MINDFULNESS: An Intro Series Part 4 - Setting Up for Practice
FOUR: SETTING UP FOR PRACTICE
We have been through a lot already in this series. Now we start to talk about the practices. Before we start each practice it is good to arrange things to create a good setup for practice. This is especially important for the foundation and ‘formal’ practices (sections five and six), but they are also useful for the ‘informal’, ‘anytime’ practices (section seven). The key things to think about are:
Some people try to multitask mindfulness. They practice formal exercises on the bus, or they sit down in the lounge when the family is running around. This is possible, but it is hard, and is better suited to the ‘informal’ practices. When we are doing ‘formal’ practices (setting aside time to focus on mindfulness practice) it is better to be in a quiet place where we won’t be interrupted. So before practicing the foundation skills or formal practices, find a quiet place.
We will go into more detail for each practice, but whatever whatever the case we want to take a “dignified” posture. This is straight, but not rigid. Alert. Awake. Like our mindfulness practice in general, it’s about making our posture intentional. If you are sitting on a chair, sit toward the front of the chair and have both feet firmly on the ground. Make sure you are stable. Have your back straight and head balanced over your spine. If sitting cross legged, try to have a firm base — propping your backside up with pillows can help. If you are standing or walking, stand straight, but don’t be stiff.
If you would like to look into this more, here are two guides to posture and other core mindfulness basics:
We have mentioned this before, but it is well worth saying it again. Depending on the exercise we are doing, our attention will be focused on different things. The quality of attention should be calm; not intense. An aware attention. Also, when our mind wanders all we need to do is notice where it has gone, and bring it back. Through our practice we are training ourselves to notice where our mind has wandered and to bring it back.
We have also talked about attitude, but here it is again! Come back to the mindful attitudes before you practice. Remember, the goal isn’t to have a “clear mind”. It is the nature of the mind to look to the past and future and to analyse. The mindful attitudes help us to remember this, and to bring compassion to anything that happens during our practice. To cultivate non-judgement, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go.
In section five we start to practice the foundation skills. After that, sections six and seven, we introduce ‘formal’ practices (specific skills we practice at set times), and ‘informal’, ‘anytime’ practices (bringing mindfulness to our daily activities).