I’m often asked a lot of questions about mindfulness, so I thought I’d share my top 5 FAQs.
- I prefer listening to music while I do a mindfulness meditation, is this ok?
This depends on what you’re trying to achieve with mindfulness meditation. Sometimes using music for meditation is about escaping what’s going on. This is absolutely fine as long as we remember that this isn’t a mindful meditation. Mindfulness is about strengthening our ability to stay with what is actually happening right now in our own experience. This helps us develop our ability to clearly see what’s true for us at this moment. As you continue to practice you may wish to experiment by adding music and see if you notice if it supports you in any way.
- I really don’t understand how paying such close attention to washing the dishes is going to help me.
Washing dishes or brushing teeth can be a time when we encounter negative thoughts. It may be tempting to deliberately use the time for planning. This habit of continually trying to project into the future or dwelling on the past can lead to intrusive negative thoughts. With mindfulness we train our attention to stay with actual experience rather than thought; so we start to see what is actually present and not what we wish was present or what we worry might be present.
- How is sitting with my eyes closed meant to help me?
One of the key areas that mindfulness helps us with is focus. Think of sitting with your eyes closed focusing on your breath as practice. It’s very like training and we are training ourselves to focus more; this continued repetition is what increases our ability to focus. Without focus we never truly see what is in front of us. As a result we don’t always respond in the best way for ourselves and others.
- I think I’m getting the hang of it then the next time I end up thinking of the plans for tonight. Why can’t I get it right?
Well done! When you recognise that your mind, while you were meditating today, was different to yesterday that’s great. You noticed that your mind was intent on planning what you needed to do in the evening. You also noticed when your mind was drifting away from the breath. All of that is wonderful. The next step is to be kind to yourself. Be compassionate and gently, kindly guide the mind back to the breath. Perhaps the invitation now is to welcome each variation as a gift or an opportunity to practice with a mind that is drifting to other things or with a mind that’s more settled.
- How long before I see the improvement in my life?
This varies as much as we do as people. You may start noticing changes with specific situations within a couple of weeks. It may be a pause as you notice more before responding or that you are making more of a decision than a habitual response. The key to it is to keep noticing and keep practising. Often our family, friends and colleagues may notice differences before we do. It may also depend upon where you are. For example, I notice more changes when I’m in Newcastle or Whitley Bay just wandering around than I do when I’m at home.
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