“Mindfulness is Paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity.” ~ Amy Saltzman (2011)
Well, I launched this kindness blog a couple of days ago. So I am excited, as this will be my first real entry focused on discussing kindness related subject matter. It’s seems to me that a lot of the focus will have to be on mindfulness/meditative practices and other contemplative concepts. So I thought it would be important, and a good launching point, to make the case for kindness being a wonderful result of mindfulness and present moment awareness.
The above, well known, definition of mindfulness posed by the respected author, holistic physician, and mindfulness coach, Amy Saltzman, uses kindness as a major defining characteristic of the cultivation of a mindful mindset. Her mention of curiosity makes reference to the fact that present-moment/non-reactive awareness helps me to avoid pre-judgments and prejudices/bias that are usually negative generalized opinions that only serve to hinder kindness/compassion.
There are many reasons that fostering mindfulness and mindfulness practices does enhance our lives, improve our relationships with others, and yes promote kindness and compassion. The reasons for this, per the latest research and empirical data, are as follows:
- Increased emotional regulation
- Increased social skills
- Increased ability to orientate attention
- Increased working memory and planning/organization
- Increased self-esteem
- Increased sense of calm/relaxation and general self-acceptance
- Increased quality of sleep
- Decreased negative affect/emotions
- Decreased anxiety
- Decreased depression
- Fewer conduct and anger-management problems
My own interest in mindfulness originated from my harboring hate and resentment toward a particular individual. I could clearly see that these feelings of aversion were hindering my life in many ways. This hatred culminated to prayers involving my imploring my higher power make sure that this person die alone and in a great deal of pain. It’s with great embarrassment that I admit these thoughts/prayers. I did imeadiately recognize my problem and did vow to make a change.
For me, adopting a mindful lifestyle has involved embracing wisdom. I had to study, practice, and strive to be non-judgemental. This was the only way that I could cut through the delusions and misconceptions around mindfulness/medatative practices. I consided these practices to be useless, exotic, and for religious zealots. These conclusions all turned out to be completely wrong and misinformed.
So we have talked about the reasons to bring kindfulness into our lives. Now let’s look at how we could make it happen.
Here are some standard instruction concerning mindfulness/meditative practices:
Here you are ready to self-meditate, and here are some simple guidelines and information for your practice.
- regular time slot and amount of time
- quiet or peaceful place for your meditation
- meditation cushion, bench, or favorite chair
- distractions turned off (telephones and screens)
- comfortable attire
- comfortable sitting position
- meditation technique
- desire to meditate and diligence
- a smile
Options to consider:
- stretching before sitting (yoga poses, Pilates, regular stretches)
- blanket shawl or sweater if you tend to feel chilled
- personalization objects or alter for the area
Creating a meditation space:
It is great to have a regular spot (or maybe two) for meditation. This space should be quiet, pleasant, clean, naturally lit, and simple – an oasis from life’s hustle and bustle. There will always be some noise, but do the best you can to find a quiet spot. Make a comfortable seat by choosing a cushion bench or favorite chair.
Choosing when to meditate
The best time to meditate depends on when you are alert and fresh – not worn out or over-stimulated. Consider: first thing in the morning, before bed, right after work, lunch hour, or coffee break, waiting periods, or other predictably Idol times.
Choosing how long to meditate
Short, regular sessions are better than infrequent longer sessions. You can start slowly (five minutes) and work up to twenty to sixty minutes. Remember not to pressure yourself, to meditate for the length of time that makes sense within your lifestyle. The most important thing is to practice regularly.
Positions for meditation
The position in which you sit or kneel should be comfortable. Your back should be straight, with the vertebrae stacked like blocks and your head being pulled up by an invisible string. Be a mountain or a tree. Your head hands should be in a position that feels natural or is meaningful to you. Your eyes can be closed or half-closed.
Focusing your breath
The breath is always available and always simple, making it the best anchor for meditation. Focusing on the breath calms the mind and provides the stability necessary to cultivate concentration. You will be studying your breathing and how it changes – and it will teach you awareness of the present moment.
Working with sounds
When sounds become dominant and call your attention away from breathing, focus all your awareness on the experience of the sound. Make a soft mental note of “hearing,” but do not specifically call it “car” or “clock” or other concept. Attend to the sound, let it go and return to the breath.
Working with sensations
When sensations in the body become dominant and call your attention away from breathing, focus all your mindfulness and attention on the sensation. Make a soft mental note of “sensation” or “feeling” or “ache” or “pain.” Attend to the sensation, then let it go and return to the breath.
Working with thoughts and images
As soon as you become aware of thoughts are images of rising in the mind, make a soft mental note of “thinking” or “wandering” or “seeing.” Notice when you become aware of the thought or image – without judgment. Be mindful of where your mind has gone, then let the thoughts and images go and return to the breath.
Working with hindrances
When different mental States or emotions needs arise, especially the hindrances of desire (wants), aversion (anger), sleepiness, restlessness, and doubt, make a note of them. As soon as you become aware of one of these, make a soft mental note. Do not get lost in the emotion. Observe it, then let it go and return to the breath.