The concept of meditation makes many of us uncomfortable. We are so busy it’s hard to sit still and quiet our minds. In this culture, we are simply not used to making it a point to stop and do nothing for a period of time every day. In fact, it’s kind of difficult to grasp what meditation is all about. There are so many different types—transcendental, Buddhist, mindfulness and more. Some are designed to help you reduce stress and some are designed to alter your state of consciousness.

To further complicate the issue, there are no rules. Whatever works for you is best. The key is to find time every day to be still and connect with yourself.

Mindful meditation is the practice of sitting still to connect with yourself as you are—not to change yourself. To become more aware, or mindful, of what is true in the moment. To be present and understand whatever is happening in our lives. Instead of trying to escape or change, mindful meditation shows us how to pay attention to what we are experiencing without being judgmental.

How do you practice mindful meditation?

Whatever type of meditation you choose, you can find a teacher to help you in your practice. But you can certainly meditate on your own. Here are some suggestions for practicing mindful meditation:

1)    Find a quiet place. You will want to find a spot in your home where you won’t be interrupted. Where you feel comfortable and will not be distracted by television or computers. You may want to have a small table where you can display meaningful objects—something like an alter. You might want to burn a candle or incense, which helps signal your brain that it’s time to quiet your mind. Or you might just want a blank wall to look at. The point is, it’s up to you.

2)    Take a seat. If you feel comfortable sitting cross-legged on the floor, and can do so while maintaining your posture without discomfort, great. But many people like to fold a blanket or use a pillow to sit on. You might prefer a chair, but pick one you can sit on without being swallowed up in billowy cushions. You want to be alert and upright but not rigid or uncomfortable. Rest your hands on your thighs and let your gaze rest ahead a few feet ahead of you.

3)    Breathe in and out. In mindful meditation, you will pay some attention to your breath as you feel it coming into your body and feel it exhaling out. But there is nothing to force or change about the way you breathe—just notice it as it is. After awhile, noticing your breath will become secondary and you will focus more of your attention on other things.

4)    Stop trying to stop thinking. In mindful meditation, there is no goal to empty your mind. But you do want to quiet your mind and bring it to a peaceful place. You will notice your thoughts. Sometimes you will feel bombarded by thoughts, memories, items on your grocery list. They’ll zigzag through your brain like a pinball. When that happens, gently bring yourself back to your breathing. Observe what has taken place without judgment.

5)    Take five. Then ten or twenty. At first, sit still quietly for just five minutes. It’s easy to fit into your schedule and something you can do every day. When you feel comfortable, you can extend the time to ten or twenty minutes. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to get acclimated and train your brain to relax into your practice, and that will mean you take more time to meditate. Take as much time as you need.

Remember, the goal is not to manipulate yourself into something someone else thinks you should be, or to change. Although if you meditate overtime, there will be some changes that occur as a natural outcome. For one thing, you’ll find you’re more self-aware and less stressed. And you’ll be in touch with your authentic self.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: