As you’ve learned from prior posts, there are three main tenets of mindfulness meditation, of which present moment awareness is one. (The other two are nonjudgment and acceptance.) In this post, I’ll share some helpful tips for keeping your awareness on the present moment during meditation.
This is one area where many new to meditation struggle. The mind can be busy…and you simply cannot turn off your thinking!
But I have great news! You don’t have to stop thinking! You’ve probably noticed that the more you try not to think, the more thoughts and judgments start to arise.
Instead of resisting, allow what is happening to be your present experience.
What is present moment awareness?
present moment awareness is placing your attention on what is happening now.
If what is happening now is that your mind is thinking, you simply step back from identifying with the thoughts, and instead identify with the observer of the thoughts.
Here are some tips and analogies that have helped me through the years to become more present during meditation:
- Imagine you are standing on a train platform, and a train is passing through on the tracks in front of you. The train is your thoughts, and you simply watch them stream by without assigning any meaning.
- Use your breath to ground you in the present moment. Pay attention to the flow of air along each area of its path. You can start off by practicing some 4-7-8 breathing as I’ve taught you here.
- Simply count your breaths. Count each in-breath and each out-breath up to 20, and then start again at 1.
- Imagine your mind is the sky. Your thoughts are the passing clouds. Notice the space between the clouds, the blue sky peaking through. Drop into that space.
- Use a mantra, a simple phrase that you mentally repeat. One of my favorites is “so hum”, meaning “I am.”
- Say yes to whatever emotions or feelings are arising during meditation. Go to that part of your body where you feel the emotion most strongly and study how the emotion feels in your body. Is it hard or soft, rapid or slow, does it have a texture or color?
- Imagine you are seated on the bank of a river. The gentle flow of water passing by is carrying your thoughts away like leaves floating on the water’s surface.
Hopefully these tips will help you during future meditation sessions as you cultivate your sense of presence. The more you practice, the stronger you will become at this skill.
“Don’t worry about anything. Even if you find your attention wandering, there is no particular ‘thing’ you have to hold onto. Just let go, and drift in the awareness of the blessing.”Rinpoche