Mindfulness is a skill that requires cultivation. I’m convinced that if anyone meditates for the first time and says that it felt good, they are either lying or they were so distracted that they didn’t even realize they were doing it wrong. Successfully reaching a state of mindfulness on your first try would be like picking up a guitar and playing a song without knowing how to play one.
If you think I’m exaggerating, close your eyes and try to silently count the next 10 breaths without getting distracted by a thought.
What is it?
Mindfulness is training your brain to shift attention from experience to consciousness itself. Our attention naturally gravitates to thoughts, sensations, sights, and feelings. The goal of mindfulness is experiencing natural awareness with no story or context.
How do you achieve it?
Everything is fighting for your attention — your phone, friends, food, or writing a story on Medium. You can’t find the state of natural awareness if you are lost in thought or doing something that easily captivates your attention.
Here is the basic practice:
- Choose a meditation object. This is something so boring and mindless that your brain will actively try to come up with other things to focus on. Something like watching paint dry; however, most people prefer to focus on the breath.
- Commit to sitting down for the duration of the meditation. This is important. As soon as you sit down to focus on your breath, your brain will instantly try to convince you that it is a total waste of time. Washing dishes, going to the gym, or even replaying that argument you had with your co-worker last week is more useful than this.
- Focus on your meditation object. You’ll quickly realize how hard it actually is. Within 20 seconds, you’ll likely get so distracted by a thought that you probably forgot that you were even meditating.
- Notice that you got distracted. Don’t set high expectations, especially at first. We have zero control over the thoughts that appear in our head. You are doing something that is counter intuitive. Every time you get distracted, take it as a…