Like other millennials I spent a lot of time on the internet when I was growing up. I firmly placed my attention on the exciting world of operating systems and software applications. I learned how to write my own software and build my own networks of computers.
But there’s more to life than just one aspect, and so a decade ago I started to broaden my horizons from the scope of technology to find other subjects that interested me.
I quickly found that I had just as much interest in behavioural science, psychology, and self improvement.
A little bit of reading about meditation will give you the impression that it’s something worth doing – anyone who’s interested in self-improvement has probably come across a book about it and have been amazed by the seemingly incredible benefits in lists like this:
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- More energy and improved sleep
- Better cognitive and emotional functions
- Health benefits and more…
I had to find out more.
I’ve tried a number of forms of meditation over the years, but the one that has stuck with me the most is mindfulness mediation.
There isn’t much you need in order to get started:
- About 15 to 20 minutes of free time
- A quiet place without too many distractions
- A timer or stopwatch
- No expectations
Sit down in your quiet place in a comfortable position, set your timer for 15 minutes, and close your eyes.
All you need to do is be aware of the breath as it comes in and out of your nose. Breath slowly and concentrate on how the air feels as it hits your nostrils. Breathe deeply, but don’t try to control your breath – just experience it as it happens.
As you sit there you’ll notice that many thoughts arise to try and take your attention away from your breath.
The mind wanders, and this is what minds do, it’s not a problem or a mistake. The awareness of this fact is what the practice is all about. Over time you’ll learn the patterns of thoughts which try to take your attention away. Don’t fight it, but let it pass – and guide your attention back to your breath.
Your mind will wander like this many times, and that’s okay – just keep guide your attention back to your breath as many times as is necessary.
When your timer goes off, slowly open your eyes and you’ll be ready to go about your day.
This is the practice of mindfulness meditation in its most simplest form. Sounds easy? Not really…
Many people (myself included) are frustrated and uncomfortable at first. It’s a very strange sensation to realise that your mind jumps around like it does.
Equally, people often have expectations that all those benefits listed earlier must happen right away. This is simply not how it works. It takes time.
Mindfulness isn’t something that just happens – it’s something you need to work on. That’s why it’s called a practice.
After a while you’ll find that it does make a difference, and you’ll be mindful of this mind wandering in other aspects of your life.
I have found this to be especially noticeable when reading, writing, and working on many of the tasks required in software development. The pull is real, and can be very distracting if you let it. My generation has been accused many times of having a short attention span.
I suggest Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world (2011) as a really good foundation for bringing mindfulness into your every day life.