Thought of the Week: Don’t Just Meditate, Be Mindful

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I have been meditating consistently for approximately two years now. I love this practice. I love the way I feel afterwards. The calm and relaxed sensation that follows an effective meditation session is blissful.
I believe formal mediation can transform anyone’s life just like it has mine. It can make you more aware of not only your surroundings, but more importantly your own thoughts. It doesn’t automatically convert you into a “mindful” being, but it definitely helps nudge you in the right direction.
When I first began meditating I was only concerned with the 20-30 minute sessions that I spent in relative ease. My mind insisted that I only needed to “get through” this daily practice and eventually I would notice a difference.
Slowly I began to notice a shift in my perspective. I learned how to react more skillfully to situations. Petty things didn’t bother me as much. I seemed more comfortable with the person I was.
Just like any new skill you take up or any new challenge you undertake there is a learning curve. One doesn’t immediately learn how to shoot a basketball right away. It takes time, commitment, and dedication. Eventually the skill gets easier over time until it reaches a state of stagnation. This is where the learning curve plateaus.
You can also apply this to losing weight. Maybe it takes a while to lose the weight at first, but eventually you shed the pounds or kilos until the point of plateau. This is often when people get frustrated and give up.
Well meditation is the same way. You might notice a big change at first after you grasp the purpose of the skill. But life goes on. Maybe you don’t observe the transformations that you did before. This is the point when the ego in your mind will try to convince you that you are a failure or that you should just give up on the skill itself.
This is why mindfulness as a whole is way more than just formal mediation. It took me a while to truly understand that. I was convinced 20 or 40 or even 60 minutes of formal meditation was all I needed to focus on and I could let my mind wander the rest of the day.
Certainly, the formal practice is an important aspect of mindfulness, but it is much more than that. Being mindful encompasses intentionally keeping your attention and awareness completely concentrated on what you are doing in the moment, not just during a formal mediation practice.
This doesn’t mean that your attention will always be in the present at all times, but it is a matter or recognizing, releasing, and refocusing. My advice is to not merely cater your mindfulness practice to formal meditation; take care of what you are pondering throughout the day. Are you focused on the activity at hand or is your mind taking you for a spin to the past or future? This type of mindfulness training is just as important, if not more so, than the formal meditations.
As you continue to boast your formal practice, you will hopefully notice your informal mindfulness practice strengthening as well.

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