Mindfulness is a practice that is hard to understand because mindfulness practice leads us to the experience of awareness. Awareness is something we almost never notice. Awareness accompanies all of our senses and even our thoughts. If we are not aware, how would we know that we can see, talk and hear? The only problem is, we are not aware of our awareness. Awareness is capable of calming us down in times of stress, and it is also capable of directing our intellect. There are many ways to practice mindfulness to make awareness apparent to our experience. But what is the easiest way to practice mindfulness?
Meditation to calm the mind
Many people equate mindfulness practice to meditation. What is the purpose of meditation and the role it plays in mindfulness training? Meditation is a method mindfulness practitioners use to calm the mind. It is a very grounding practice that helps the mind to relax and to become familiar with the silence.
Meditation usually involves taking an object to teach us to pay sustained attention. The object used to anchor the mind to the present moment is the breath, which is part of the body. There are many benefits to teaching the mind to stay in the present moment.
Our society is an intellectual one. Story-making and solving tasks are the great joys of the intellect. However, when there are no tasks for the intellect to do, it can run amok. We have seen depression increase during the pandemic. Social interaction and entertainment have been curtailed during the pandemic causing well-being to plummet. The reduction in social activities has caused our intellectual mind to become helpless. Teaching the mind to be stable in times of quietude and to be at ease when there are no tasks to pursue can help create mental well-being.
Mindfulness in Daily Activities
But meditation is not the easiest way to practice mindfulness. Some people just lack the time to do formal sitting meditation. Otherwise, they have physical difficulties in sitting for long periods of time. But there are ways to teach the mind to be at ease in the present moment without needing to always sit in a meditative pose.
Daily routines are great opportunities to practice mindfulness. When we sit to pay attention to our breath, we are really learning to anchor the mind to the body. The body is always in the present, but not our minds. Performing routine activities do not require intellect, such as eating, showering, and walking. We can use these activities purposefully by paying attention to the movements and the sensations in our bodies. When we are moving our hand towards picking up the spoon, pay attention to the sensations in your moving arm. Then, pay attention to the contact between the spoon and your hand.
At first, it may seem like a boring activity. How fun can it be to notice the contact between the spoon and your fingers? What can you gain from it? This is our habitual intellectual mind talking because it likes to have tasks. You need to be curious like a child in mindfulness training. By trying these practices for some time, you may start to find your mind stabilised and centred. You may also start noticing things about life, and your mind, that you have never noticed before.
What is the easiest way to practice mindfulness?
So, you may have tried both meditation and paying attention to your body in daily routines in mindfulness training. But you find these ways to practice unenjoyable. It is true, especially for beginners. Is there really an easier way to practice mindfulness?
The answer is… yes! Both MBSR and MBSAT teach participants a practice called “Friendliness” meditation. The practice involves guiding the mind to think of four people in our lives – the person we love, the neutral person, the person we dislike, and ourselves. We learn to be friendly with each of them. It is easy to be friendly to the ones we like. But is it possible for us to be friendly to the rest of the people? The hardest is the difficult person and sometimes, ourselves.
While it may seem as though we are learning to be kind by being friendly to all types of people, this practice is really teaching the mind to see how being unfriendly can hurt our own minds and bodies. See the negative feelings when you think of the difficult person. And this is by merely thinking of them even when they are not present in front of us. That person may not even know about our negative feelings. Who is the one suffering from the impact of the negativity?
How to do this simplest mindfulness practice?
It may not be simple to practice friendliness when you meet a mean or dislikable person. Especially those who test your patience. Even you may test your own patience sometimes. This is when you bring mindfulness into your practice. But, mindfulness of what?
Instead of thinking you are learning mindfulness because you want to be a better human being, think of mindfulness as sustaining your own happiness. Mindfulness practice is about taking care of our well-being. If we have chronic anger and impatience, we are the ones suffering its consequences. We may develop high blood pressure. Also, it may make us an unpleasant person to be with.
Our friendliness may also put those we dislike off-guard. They may notice that we are no longer affected by their behavior. This may cause them to drop certain behaviors towards us. You may have noticed, some people get on each other’s nerves intentionally with certain behaviors. When what we do no longer annoys the other, we may stop it altogether.
By remembering to be friendly towards ourselves no matter who we meet, we are also making efforts to be present to our mind and body. We can drop negative thoughts and therefore unhelpful feelings that can cause us dis-ease in the long run.
We hope you can bring up the mind of friendliness in your daily life. There is a formal friendliness meditation practice you can explore with this video as well.