Tips for Improving Your Mindfulness Practices
The following practices may improve your mindfulness skills. It all depends – it all depends on whether or not you will do regular, daily practices. If you desire to improve your mindfulness skills, consider following the tips noted below. Most of the practices below involve sitting meditation. Likewise, regular practice of these suggested skills may produce brain plasticity, which makes them easier and easier to do over time. Enjoy!
1) Sit in meditation for five to ten minutes and simply notice the condition of your mind. It is calm and quiet? Is it active and emotional? Does if go back to the past over and over again? Does it zoom into the future? See how long you can stay in the present moment just observing the quality of your mind state.
2) Spend longer and longer sessions practicing paying and holding attention on one thing. See how easy or difficult this is for your mind to do. Remember you are in charge of your mind; you do, however, have to take that responsibility and act on it. Use your executive mind to guide the quality of your mind states. For example, just pay attention to a neutral object. Then shift to a negative or unhappy topic or memory. Last, shift attention and control to a positive, happy topic of memory. See how long you can focus attention and return it. See what emotional conditions arise from the causes of neutral, suffering and happy objects or memories. The goal is to build attentional power – to be able to pay attention for longer periods of time. Whenever your attention wonders off, gently bring it back to the focus of attention you selected. Do not evaluate your practice. As you improve your attentional capacities, you may notice that your emotional tolerance for negative experiences and memories expands. Radical acceptance is a process.
3) When you are practicing mindful meditation, use your senses more. Move among the senses from one to another. Remember that in most mindfulness traditions, the mind objects – your mental content and thoughts – may also be considered as a sixth sense. Notice differences in the quality of your awareness as you move from one sense object to another. Notice what sensory channel is easier or more difficult to use.
4) Practice often with your breath as the focus of attention. Many variations of breath meditation have been presented on this site. Pick one you do well, and practice it for longer periods of time. Pick one you have problems with, and also practice for longer periods of time. I recommend you look up and practice diaphragmatic, square, and three-part breathing.
5) Practice mindfulness by first paying attention to the open field of awareness around you. No evaluations, just attention in the present moment to whatever you encounter in your experience and its environment. Then shift to a more single-pointed focus of attention. Do this for a while; eventually you may enter into concentration meditation. Concentration meditation is beyond mindfulness; it deepens in attention and intensity, but still requires mindfulness to get started.
6) Do a body scan as your meditation, and pay very close attention to the aspect of neuroception (also called interoception). What does it feel like to pay attention to moving awareness on and in the body, up and down the body? This is great practice for improving mindfulness skills as well as achieving a relaxed state. If you do this practice for a long period, you may need a blanket to remain warm. You may become so relaxed that your entire mind-body system slows way, way down.
7) Radical acceptance practice is another way to improve mindfulness capacities. Just sit and see what happens. Do not try to control anything. If/when something unpleasant arises, just sit with it in radical acceptance. This sit with what is real in the moment. Just be with it. Notice!
8) Compassion practice as part of mindfulness training can be very helpful. Sit in meditation and do loving kindness. Instructions for loving kindness (if needed) can be found on the site map on topics. As you practice loving kindness, do your best to spend longer times doing it. Notice the flow of gentle/kind energy. Think loving kindness in your words. Feel loving kindness in your heart-mind. Experience loving kindness in equanimity – if you can reach it.
I hope all these wonderful practice help you to become more proficient in your mindfulness and meditation practices. Practice does make almost perfect!
For more information refer to Gilbert, P. and Choden (2014). Mindful Compassion: How the Science of Compassion Can Help You…Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, pp. 158-276. See also Germer, C. (2009). The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion…New York: Guilford Press, pp. 129-192, 254-267.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness
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