What is it?
“Mindfulness meditation is not about achieving bliss or tranquility,” explains Sharon Salzberg, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society (dharma.org) in Barre, Mass., and author of Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (Shambhala). “Rather, its aim is to see things as they really are more clearly.”
What’s it good for?
Mindfulness meditation is a form of “mind training,” says Salzberg. Bringing direct awareness to drinking a cup of tea, for instance, means that you really feel the warmth of the cup in your hands, and really taste the sweetness or the bitterness in your mouth. This applies to our emotional states, too—observe with awareness and perceive more accurately what your experience really is.
How long does it take?
Start with five minutes daily. Gradually add a few minutes to your session each day until you can sit for 20 minutes.
How do I do it?
1. Sit in a comfortable position on a pillow, chair, couch or floor.
2. Listen to the sounds around you while you relax. Practice letting the sounds come and go without holding on to them or pushing them away.
3. As you inhale, think “in”; as you exhale, think “out.” Let this action be a kind of home base.
4. When your mind drifts and thoughts start to wander, pay attention to what comes up. You may be aware of a pain in your shoulder, for instance, or think of an argument from the night before. Acknowledge this thought or feeling, spend a moment with it and then bring your awareness gently back to your home base. Rather than rushing past the new sensations you experience, bring your full awareness to them.
5. If you find yourself getting stuck in an emotion or sensation, it may help to put a mental label on it, to identify it as “anger” or “pain.” Then bring your awareness back to your breath.
6. The traditional way to end this meditation is to acknowledge the positive energy you’ve created and to dedicate it to others. Try saying: “May the merit of this practice be dedicated to all beings everywhere.” Stand, and continue to practice mindfulness as much as you can throughout the day.