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On a Mission to Make Mindfulness Practical

I grew up in a very strict religion, some would even say it was a cult. I left the organization at the age of 17, but one of the messages that stuck with me for a long time was to be wary of yoga and anything that claimed to be "spiritual" because spirituality that is not grounded in that organization's beliefs could potentially be demonic. While that is certainly not my belief, that history has kept me acutely aware of the vast array of potential initial impressions regarding these practices.

Before moving on, here are some topics covered in this blog:

  • Spiritual vs non-spiritual meditation

  • Mindfulness defined

  • How to control excessive thoughts during meditation

  • Bonus tip if the mind is too jumpy

  • Mind like a muscle that can be strengthened

  • Common anchors that help us stay present

  • Everyday mindfulness beyond formal practice

  • Practice video shares meditation posture tips

  • FAQ video shares why cultivating the observing mind makes our lives easier and why we typically give up on meditation

It is because of that organization, one that encouraged me to guard myself/live in fear, that I wish to share the practice of mindfulness meditation in the most practical way possible. Not only do I wish to share the practice, I strive to demystify by explaining the very clear science behind mindfulness meditation.

That being said, this practice is deeply spiritual for me. The word spiritual can be seen as religious, but the definition that I prefer is, that which is beyond the physical body. Our life force, where does it come from? Is there a physical/tangible location for this life energy?

When looking into the origins of the word spiritual, it can be traced to the word for spirit in Latin - spirare. The definition of spirare is, brace yourselves - breathe.

Although I could go on about how this practice has become spiritual for me, and will gladly answer any questions about it becoming a spiritual practice (that can also strengthen any of your current spiritual practices, not go against them), I prefer to demystify it. I want everyone on this planet to have access to these practices and calling it a spiritual practice can create a barrier.

Let's begin with the definition of mindfulness from Jon Kabat Zin that I use and work with:

"Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, and non-judgmentally."

I choose to use Jon Kabat Zin's definition because he has been researching this style of meditation since 1979 and I admire/appreciate the way he pioneered sharing these Buddhist contemplative practices, like vipassana, while doing so in a secular way. “I bent over backwards to structure it and find ways to speak about it that avoided as much as possible the risk of it being seen as Buddhist, new age, eastern mysticism or just plain flakey,” says Jon Kabat Zin.

This week I will be going live on Instagram, sharing a short mindfulness, Metta (aka Loving Kindness Meditation), or breathwork practice in order to breakdown the techniques, and share basic science as well as tips for making it feel more accessible, even to those with the busiest lives and minds. After each practice, I will answer questions from those who join me live as well as answering some of the most frequently asked questions.

Today's question: How do I control my thoughts and stop having so many thoughts?

It is the nature of the mind to be busy with thoughts, we learn to redirect our awareness (WITHOUT JUDGMENT) and come back to the present moment when we practice mindfulness. You’ll notice in the practice I share below, I direct awareness to observe what the body feels like when you reach the very top of an inhale and later I asked you to observe what it felt like at the bottom of the exhale. I know! Such a boring thing to do, but it is a powerful practice if you stick with it.

You haven’t done anything wrong when you notice yourself distracted with a thought!! This is the moment where you can CHOOSE! Yes, you get to choose to redirect awareness and become present through the observation of your anchor - sensations of breathing.