You won’t find a simpler meditation practice than this.
Just sit in a room and pay attention to where you are.
Focused Attention is a mindfulness exercise whereby you focus on a single thing, for example the feeling of the air at the tip of your nose, or the flickering of a candle. The purpose is to calm your mind, to calm the wildness of your thoughts by putting all your focus onto one very specific thing and every time you notice your attention wandering from that one thing, you refocus on it. It’s the most basic of all mindfulness meditation practices and you can read more about it here.
Open monitoring is almost the opposite. Instead of concentrating your focus on a single thing, you don’t focus your concentration at all and you try to take in all the sensory information your mind is receiving without attaching yourself to any one specific sense or your own thoughts. (In Buddhist teaching, your thoughts are also a sense, the sixth sense). This one might intuitively seem like the easier mindfulness exercise but it is definitely not. It’s very challenging for a non practiced mind to not immediately go chasing after one of the sensations, attaching yourself to one sense at the expense of no longer equally processing the other five.
Your place in the room: a mindfulness exercise that is a blend of both.
- Sit in a comfortable position. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the ground or in a chair just be sitting comfortably.
- I recommend downloading a stopwatch/timer app on your phone and setting it to 10 minutes and once you start it, put it out of your line of sight.
- Visually notice where you are in the room. Are you equally noticing what your right and left eyes are taking in? How far are you from any furniture that is within your sight? How far are you from the walls you can see?
- You know the room you’re in. If you could see a bird’s-eye view of the room, you would know what is in the room behind you. So, while not losing your attention on what you’re seeing, become aware of what you can’t see. You know it’s there. How far away from the wall behind you are you? Is your cat sleeping on the couch behind you? How far away from your head is the ceiling?
- When your timer goes off, you’re done!
See, that’s a very simple mindfulness exercise, right?
And you can do it anywhere and any time. You can do it RIGHT NOW, sitting in front of your computer and you don’t even have to turn your computer off. It’s just another item in your field of vision.
Take this awareness exercise further by taking your mind further.
You can continue to use what you can’t see to increase your awareness of where you really are in space by expanding the space you’re holding in your mind’s eye. Let’s start with one of my favorite ways to become truly aware of your place in three dimensional space on this planet.
Stand or sit outside. Think about what’s above your head. You know what’s there?
OK, sure there’s air. But think about the fact that it’s AIR. it has no solidity. There is no top to it. There’s no roof. It just gets thinner and thinner and then… poof… space. As in outer space. You are separated from space by an atmosphere that has the thickness slightly larger than the distance from San Francisco to San Jose. That is TINY relative to the entire planet! Above your head is nothingness. Space. You’re bare to the universe. Stand there, think about that and get a feel for it.
Anytime you’re feeling too much “in your head”, practice this awareness exercise.
We all get too into thinking about “what if” and “should have”. Getting out of the subjective world helps keep your mind more at peace and allows you to deal with situations naturally as they occur. You stop building up your reactions to points in a conversation that either has already happened or may never happen. When you notice yourself having imaginary conversations, change your mindset to think about where you are, right now, in space. When you practice this more and more, you can even incorporate it into your activity. You can be productive and also mindful. Grow your ability to maintain this level of awareness using this exercise or the eye balancing exercise.
Know where you are. FEEL where you are. Then you’re really there.