March 6, 2020

DAILY LIVING WITH MINDFULNESS PART TWO

How I Meditate…

In this second part of this five-part series on daily living with mindfulness, I’ll be sharing with you how I practice meditation.

Before I dive into sharing how I meditate, I want to make a quick disclaimer that there are many approaches to meditation. This journey is largely about self-discovery – each person has their own unique approach to meditation that leads to inner peace, and thus enables oneself to make mindful decisions more easily and more consistently.

For me personally, I discovered that walking meditation has worked best for me. As you embark on this journey, I invite you to be patient and open-minded as you experiment and learn which meditative style will work best for you.

In a later part of this series, we will touch upon how to start exploring and designing your own mindful living journey. For now, let me share with you how I practice my walking meditation.


How I Practice Meditation


I usually practice my walking meditation before bedtime, since it’s a mental wellness ritual to end my day in the most peaceful way possible.

I meditate in my bedroom where there is a small space on one side of my room where I can create an 8-meter long walking alley. The exterior action is extremely simple. I simply walk back and forth along that little alley.

“The key activity of meditation is about the inner work—observing where the mind is while meditating.”
—Mim Chawimon

Before we begin, let me define a couple of terms for the ease of guiding us through my meditation process.

 “Base of meditation,” is where we try to nudge our mind to concentrate and focus.

“Travel of the mind,” is when our mind detours outside of our base of meditation.

“Object of engagement,” is anything outside of our base of meditation that our mind might wander off to

Choosing my “Base of Meditation”

For me, the main “base of meditation” is the sensation of my muscles while walking. I observe how my leg muscles move and feel when each leg strides. It is essentially body awareness, very much like yoga, where you concentrate on different parts of the muscle while practicing each pose.

Mindful Awareness can help you identify when there’s “travel of the mind” outside the base of meditation

I also observe and am mindful of when my awareness travels outside my main base of meditation…

An example of this is while walking, my awareness gets distracted sometimes and shifts to outside of my leg muscles which are my main base. I become aware of the hardness of the wood floor as my foot touches it step by step. Or other times, I feel the slight blow of cool air from an air conditioner on my skin. Or my awareness has jumped to catch the noise from a plane flying up in the sky above my roof since I live near an airport.

All of these example sensations I just mentioned are inclusive of my base of meditation, although not actually the main base. Once I am aware of these things, I bring my awareness back to my main base, my leg muscles.

Objects of Engagement” are normal during meditation

On various occasions during my practice, my mind will travel to other things outside of my bodily sensations…

For example, while walking, sometimes my mind travels to think about what happened earlier that day. Sometimes it travels to anticipate what will happen next. Other times it travels to think about other people, work, hobbies, or subjects of interest. The list goes on …

Thinking about these things can bring about many emotions such as happiness, neutrality, or anxiousness. All in all, these are what I consider to be “objects of engagement,” that my mind travels to outside my base of meditation.

When my mind travels to the object of engagement, regardless of its form, I gently nudge my focus to bring my awareness back to my main base of meditation.

The key note I would like to point out here is to not get upset when the mind wanders off to think about different things. This is very normal.  Instead of getting frustrated and trying to force things to work, simply take notice when the mind travels off, and gently guide awareness back to the main base of meditation.

The Speed or Pace Of The Walk

The next question one might ask is, how fast or slow should we walk during this meditation practice?

The answer is as fast or as slowly as we can infuse our awareness with the movement of our own body while walking.

As long as we can observe how muscles move when we walk, then we are walking at the right speed. But, if the observation is vague and hard to grasp, we should slow down. The slower the pace the easier it is to clearly make observations.

This is similar to when we drive. If we drive too fast, we can’t observe the details of the scenery as we drive past it.

Let’s Do a Quick Recap …

Although, every bodily sensation is inclusively considered as part of our base of meditation, my main base for walking meditation is my leg muscles.

The reason I emphasize this is that the main base will always be where we bring our awareness back to after it travels off. It’s the primary starting hub we return to after the mind wanders off to objects of engagement, such as thinking, worrying, anticipating, or anything of the like.


Utilizing a “Pause Of Mindfulness” To Bring Us Back To Our Senses …


Now that we’ve discussed some of the distractions and bodily sensations that can take place during a walking meditation practice, let me introduce another key term and explore deeper into this practice in meditation.

The next term I want to introduce is “Pause of Mindfulness.”

This is that millisecond of self-detection and consciousness when we notice that our mind travels outside our base of meditation. Utilizing a “Pause of Mindfulness” allows us to come back to our senses.

The goal during an insight meditation practice is to consistently be present within the base of meditation, and for the “Pause of Mindfulness” to happen as quickly as possible when the mind wanders off to objects of engagement so that we can gently bring it back to our main base of meditation.

“This pause of mindfulness is a key that unlocks a gateway to living more mindfully and intentionally. It adds a pause, allowing us to come back to our senses before taking a mindfully proactive action, rather than reacting to the situation.”
—Mim Chawimon

I will talk more in detail about how to incorporate “Pause of Mindfulness” into living mindfully on a daily basis in part three of this series. Until then, let’s return to our discussion about the meditation practice.

Our job in insight meditation is to act as an observer. When we’re in the observer role, we’re sort of like a babysitter for our mind who’s watching over where the mind goes.

We’re NOT trying to “force” the mind to obey to “this or that” in any harsh or authoritative manner. Instead we’re simply there to gently guide the mind back if and when our mind strays during the practice.

It’s important to remember that peacefulness and mindfulness are the results of the practice itself, and not a means to an end.

What I mean by this is that from my personal experience, the more I tried to “control” my mind the harder it was to be peaceful, which resulted in my feeling both frustrated and like my efforts were futile.

However, the overall dynamics during my practice changed, including how I felt afterwards, when I stopped focusing so much on the “result” of the practice itself. Instead, I learned to shift my mindset towards acting as an observer by taking on the job of the gentle babysitter. In this role, I was better able to focus on mastering the process instead of trying to get a certain result.

For those of you who would like to start adding meditation into your daily routine, try not to expect consistent results on a daily basis.

Instead, focus on the big picture over a longer period of time when evaluating your progress. Why?  Because our state of mind is largely affected by the situations we encounter on a daily basis.

Like on a more low-key day it’s easier for the mind to be calm, at ease, and peaceful. While on a more hectic and busy day, such as when we’re facing a strict deadline, it’s harder for the mind to calm down and ease into a state of serenity.

With those daily external factors in mind, try to observe and gently babysit the mind by maintaining your focus on the meditative process.


Measuring Your “Pause Of Mindfulness” Muscle


Since the desired result is what you can experience over the long run, then a measurable sign of progress is the shortened period of between when your mind travels to objects of engagement before that “Pause of Mindfulness” kicks in.

When you first start practicing meditation though you might not realize that you wandered away from your base of meditation for a while, and that’s quite normal. It’s kind of like when you’re watching a film and your mind wanders off. By the time that you realize it’s off track you might have already watched well past the climax, till almost the end.

The same can happen during a meditation session. You might encounter an object of engagement and then end up being close to the end of your session before that “Pause of Mindfulness” occurs to bring you back to your base of mediation.

As you continue to practice more though it will take less and less time for that “Pause of Mindfulness” to happen, allowing you to return back to your base of meditation quicker and easier.

Going back to my film example, with more awareness you might be able to bring your mind back from wandering before all of the main characters have been introduced, instead of it taking you until the near end of the movie.

Another sign of progress is when your “Pause of Mindfulness” happens more frequently. As well as when it begins happening in your normal daily routine outside of your meditative practice.

The latter example goes to show how building up your “Pause of Mindfulness” muscles can bring multiple benefits to your daily life. Imagine being able to catch your mind from drifting during a class or an important meeting. That can be quite useful, right?


In Closing Part Two…


The key takeaway for this section is that our job during our insight meditation practice is to take notice of when and where our minds wander off to. As long as it travels inside bodily sensations then just let it be, remembering that when our minds travel to objects of engagement, we want to gently bring it back to our MAIN base of meditation, which for me is my leg muscles.

The faster the “Pause of Mindfulness” happens the better, and the more frequent the better. That is our ultimate goal of the insight meditation.

In my next part, I’ll be sharing with you how I carry and incorporate mindfulness into daily activities outside the practice, and how you can incorporate this in your daily living as well.

With Love,

Mim

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