Peace Out: A Beginner’s Guide to Achieving Mindfulness

Just when you thought the health-kick lexicon couldn’t grow anymore (remember juicing and yogalates?), it seems you can’t go anywhere without hearing about “mindfulness.”

A form of meditation, the practice aims to get you to a calmer sense of being in your everyday life, as well as becoming less reactive to things that affect you negatively. Studies — actual ones, that involve science — show that mindfulness can in some cases help mental health as much as prescription meds, as well as increasing energy and focus.

Recently, Johns Hopkins University published a study in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal that suggested mindfulness as a way to help relieve anxiety, depression and physical pain. To understand the full scope of mindfulness, yoga instructor and meditation teacher Jude Star walks us through the practice.

What is it?

Asking exactly what mindfulness is isn’t a straightforward question (things like this rarely are). Star provides a helpful general explanation: a moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness, wherein you take a minute to step back and take a third-person view of your experience.

What You Need

You know what you don’t need? Candles, incense, music and overstuffed pillows to meditate. However you’re most comfortable, (sitting, lying down or walking) is how it should be done. Your main objective is to maintain a straight spine.

How to Work It Into Your Day

According to Sar, there are two kinds of mindfulness: formal and informal. Neither will take more than a few minutes, and both are easy to inject into your day.

Formal: Before your first coffee of the day, set yourself up in a comfortable spot and quietly take note of how you’re feeling, where you’re feeling it and why. Think of it as a quick sweep of self. You’re not doing this to think of ways to change what you don’t like, or come up with a To-Do list for the day. In fact, it’s the opposite: note your feelings, and then peacefully put them out of your mind.

Informal: If you can’t spare the coffee-less minutes in the morning, informal mindfulness should come while you go about your day. If you start to feel angry or anxious, don’t disconnect from it. Be continually aware of the feelings and sensations until they die down. Employ whatever strategies you think might calm you down: take a few deep breaths, take a walk, whatever you like. But just make sure you’re not just taking your mind off whatever is bothering you.

Steps to Proper Meditation

There are three things to keep in mind while you’re being mindful.

Concentration: Keep your attention and energy on what you deem is relevant at the moment. It can be one thing or many things but just keeping control over what has your full attention.

Clarity: Notice what you’re feeling. Is it anger? Frustration? Anxiety? Pick each sensation apart, recognize what is causing them and see them for what they are.

Equanimity: This is the non-judgemental acceptance. Embrace every sensation that arises, be equally open to each one and realize that whatever happens is okay, and that you’re equipped to handle it.

A Brief Situational Guide

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