One of my most troublesome symptoms is anxiety. It takes over my brain and makes me freak out about things I don’t need to freak out about. A lot of times, this anxiety escalates into panic and I end up having a panic attack. Not very fun.
When you have something as intrusive as chronic anxiety, it’s important to have coping mechanisms. One of these is mindfulness meditation.
What is mindfulness meditation? Well, let’s start with mindfulness. Generally speaking, mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging one’s thoughts and bodily sensations. So, what does this have to do with meditation? Just about everything, actually. Jon Kabat-Zinn, pioneer of using mindful meditation for stress reduction, puts it very well.
“Practice moment to moment non-judgemental awareness.”
When we meditate, our goal is to achieve a calm and focused mind. When we add mindfulness to this mix, we are trying to have a calm mind while simultaneously being aware of our thoughts and bodily sensations.
Mindfulness mediation has lengthy list of benefits, ranging from higher brain function to less stress. I understand this sounds far-fetched, but seriously, mindfulness works.
Today, I had some spare time in between my classes. I found a secluded spot in the student union on campus and had a nice, short meditation session.
Whenever I meditate I use the same routine. Firstly, I open this very useful app on my phone called Meditation Timer. It keeps track of how long I’ve been meditating and makes an inviting gong noise when I want to finish my meditation.
I divide my practice into three 3 minute parts, making for a total of 9 minutes of meditation. It goes like this:
- Minutes 1-3: Meditating on the breath. During this first part, I am mindful of my breath. I focus on breathing in and out, as I normally would. If my mind wanders, I gently bring my attention back to the breath.
- Minutes 4-6: Meditating on sounds. Now, I shift my attention from my breath to the sounds I hear around me. This an be anything from the heater vent buzzing, to the sounds of the cars passing by. I find this particularly enlightening because suddenly I realize just how loud the world is. It makes for great mindfulness.
- Minutes 7-9: Meditating on touch and sensation. During the last part of my meditation practice, I focus on touch. The weight of my clothes on my body, the feeling of my body on the ground, the sensation of my eyelids touching one another. Once again, if my mind starts to wander, or I become distracted, I gently bring my attention back to touch.
By the end of my practice, I feel refreshed and ready to face the world once again. I do this often if I have to stay up late finishing homework and my brain starts to become lethargic. Just nine minutes of focus and I’m ready to go!