What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness is to be totally present in this moment of time. It is an essential aspect of Buddhist and Zen practices of meditation. These practices use awareness of the breath to help still the mind and focus the attention on the present moment. Thoughts and emotions are allowed to come and go without analysis or judgement. Gradually, thoughts and emotions begin to subside and are replaced by a deep feeling of calm and peace.

Mindfulness based meditation has been found to be particularly useful for relieving anxiety, obsessive patterns of thinking and depression. It allows us to become free of ‘negative’ thoughts and emotions by being aware that these only exist in our mind and we can simply choose to let them go.

There is clear scientific evidence of the effects of meditation on brain activity:

  1. A greater sense of unity and wholeness due to increased activity in the right side of the cerebral cortex.
  2. A deep sense of stillness in the mind, and inability to explain the experience one is having, due to decreased activity in the left side of the cerebral cortex.
  3. A reduced awareness of space, time and the boundary between self and non-self, due to decreased activity in the parietal lobe.
  4. A blissful and peaceful feeling of calm due to stimulus of the parasympathetic system (relaxation).
  5. A clear and alert state of mind due to stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (arousal).


What does Mindfulness Meditation involve?

One of the best ways to learn to meditate is to join a Buddhist meditation group. You will be made very welcome and you don’t need to agree with Buddhist philosophy to go to meditation sessions. Buddhist philosophy embraces love and compassion towards all living beings and this is an ideal state of mind to have when approaching meditation. Buddhist monks have been practicing meditation for thousands of years and are well qualified to guide you through the process.

You can also find therapeutic practitioners who are qualified in mindfulness meditation and use this as part of their healing practice. The may organize group meditation sessions.

Alternatively you can learn to meditate on your own. You will find lots of good videos and information on the Internet to help you get started. Here is some simple guidance on how to practice:

  1. Start by meditating for ten, fifteen or twenty minutes. Try to get into a regular routine for your sessions, but don’t make them into a chore. You should look forward to this time to be quiet and at peace with yourself.
  2. Find a quiet and warm place to sit either in a chair or on a cushion on the floor. Have your hands gently resting together in your lap.  Make sure you are sitting comfortably with your back straight and your shoulders and neck relaxed. Become aware of your body sitting in the chair or on the floor and of any pains or bodily sensations. Say to you self, “I am present here and now in this place”.
  3. Now focus your attention on your breathing and the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your belly rise and fall, the air entering your nostrils and leaving your mouth. Be aware of any changes in your breathing, but don’t try and control your breath in any way.
  4. Watch every thought come and go, whether it is a worry, fear, anxiety or hope. When thoughts come up in your mind, don’t ignore or suppress them but simply observe them. Remain calm and continue to be aware of your breathing.
  5. If you find yourself getting carried away with a thought, make a note of the thought and simply allow it to drift away like a cloud passing overhead. Return your attention to your breathing.
  6. Develop a sense of curiosity. For example “O, there’s that same thought again. That’s interesting”. See yourself as an impartial observer looking on without becoming involved.
  7. When you have come to the end of your meditation, sit for a minute or two becoming aware of where you are. Get up gradually.


What conditions can Mindfulness Meditation help?

Mindfulness meditation will help you be more relaxed at the same time as being able to focus more effectively on what you are doing. As you continue to practise you will generally feel more at peace with yourself and other people in your life. Mindfulness Meditation has been recognised by the medical profession as beneficial to people suffering many types of emotional and psychological conditions. It is particularly useful for reducing stress, anxiety, obsessional thoughts and states of depression.

It is useful to remember that meditation was developed originally as a spiritual practice. If you practise meditation diligently over a period of time it will help you discover your true nature and your relationship with all other beings and creation.

Is Mindfulness Meditation safe?

Mindfulness Meditation is safe. If you have a serious emotional or psychological condition it would be wise to practise under the guidance of a qualified practitioner, and to continue with any medical treatment and advice you are currently receiving.