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A mindfulness meditation primer

Learn what mindfulness meditation is and how to do it with this article and its accompanying audio mp3 guided meditation.

The pace of life in the military these days for service members and military families is at an all-time high. Whether deployed or at home, you can use mindfulness as a self-care tool to help optimize your performance and balance your hectic schedule.

Mindfulness is a method of focusing your awareness on the present moment in a particular way. You may spend so much of your time either thinking about the past or worrying about the future, that you miss the moment you’re living in right now. Mindfulness can allow you to acknowledge and accept your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judgment.

Compelling research has shown that mindfulness practice can help lower your blood pressure, bolster concentration, support your immune system, soothe some aspects of anxiety, and possibly reduce depressive symptoms.

You can become more mindful by practicing a few minutes of meditation each day. Follow these instructions for a seated meditation:

  • Sit in a chair with your spine straight, your feet on the floor, and your hands on your thighs with palms facing upward.
  • Close your eyes or focus on a spot on the floor about three feet in front of you.
  • Notice the breath coming in and out of your nose or mouth.
  • Practice quieting your mind: First, notice thoughts, emotions, sensations as they arise, then let them go by returning your attention back to your breath. Those other feelings will all be waiting for you once you’re done!

For best results, set aside 10 minutes of uninterrupted time in a quiet space every day. Just after waking from a sound sleep is a good time since your mind is probably quiet already. Or practicing before bedtime might help you sleep better. But find a time that works for you and stay with it every day for one week to get started. As the days pass, notice how this practice impacts your day. Many people report feeling a sense of inner calm and relaxation with regular practice. If you find it works well for you, continue at least once a day or more often if you feel the need.

Use the links below to listen to an audio version of this introduction, and then follow another link to a short, guided meditation to start on your way to experiencing mindfulness. A written transcript of the meditation is also available below. Please note: Mindfulness meditation is not a replacement for medical treatment or advice.