Mindfulness is a wellness buzzword that’s getting a lot of love these days—turns out it’s incredibly accessible and incredibly helpful.
Our modern world is a distraction factory and practicing mindfulness meditation every day can help calm our minds and increase our focus, inevitably making us even more awesome. Hannah Stouffer is an art director and visual artist living and working in Los Angeles, CA. She runs and operates out of THEPLUS.LA an experiential studio base for her company H+ Creative and a community driven event space. As an expert on all-things-mindful, Hannah is here to lay out an easy 10 step guide to daily meditation.
1. Find a distraction free area that you will be able to sit for 10-20 minutes. This should be free of excess noise and in a quiet area you know you will not be disturbed. I often set my phone to airplane mode to avoid any unnecessary incoming texts or calls.
2. Start with writing down some simple notes about areas of your life that you’d like to focus on or release. This could be things that are stressing you out, emotions that you would like to let go of or intentions you have for the future. This is optional, but it’s a great technique for checking in with yourself to release what’s on your mind.
3. Make yourself comfortable. In either an upright sitting posture, place your hands on your knees, or resting comfortably in your lap. If you’d like back support you can sit on a chair or on the couch, or even lay on the floor if you need a more relaxing pose. Set the tone of your practice by burning some candles, lighting sage or palo santo and cleansing the air around you. Incense and essential oils are also nice to calm a space and prepare your mind and body for some relaxation time.
4. If I’m alone, I like to set a timer or use a meditation app like Insight timer or Headspace that will let you know when to begin and end your meditation. It can also help you stay on track or start a regular practice.
5. Close your eyes and relax your body, relaxing each body part one at a time. Scan your body and notice any areas of stress or discomfort and release them. Just notice and release. If any sudden noises or changes happen around you, just notice them and release them as well.
6. Now just sit. Be aware of your surroundings, your body, the sounds around you. Don’t react or attempt to change anything, just be aware. Turn your attention to your breath. Breathe silently, yet deeply. Engage your diaphragm and fill your lungs, but do not force your breath. Instead, notice how your breath feels in your nose, throat, chest and belly as it flows in and out.
7. As you focus on your breath your mind will begin to calm and become present. However, this does not mean that thoughts will cease to arise! As thoughts come to you, simply acknowledge them, set them aside and return your attention to being still. Some days your mind will be busy and filled with inner chatter, other days it will remain calm and focused. Neither is good, nor bad, just notice.
8. There is no correct length of time to practice meditation, however when first beginning it is often easier to sit for shorter periods of time (5 to 10 minutes). I find that 20 minutes works best for me. As you become more comfortable with your practice, meditate longer.
9. When you are ready to end your practice, slowly bring your conscious attention back to your surroundings. Acknowledge your presence in the space around you. Gently wiggle your fingers and toes and begin to move your hands, feet, arms and legs. Open your eyes. Move slowly and take your time getting up.
10. Consistency is more important than quantity. Meditating for 5 minutes every day will reward you with far greater benefits than meditating for two hours, one day a week. Most beginners find it easier to meditate in a quiet space at home, but as you become more comfortable, begin exploring new places to practice. Meditating outdoors in nature can be very peaceful, and taking the opportunity to meditate on the bus or in your office chair can be an excellent stress reliever.