MINDFULNESS MEDITATION 101:
Benefits of Cultivating a
Mindfulness Meditation Practice
Robert W. Poynter, III, MS, EdS, LPC, NCC
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
— Albert Einstein
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is a technique of meditation in which distracting thoughts and feelings are not ignored but are rather acknowledged and observed with non-judgment. Through a variety of exercises and techniques, meditation increases an individual’s awareness of his or her thoughts, feelings, and body sensations without feeling the need to be controlled by them. Yes, you can actually control your responses to your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations without feeling controlled by them. You are not your thoughts, feelings, or body sensations. They are only a fraction of your ‘whole’ self. You are not who you think you are until you discover meditation and the power of exploring your inner wisdom and intuition.
Mindfulness is about being fully aware of whatever is happening in the moment. It is a moment-to-moment awareness where time slows down where you can actually focus on the task or situation that is present. Through mindfulness meditation, you are trying to achieve a mind that is stable and calm, and with practice, you will be developing and strengthening your mind in becoming calm without struggling.
Mindfulness is not a new idea. It has been part of religious texts for thousands of years, writers and poets have embellished their insights, and it has been central to many contemplative traditions such as Buddhism. Mindfulness has entered the mainstream in the West and is exerting an influence in a wide variety of contexts, including medicine, neuroscience, psychology, counseling, education, and business. As a nation, we are suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders from a point of view of meditative traditions. We are always doing and there is no time to rest, so we have created a society where there are more certifiable attention-deficit disorders and diagnoses. As Eastern practices gain more popularity in the West, mindfulness has been shown to have promising results.
What Are the Benefits?
Scientific research has shown growing evidence that cultivating mindfulness can increase your enjoyment of life, expand your capacity to cope with illness, and improve your physical and emotional health. It is a powerful tool in reducing the stress and anxiety that occurs with chronic illness, and as an adjunct to modern medicine it may enhance other treatments. Mindfulness has been found to be one of the best holistic treatments in reducing symptoms of mental illness and increasing mental wellness. Here is a compiled list of benefits that have been analyzed as the top 10 benefiting factors of cultivating a mindfulness meditation
- Increases self-awareness, self-trust, and self-acceptance
- More fluid adaptation to change and development of more effective coping strategies
- Significant decrease in a variety of stress-related physical or emotional symptoms (work-related, relationship issues, life stressors, etc.)
- Significant decrease in anxiety and depression symptoms
- Improved concentration, focus, and creativity
- Improved immune system function (lowers blood pressure, helps with heart disease, and helps with cancer and other long-term illnesses)
- An increased ability to relax and control racing thoughts
- Greater energy and enthusiasm for life (work productivity, relationship satisfaction, and love for life)
- Enhanced interpersonal relationships
- Improved self-esteem
Exercises and How to Cultivate a Practice
I encourage people to meditate frequently, but for short periods of time—ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes. Training the mind should be very, very simple.
Exercise #1: Meditation
Simply find a comfortable place, free of distractions, and sit quietly while quieting your mind. Gently close your eyes. Just observe what is going on in the body (body sensations, thoughts, and feelings). Just notice how your thoughts come and go, like clouds dissipating in the sky. Just notice and observe.
Exercise #2: Deep Breathing
Beware of your breathing. Gently close your eyes or stare at a spot. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Breathe from your belly, not your chest. It may be awkward at first, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes. Become aware of the belly rising and falling, feeling the sensations in your nostrils, chest, and diaphragm.
- Pay attention to your breathing at red lights
- When you are upset, take some ‘mindful’ breaths (take 5 or 10 breaths to help you calm down)
If you would like to learn more about mindfulness meditation, you can find me at Warnecke Professional Counseling in Marietta and Alpharetta/Roswell, where I provide teachings and disciplines that help individuals cultivate their own meditational practice, so they can find more clarity in their lives.
Sources: Kabat-Zinn, John. Full Catastrophe Living, 1990.