With all sincerity, no matter how much we talk about it, read about it, or study it, training ourselves to become more mindful can be really challenging so in that case what are we to do then?
Medical science keeps on revealing according to its research that evergreen essential health benefits, relational benefits and even corporate benefits (increased productivity and reduced health care costs). Sometimes all we need is a simple road map to get us started or restarted if it’s been some time since we practiced.
Here are basic five elements to training yourself to become mindful
#1 Prep Yourself Daily
Before even starting out any training, it’s important to understand that your training session is not a performance. Each training session doesn’t need to be evaluated about whether it was a “good” meditation or a “bad” meditation. This performance-based mindset misses the point entirely. If there is any goal at all attached to the training process, it’s simply to learn.
For example, if someone is using their breath as an object of attention, the goal is not to stay on the breath for a long period of time, it’s to learn about what it’s like to settle attention on the breath. If the mind wanders a lot, then you learn how busy the mind is. If it wanders a lot on a particular topic, you learn to what degree that topic is on your mind. If it is on your mind a lot you learn that whatever it is, it needs attending to and you can later make the choice to focus on it.
Everyone’s mind wanders, even people who have been contemplating for 50 years. It’s part of what the brain does. In fact, you could make the argument that the more it wanders the more you have an opportunity to train the mind to see “choice points” to gently bring it back. What you practice and repeat becomes a habit and so you’re strengthening the habit of choice.
#2 Bring Heart into It
There is sometimes confusion in how people train themselves to become mindful, but in the way that I’ve come to understand it is that it’s simply not as effective unless you bring your heart into it. The quality of attention has relaxed curiosity and tenderness to it. It’s as if we’re bowing with respect to the life being lived whether the attention is on the breath, the body, or any sense perceptions.
When there is pain involved, there is an awareness of the pain and the attention has this quality of wanting to be supportive in some way. It is a quality of care and self-compassion.
In other words, you’re doing this practice ultimately because you care about yourself and possibly because you know that doing this practice will also be a gift to those around you.
#3 Learn to Forgive Yourself
You’re going to be completely imperfect at this as the rest of us. If time goes by and you forget to train, train also to “Forgive and Invite.” Forgive yourself for the time gone by, investigate what took you off course, and then in that space of awareness invite yourself to begin again.
This is a very forgiving practice; you can always begin to be present to your life again. It only takes a moment.
#4 Always be Thankful Towards Yourself
Perhaps the most important part of this training process is to thank yourself each time you do it. When the time is up, you acknowledge yourself for making the effort to take time out of daily busy-ness for your own learning, health, and well-being.
This imprints in your memory that you care enough about yourself to pay attention to you! That self-compassionate caring type of energy is healing. What would the days, weeks, and months ahead be like if you had more of that energy circulating through your mind and body?
Keep coming back to these four essential elements of mindfulness training
#5 Locate a Confidant
You sure could do the previous four basics on your own, but it helps when we have people to do it with. Maybe you know someone who has had the interest to start a practice or find someone who you can be accountable to. Again, a confidant is not essential to start, but it can help you feel more connected to others who are aligned with this interest of yours. Ultimately that really helps motivation.