“[People] go forth to marvel at the heights of mountains and the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the vastness of the ocean, the orbit of the stars, and yet they neglect to marvel at themselves” -St. Augustine
We’ve written articles about the importance of mindfulness for Relationship Zen because we believe that you can only project love if you experience self-love, or self-mastery. You can only receive/attract what you have/perceive inside of you! In line with this idea, we’ve also mentioned that meditation is a method to achieve that state of mindfulness and self-mastery.
“Mindfulness is simply observing, watching, examining. You are not a judge but a scientist.” -Walpola Ruhala
Although we’re far from experts on meditation, we want to share some basic advice on how to use mediation to develop the epic mindfulness habit. As lovely as mindfulness meditation can be, it can be a daunting task at first. If you’re like us, every time you take a break from it, it takes a while to get back into it. Nevertheless, it’s worth it.
Why meditate to become more mindful?
Well, the folks at Harvard explain that even 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation “helps memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress” by literally modifying our brain structure for the better. In other words, your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual spheres benefit immensely from regular mindfulness meditation. Even workplaces are starting to institutionalize the practice because they’ve noticed that workers are happier, more productive, and take fewer sick days when they have meditation programs in place! So why not start?
Our advice if you want to get started?
Just try it! The more you practice mindfulness meditation, the better you become. If something works for you, then use it. If not, try a different tactic – the key is to go with the flow to become in-tune with yourself!
You don’t have to meditate to become mindful, but it does help you get there. If you want to skip formal meditation, you can be mindful when you eat, while you are brushing your teeth, during your walk to the subway, in conversations with people, and while you are making dinner by bringing your attention to your breath and to the present moment. It’s all about being in the NOW, being alive, aware, and conscious of yourself (and with your partner too!).
However, from our experience, it’s really hard to be mindful without meditating regularly. One way of describing our form of meditation is to spend time with yourself – for just a few minutes. Here is some advice based on our personal experiences:
Choose 1 of 3 different approaches that we use to become more mindful
- Becoming one with the breath: Concentrate on being mindful by listening and feeling your breath. Set a timer for 2-5 minutes to begin with. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and relax any points of tension while maintaining good posture (setting a pillow under your tailbone can help with posture). Focus on breathing from the diaphragm (not from the chest!). Start with three slow counts in, hold for three slow counts, and finish the set with three slow counts out. With every breath you will feel lighter, happier, and more alive. It’s important not to force your breath. You can do this before going to bed because it will help you fall into a deep sleep faster! Or, try it now!
- Becoming one with the environment: Once again, set a timer, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and relax with a good posture. After you narrow in on your breath, take your mind outward a little by paying attention to different sounds that you are hearing: scan your environment. It can be background sounds, birds, your fridge, the person next door, etc. Just observe those sounds with your mind, but don’t judge them. It’s nice to do this outdoors in a natural setting. It is very peaceful and effective because it brings your attention to the now/present! Try it now!
- Guided meditation and/or body scan: One of the most simple ways to learn to meditate is to use the body scan. It’s easier because it gives the mind something to do, but it’s effective because you are still being one with your body. Once again, set a timer, sit comfortably, close your eyes, relax with a good posture, and begin diaphragmatic breathing. We like to lay down for this one. Mentally and progressively bring your full attention to different parts of your body (down to the ligaments) so you become fully aware of your tensions – starting in the left foot and ending at the top of your head, for example. You can do this yourself, but for the first time, let the voice of another take you into a deep state of relaxation (guided relaxation and/or meditation). We’ve done this one on Youtube with many of our friends. Try it now!
Tips to consider for all approaches
- Regardless of what thoughts pop in, just keep focusing on your meditation. Those are your experiences in the moment; you don’t have to judge them, just be aware of them. When we do it, thoughts pop in all the time, but they don’t take over if we don’t latch on.
- Let go of ideas about doing it well or doing it for any specific purpose. Just do it with an open and curious mind.
- To avoid distraction, just watch your thoughts come in and leave, without feeling that you have to follow, judge, or analyze them. You can guide thoughts out if you wish. Lindsey usually imagines the thought is a box and literally “throws the box out” of her mind. David breathes in to capture thoughts and then breathes the thoughts out.
- Journal your thoughts onto paper before beginning so that they are stored somewhere outside your head. You can come back to them later.
- If a specific thought keeps coming back, make note of it on paper and study the thought from a broad perspective after or before your meditation.
- To avoid distraction, use a mantra and repeat it over and over in your mind. IE: “My mind is the gateway to happiness.”
- To help focus, use background meditation music or guided visualization to get a hang of the process. There are some really great ones out there that you can use for different situations on Youtube. We also have a number of meditation apps on our phones.
- To help focus, visualize a positive and calming image or symbol that you personally connect to.
- To help focus, use an object like a rose. IE: Meditate with a rose and just appreciate the life and beauty of the rose (this is also pleasant with a candle).
- To take it to the next level, tap into your Chakras.
- Meditate side by side or back to back with a partner. Feel each other’s breath and energy. It is pretty powerful if you are in tune with yourself and with each other.
- Further educate yourself about mindfulness and meditation. Lindsey actually took a workshop and David practices it through the martial arts.
Note to self: Since we believe that you have to work on yourself in order to attract and maintain Relationship Zen, it makes sense to practice mindfulness meditation. It doesn’t only build a sense of self, empathy and stress management, but it helps us understand ourselves in order to relate to each other on a deeper level.
Do a mindfulness check right now! Pause. Breathe slow. Guide yourself through a 2 minute body scan…
How did that feel? Do you see how practicing this regularly and being mindful can help a relationship thrive? Let us know and discuss with other positive people on the Relationship Zen Facebook group.
Sending you positive vibes,
“Mindfulness is neither difficult nor complex; remembering to be mindful is the great challenge.” -Christina Feldman Williams, et al (2007, 181)