"When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what's going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace, and love." Thich Nhat Hanh
I have had many people tell me that meditation is just not for them. Meditation is a term one can use for practicing mindfulness, and in some circles it may be called contemplative prayer. Let’s call it mindfulness here, because at the end of the day, it is its own gift, being mindful.
One of the greatest barriers to mindfulness is people feeling that there is a ‘right way’ to meditate or to be mindful, and in my experience that could not be further from the truth. Here are some of the misconceptions about practicing mindfulness that are helpful to get out of the way right now:
Meditation is hard, there’s one particular technique I have yet to grasp
It takes too long, I don’t have the time
If I don’t eliminate all thoughts, I have failed
It won't make a difference
None of these are true. Here are some tips to help you get started with this incredible tool for presence, inner peace, and wellbeing:
You can start with 3 minutes a day. YES, three minutes will make a difference. If you are not able to make 3 minutes for yourself at the start of each day, perhaps you have larger questions to ask yourself about choices you have made in your life and whether you have set it up in a way that supports your humanity and your needs for self-care. You can start at 3 minutes, move up to 5 minutes in week 2, and keep increasing gradually until you hit 20 minutes a day, which is widely accepted as the ideal amount of time to practice mindfulness.
There is no wrong way to practice mindfulness. The sole point is to practice creating presence in the present moment. Not in the past, not in the future, but present in the NOW. This is is called a practice because it takes time to develop the ability to regularly bring ourselves back to the present, where our life is actually taking place. If we are not mindful, we can miss the present moment along with all of its gifts. Any of these activities done consciously, can contribute to your developing presence in the now, by choosing to be present in your body at that time with that task (rather than thinking of or planning for something else):
Taking a shower
Tidying up your house
Listening to your best friend
Listening to an annoying colleague
You don’t have to eliminate all thoughts. You can choose a mantra or intention (or recurring thought or prayer) to help you recenter when your mind goes elsewhere. You can choose a mantra around what you would like to create for yourself, like “peace” or “love”. I most often use the mantra “I am” to remind me that I am enough. In sacred texts, when God was asked who they were, they said “I am that I am” and in my journey to developing my relationship with the part of God that lives in me, this has been a powerful reminder. When you feel your thoughts are trying to take you back to the past or forward to the future, use the mantra or intention to bring you back to the present, in your body, in this place.
Practicing mindfulness is not only gift for yourself, it’s a gift for our world. As a racial equity practitioner, I am painfully aware of the harm that we can cause others when we are not mindful. The biggest antidote to implicit bias is developing the practice of extending the distance between our thoughts and our words. If we each would take just a brief moment to reflect on our thoughts before expressing them verbally, we would prevent a lot of what unintentionally causes harm to others.
One of my teachers taught me: “Thoughts are like clouds keeping the Light from getting in” and I could not agree more. By clearing our perpetual inner chatter, which tries to control and decipher everything, we create opportunities to tap into divine wisdom, available to us in our bloodstream from our Creator and Ancestors. Epigenetics has shown that trauma can be passed down in our DNA from ancestors, and I propose that if trauma can be passed down, so can wisdom and love. If you are a spiritual person, this wisdom is also available from your connection to a divine force, to yourself, to others, and to nature.
In today's unstable and scary world, mindfulness has supported me by allowing me to get back in the present, rather than regretting the past or being anxious about the future. When fear shows up, presence reminds me that in this moment, I am ok and all my needs are met. Presence also makes wisdom available that I would not have been able to access through my "stinking thinking" mind.
Allow Great Spirit, Ancestors, Mother Earth, or your inner divine force to inform you of your choices and deepen your inner wisdom, once you are able to observe and quiet your thoughts, even if just for just a little bit. If you are a praying person, perhaps take a brief break from talking at God, and instead allow God to speak to you in the silence. Remember, presence is the present (or gift.)
P.S. We could not find the artist name on the first picture, if you know it, please let us know! Thanks!