Sufi Stories

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My Personal Experiences with Mindfulness

A guest post by Venli.

journey into mindfulness

How many times have you fretted while writing, wishing that you could make your mind peaceful so ideas could germinate easily? How to make your mind peaceful?

A Harvard study recently recognized that the more a person’s mind wandered the unhappier he or she became. In contrast, mindfulness, which means active attention on the present, makes you feel peaceful and happy.

In this story I share with you my own journey in mindfulness, and some practical exercises for learning the skills of mindfulness.

Why should you practice mindfulness?

First of all, because each of us needs to realize total rest.

Even a night of sleep does not fully calm the mind. Mindfulness on the other hand, transports you to a stress-free and enjoyable state of mind, as if you have been on a long vacation.

Mindfulness is a skillful way of making your mind and body relaxed.

Some of the most well-known books on mindfulness have been written by Zen teachers, so many people think that it is an exclusive domain of Buddhism.

In reality, mindfulness, is an intrinsic part of every faith.

My own experiences with mindfulness have been immensely enjoyable and led to outcomes which surpassed my wildest imagination.

There have been many times in my life when a looming, enormous responsibility forces me to become single-minded in my focus. A side-benefit of such a focus is that it stills all noise in my mind and it is a wonderful experience.

This state of meditative calm is such that it takes away all stress, I immensely enjoy the hard work. Work done with mindfulness always results in great success.

Each of us has experienced such moments of tranquility at different times in our lives.

I am sure you too would remember times of carefree peace, especially when you took a break from work, and went on a vacation.

Such moments of peace come when your mind is chatter-free. Your mind becomes chatter-free when you are fully in the present moment.

A quiet state of mind is especially easy to attain when you are removed from everyday distractions, such as on a holiday-trip, or on a spiritual-retreat.

Every day-life though, is full of noise, and our mind is frazzled. How can you make your mind quiet, and enjoy the benefits of mindfulness in your everyday life?

Making your mind quiet is a two-step process.

Learning how to watch your breath through breath-meditation, and practicing being in the present moment are the two steps to a mindful experience.

There are many meditation techniques like body-scan, visualization and walking-meditation, but breath-meditation is said to be the most effective for mindfulness.

Breath meditation is not only for beginners. In an interview with Oprah, when Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh was asked what he would do in a confrontational situation, he said, “…I will go back to my breathing… and try to be in that moment deeply…”

Most meditation-videos start with breath-watching or visualization.

A real meditation session starts by first relaxing your body through stretching exercises. This is especially true for us today when we sit in a chair all day at work.

Sitting with bad posture all day, in our office-cubicles, we twist our spine making our whole body and mind tense. If we dive in yet another hour of motionless meditation, it would feel as if we have jumped from a hot-pot into a frying-pan.

Instead of leaping into a sitting breath-meditation posture, it is best to take a few minutes to stretch your body. As you concentrate on your stretching, you are already on your way to mindfulness.

I find, that sometimes, even stretching is not enough. Walking helps me to loosen-up if I have been sitting all day.

After your walk, you could sit for some-time and follow your breath.

During walking or sitting – distracting thoughts would arise which yank your mind along different tracks. It is natural for your mind to wander.

A good tip is to keep a small notebook with you during your walk or while sitting. If a thought arises which related to an urgent issue, and you are afraid that you may forget it later – note it down. And then go back to observing your breath.

When various thoughts, memories, sensations, or feelings arise during your meditation, you don’t need to chase them away. You don’t have to worry about getting rid of your thoughts…

So, what should you do when thoughts arise during your meditation or prayer?

When thoughts arise, simply acknowledge their presence. As an example, if a feeling of unhappiness arises, simply label it, “A feeling of unhappiness has arisen in me.” If you continue to be unhappy, recognize the feeling, “A feeling of unhappiness is still in me.” If there is a thought that, “The kids are making a racket,” recognize that the thought has arisen.

The important thing is not to let a thought or feeling arise without recognizing it.

You don’t need to force your thoughts to stop. We are not our thoughts. Just observe your feelings arising and label your feelings as “sad”, “happy”, “anger.”

When you practice distancing yourself from your mind, and watch your thoughts arising as an outside observer, your mind grows peaceful.

When you sit to pray or meditate, keep your spine and neck erect, but not too tight. Even though you may feel momentarily comfortable in a slouch, you will feel much more refreshed after your sitting if you keep your back straight. Make sure your neck is not kinked by looking up or down.

The spine is the conduit for electrical impulses throughout your nervous system. If your spine and neck are not in a straight-line, then pressure will build-up.

Find a comfortable position to sit, and then take a moment to notice and relax your body. Rest your body – hands, tongue, mouth – such that you are comfortable. Mindfulness teachers recommend that you softly focus your eyes a few feet in front of you. If you feel distracted, bring your eyes to a nearer point. If you are feeling drowsy then focusing at a further point helps. You can also close your eyes if you so prefer.

Once you are sitting and relaxed with your spine and neck in a straight-line, tune into your breath. Observe the natural flow of breath without forcing it in any way.

If you feel very distracted, you can use the method of counting your breath.

As you breathe in, count 1 in your mind, and as you breathe out, count 2. Continue through 10; then return to 1 again. Don’t worry if you lose count. Just start from 1 again.

You will find your mind calming down, and then you can let go of the counting and just focus on your breath.

Breathing in, I relax.
Breathing out, I feel at ease.

Breathing in, I look at all beings with compassion.
Breathing out, I wish happiness for all creatures.

Continue breathing normally. You will find that your breathing slows down as you relax.

At the beginning thoughts may rocket through your mind, and the breath is very irregular. As you continue to follow your breath, it slows down, becomes deeper and becomes rhythmic.

As you start following your breath, you will find it difficult to concentrate. As you continue practicing, concentration will come naturally.

Breath meditation is healing. Noticing your breath, you touch the miracle of being alive.

Stay here between 5 to 20 minutes.

As you continue breathing you follow your breath from the beginning to the end. Your awareness is sustained. You concentrate on your breath as it moves through your body.

You can focus on the tip of your nose or on your abdomen. As you breathe in, your abdomen rises. As you breathe out, it empties.

As you breathe in, remind yourself to look at all beings with compassion. Kindness is the key which transforms the meditation from being a relaxation exercise, to a step towards enlightenment.

As you come to a completion, once again notice your whole body sitting comfortably. Offer a short prayer for tranquility and kindness towards all.

In Conclusion

Following your breath reminds you to enjoy the present moment, which is a wonderful moment. Enjoy breathing in. Relax when you breathe out. Remember to smile if you feel like it.

Memories about the past and present bubble-up. Watch your thoughts and feelings as they arise and then fade away. The past has already gone, and the future is yet to come. Enjoy being happy and free in the present moment.

This mindfulness or awareness can extend to all your activities during the day. It is the opposite of being on autopilot.

You mind is like water in a lake. Its natural state is to be calm, if left undisturbed.

With each breath you arrive in the here and the now. You are calm and rested.

In addition to breath-meditation, I also try to be aware of all my activities. When I am washing dishes, I can enjoy it fully. I am conscious of the washing and take care not to waste. I’m relaxed, following my breath, conscious of my presence. I am not being thrown around mindlessly like a piece-of-wood slapped here and there on the waves.

To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds and emotions. It is said by masters, that “Your breath can take you all the way to Nirvana.


This post is a transcript of the video posted on YouTube:


Please consult your health practitioner before starting any meditation or mindfulness practice. Mindfulness can have serious negative consequences. Please see the references below.