One of my favorite subjects is mindfulness. As I have the tendency to overthink, everything that helps me to remain in the present moment is highly appreciated. More than seven years ago, a very good friend introduced me to one technique. I was skeptical at first, but after a short period I was hooked.
Today, I want to write about Focus Mediation.
Focus Meditation can be seen as laying the groundwork for a rich and mindful life and I mean rich in a sense of a balanced and happy life. Being able to focus your attention on one thing for an extended period of time will not only help you to to get the most out of your mindfulness practice, it has several other benefits, too.
I will only mention a few benefits, I have encountered myself. I think, in a later entry, I will speak more about potential benefits of being mindful in general and of different methods. The first positive impact I experienced was an improved quality of sleep. In the past, I had often problems falling asleep, because all those thoughts kept me awake, sometimes for hours. Nowadays, even if I had a stressful day or a lot on my mind, I have no troubles falling asleep quickly. Another effect is, that I don’t or rarely wake up in the middle of the night.
Another advantage is that I am better able to memorize things. This is especially helpful at work. Moreover, I would consider myself more resilient with stress. Of course, there are things that can bring me off balance, but overall I am able to cope with almost any situation. And, maybe most important, I am better able to enjoy life in the present moment. In addition, as I am going through a tough period, I feel that it helps me to get back on the right path again.
I know there are a lot of misconceptions and biases towards meditation. I want to try to erase some of them. First of all, you don’t have to sit for ours practicing each day. Even five minutes are enough. Of course, the longer the better, but it is actually more about the repetitive practice, which brings the desired effects. This means, each day 5-10 minutes is perfectly fine. Another misconception is that people think they are doing something wrong because even after an extended period of practice, they still have a lot of thoughts while meditating. That is totally normal and must be expected. Even after years of practice, you will experience days during which your mind is wild and is difficult to tame. The actual training effect stems from refocusing yourself, once the mind has wandered off.
But how do you do it? I recently attended a wonderful Seminar on becoming a mindfulness trainer from an even more wonderful company called Potential Project. I can only recommend to have a look what they are doing. They created a very easy-to-remember way of practicing Focus Mediation.
The accronym is: A – B – C -D
A stands for Anatomy. It means that you should sit comfortably, your head, neck, shoulders and arms relaxed. Your back is straight but not tensed. Your feet are firmly on the ground. It is said, that a balanced and stable posture will help the mind to stay focused.
B stands for the Breath. In order to practice Focus Meditation, we need an object we can direct our attention at. As we have our breath always with us, it is the perfect object. It is recommended to inhale into the stomach through your nose and to exhale through your nose again. The goal is to observe the breath but not to control it. Maybe picture yourself at the beach and your breath is like a wave hitting the beach. Every breath is different and you are invited to observe it with a sense of awe.
C stands for Counting. Especially in the beginning, focusing on your breath is difficult and your mind will wander a lot. Counting helps to support your level of focus. On every out-breath you count one. Continue counting until ten and then you can count backwards to one again. Do this as often as you please. However, it is not the goal to reach ten. And you should continue with one, each time your mind has wandered off. And even if you don’t reach ten after days of practice or even weeks of practice, just be gentle with yourself and remind yourself, that this totally normal.
D stands for Distractions. I already mentioned that you might be distracted quite a lot. The reason comes from how we are conditioned. Our senses help us to recognize and analysis everything that happens around us. Especially our ears are tuned to be aware what happens around us. That is also why we are most distracted by sounds. The second most distraction is our thoughts. To get rid of another misconception, mindfulness is not about shutting yourself off from the environment. The goal is to be able to direct your attention. If there is a fire, it doesn’t help that you meditated for an hour, you still get burned. The way to deal with non-harming distractions during your practice is to be kind to yourself. It is okay to acknowledge the distraction but don’t react and also don’t judge. We tend to do this a lot with our thoughts. And if you remember that your mind has wandered off, celebrate that you realized this fact and then return your focus on your breath again.
I hope I could awaken your interest to try it out for yourself. And if you have questions around the practice or mindfulness in general, I will be happy to speak =)
Have a mindful day