Today we are going to explore the concept of a focused awareness meditation for beginners.
Here’s the deal, a meditation practice is difficult to start.
There are so many different styles, names, techniques, teachers…it’s downright overwhelming.
And to make things even more complicated, not all styles and techniques will feel like they are working for you (at least at first.)
Let’s make one thing clear; we are not meditation masters or spiritual gurus. We are regular people, just like you, who have found some serious benefits in a beginner’s meditation practice.
So, to make things a little easier for you, we’ve decided to break down some of the more popular and accessible techniques. That way, you can try them out individually and find the right place to start for yourself.
Remember that the goal isn’t to sit down on a cushion and become a zen master. The goal is to improve the quality of your mind.
As neuroscientist and author Sam Harris puts it: “Your mind is the basis of everything that you experience and of every contribution you make to the lives of others. Given this fact, it makes sense to train it.”
The Wandering Mind
One of the foundations of meditation and mindfulness is training our awareness.
If you find that your mind wanders constantly throughout the day, congratulations! You are normal :).
Our mind’s tendency to bounce around all day has been studied in depth by scientists. The most popular study came out of Harvard in 2010.
“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” the authors write. “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”
They go on to say that “Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness. In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities we engage in.”
This is why meditation is so crucial. It is also why it feels so difficult.
We are going against our brain’s natural tendency to wander in order to achieve clarity, and ultimately, happiness.
The first style of meditation we’re going to breakdown is called focused awareness.
This style of meditation is “object-based,” meaning that you focus your entire attention on a singular object.
The object can be external or internal, here are a few examples:
- A body part like your hands or feet.
- Your breath.
- A singular sound like a chime or gong.
- A soft light source, like a candle.
Whichever object you choose will become your anchor for the meditation session. When your mind wanders, which it 100% will, you focus your attention right back on your anchor.
This exercise builds up the muscle of attention. With practice, it allows you to become aware of when your mind has wandered and gently redirect your focus to the present moment.
A focused awareness practice is a great place to start if you’ve been thinking about trying meditation.
We created a guided exercise to help you get started, check it out here.