READY... SET... BE
7 ways to cultivate your mindfulness practice in 2022. By Neil Seligman, Creator of Zen in Ten and Founder of The Conscious Professional
Whether you are coming to the practice for the first time or are an experienced meditator, the fresh energy of the New Year can provide a welcome boost to your mindfulness practice! So, if you’re hearing the call of your cushion - inviting you back home - you will enjoy these 7 nuggets of practical inspiration to help you cultivate your inner Zen this coming year!
1. Bring Awareness To Your Spine
It makes such a difference when you honour the precious moments of your own practice by sitting tall in your body as you meditate. In class I always refer to the spine as the antennae of awareness. A slumpy back is likely to translate into a half-hearted practice. A tall free balanced spine opens you to mindful awareness with the energy of dedication. It signals to your higher centres that you are open to listen with depth and to receive the subtler streams of information that flow through your body and being on the breath. If you struggle with lengthening the spine due to back issues, make yourself comfortable with cushions, bolsters, or a chair, and simply visualise the spine becoming aligned, long, and open.
2. Allow The Energy Body To Come Online
Increasingly in my own practice I perceive the need to connect my mindful awareness with the energy body. You can do this simply and at your own pace by taking three breaths to each of the chakras in turn: Root, Sacral, Solar Plexus, Heart, Throat, Third Eye, Crown. As you breathe, imagine the energy of the breath travelling to each of the energy centres and simply observe your perceptions. Next, breathe all the way through the energy body to the hands, feet and head. Include all the extremities. One body breathing. Notice the sensations, images, feelings and thoughts that arise.
3. Learn How To Savour Your Practice
As I sit to meditate, sometimes I notice a thought pattern arise that wants me to rush through practice so I can just tick it off – it feels like I’m back at school and I’m trying to act like the ‘good boy’, but underneath it all, I don’t really want to do it. When that happens, I try to name what is occurring and explore what aspect of my practice I am resisting. I remind myself that mindfulness is about savouring, the very antidote to rushing. The best way I know how to move from rushing to savouring is to open my heart to the practice, give myself full permission to be curious about what comes, and to set a timer to release me from practice at a known time.
With those aspects in place, whether I am meditating for 5 mins or 50 minutes I am free to drop in, to explore and to savour. Give it a try!
4. Invite Intuitive Movement In
Mindfulness is a practice of embodiment by which we invite the warmth of awareness in and through the body. In doing so we make contact with the inner reality in a profoundly authentic and revealing way. Whilst stillness is often the most harmonic holding for the body, occasionally allow intuitive movement to accompany your practice. When I do this, I find myself brushing the body, holding the body, moving in tune with my breath and experiencing the warmth of making contact. In some of the wilder streams, I find myself in touch with the harmony of body, mind and spirit in new and expansive ways. Explore!
5. Look For The Edge Of Your Awareness
I was in a lecture with John Kabat Zin one day when he said – “Have a look for the edge of your awareness: I don’t think you’re going to find it.” It is a great mindfulness inspiration - try it for yourself. What did you discover? The window of mindfulness opens!
6. Take A Course
One of the things that we have all realised through the pandemic is how learning can be so successfully offered online. The traditional eight-week courses such as the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course (for generalised stress) and the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy course (for depression and anxiety) are still the gold standard in adult courses and you will find many teachers offering these online and in person across the UK. If you are not sure if these are right for you and you still want to learn the foundations of mindfulness and embed the skill of meditation, Zen in Ten is my 10-day online programme which teaches the basic theory and practice of mindfulness in just 15 minutes a day. You might use it as an on-ramp to one of the longer courses, or simply treat it as a kickstarter to your practice this year.
7. Forgive Yourself Often
Finally, remember that even experienced meditators fall out of their practice sometimes. Do not treat this as a failure when life inevitably sweeps you up in another direction. Simply notice the call of the cushion, forgive yourself immediately for the time away from practice, and reclaim your seat.
Your body and being will thank you!