Beyond Meditation: Cultivating Mindfulness
Mental health is becoming a hot topic, and thankfully in a good way that removes stigma. As I reflect on my 12-year journey of learning different meditation techniques, the latest being Vipassana, I am reminded that the benefits of meditation are tremendous for mental health, physical health, creativity, and much more, based on research and my experience.
An article from Fulfillment Daily seems to be describing my life as it lists thirteen ways to cultivate mindfulness, backed by research: check it out. I’ll summarize those thirteen practices here with my own examples:
- Walking: I walk for an hour or two daily, often on the beach. The sense of peace and inspiration is rejuvenating. And, we know the water has a calming effect on our minds.
- Daily tasks: I find tasks like cleaning very satisfying when I can be in the moment, with full awareness of what I’m doing.
- Creativity: In my Vipassana retreat, so many ideas came into my mind; I am currently working on three other books, having launched one recently.
- Breathing: Being aware of my breath is a powerful way to focus on the present moment whenever I find myself stuck in the past or worrying about the future.
- Unitasking: I am much more productive when I do one thing at a time. These days I set aside time for one task or a piece of one task, with no distractions. I tend to accomplish more than I expect.
- De-phoning: I don’t check my phone for email as often as I used to. After ten days of not having my phone with me during Vipassana training, I was reminded that I’ve often overestimated its importance.
- Novelty: I seek out new experiences through food, movies, books, walks, research, and art.
- Nature: I spend more and more time outdoors communing with nature. I notice the trees, flowers, butterflies, birds, waves, and everything else in my path.
- Emotions: I notice what I’m feeling and just pause to feel it, accepting what is instead of suppressing it, which always means I will have to deal with it later. Of course, this is a lifetime of practice, and I’m slowly improving, especially after Vipassana.
- Meditation: I now meditate using the Vipassana technique for two hours per day. My previous regimen was transcendental meditation for 40 minutes per day, which was energizing, but did not include focusing on my own reality.
- Inputs: I am careful to put healthy, organic, plant-based, and gluten-free food into my body, and focus my entertainment choices on topics like comedy, animal protection, nature, foreign drama, and other non-violent topics. The exceptions of course are Star Wars and Transformers movies, which I don’t know how to give up.
- Laughter: Watching life’s ups and downs, remembering not to take everything so seriously, and using humor to lighten up, are essential. I’m slowly getting better at this.
- Imagination: Allowing the mind to roam and wander is a crucial way to access new ideas. My daydreams always bring me new ideas, stories, and solutions.
This is a lot to digest. If I had to pick two of these benefits to emphasize, it would be #8: get outside. Research suggests that spending time outdoors can relieve stress, and improve energy levels, memory and attention.
And, #10: meditate! Mindfulness meditation can change our gene expression to lower our inflammatory response, making us more resilient. The strength of the mind-body connection becomes more apparent as we pause and connect with our own unique realities in the present moment.
Tell me how you practice mindfulness. I want to learn from your experiences!