no past experience, skillset, or beliefs. The idea of mindfulness is often compared to stilling the 'waves' in the 'water' of one's mind. This metaphor is valuable because it touches on the core notion of not-identifying with thoughts. We might stir up water and dust at the bottom of a sea with waves of thought, but when we quiet these waves, the water becomes clearer and so does our mind. So much of our mental/cognitive life is spent in identification with the "waves" which are often just loops that provide no useful new information to us. We passively view the waves/thoughts as though they are the lenses of reality, rather than seeing them as particular lenses, which sometimes are no longer valuable to us. Sometimes these thoughts/waves are like videos that are on unintentional and persistent replay in our minds. Mindfulness practice tells us that we can and do have a level of control over this, and gives a method.
Few types of Mindful Practices
There are several types of meditation. It can be useful to begin with ones which you feel most interested to begin with. Often it is best to begin with some guided meditations - this will save much time and effort. (1) Metta Meditation is about sending loving-kindness to yourself and/or others. While the concept may sound cliche to some, it has surprised me with the power it had to change my state of mind in a very powerful way on multiple occasions. (2) Focus Meditation is about keeping one's attention on a particular mental image or mantra such as a candle, dot, or concept, and not allowing one's mind to stray from this for the duration of the meditation. (3) A third type of meditation is more classically referred to as mindfulness which is about simply observing the mind without identifying with the thoughts. The challenge is not to erase thoughts, but to maintain the sense of the observer who is noticing, not judging, or trying to change those thoughts. One might pay close attention to one's breath as a way of grounding one's attention.
Mindfulness is a practice:
The benefits of mindfulness, just like those of eating healthy or exercise are never wasted even if done once in a while. However, these benefits are best harvested when they are done in a routine. Mindfulness can truly be thought of as building a muscle, and there are consistent brain changes associated with each of the different meditation styles.
Journaling as a way to Mindfulness
Meditation is one way to build awareness of the thought streams going on in our minds at any minute which we might be more or less concious of. However, one can build minful awareness through other means too. One method which I have used a lot and many of my clients find useful as a singular or complementary way to build mindful awareness is journaling. Journaling can be in the form of listing appreciations of the day, listing challenging situations, or as a stream of conciousness. There is no wrong method, and experimenting or combining them can often be quite useful. The important thing is to build more awareness of our thought processes which in turns gives us more control and decision power on where we wish to focus as well as to be less reactive and unintentional towards our own thought process.
Jack Kornfield has many guided meditations on his website. Below is one about compassion for ourselves during this time of the pandemic (13min)
Tara Brach is an acclaimed meditation teacher based in Maryland. She also has found a merging between biofeedback and neurofeedback and mindful practices. Here is one of many guided meditations on her website on cultivating an observer's mind to life. (25min)
Biofeedback and neurofeedback can be useful ways to guide one's awareness and calm the sympathetic or "fight or flight" side of the nervous system. Some find that learning to control one's physiological markers such as EEG alpha activity, Heart Rate Variability training, or Skin Conductance. Contact Better State of Mind for more information on how such modalities might be useful for deepending your mindful practices.