Anything as important to our lives as money deserves our careful and compassionate attention. Which brings us to the subject of mindfulness, something that can enhance and enlighten not just our relationships with money, but every other area as well.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the pioneer of mind-body medicine, defines mindfulness in his classic book Full Catastrophe Living this way:
“Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness. It is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment’s thought to. It is a systematic approach to developing new kinds of control and wisdom in our lives, based on our inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness, and insight.”
There’s probably no better way to learn to live more mindfully than through meditation. Here are some simple instructions. You may also want to watch a beautiful video by meditation master Thich Nhat Hanh on practicing mindfulness.
A good place to start is with observing your breath. Sit up as straight as you comfortably can and close your eyes, or look at one spot on the floor about three feet in front of you. Find a place in your body where you can distinctly feel yourself breathing. This might be in your diaphragm area, your chest, or your nostrils.
Now, just pay attention to your breath naturally coming in and out of your body. Don’t try to breathe deeply; some of your breaths will be short and light, others will be longer and deep. Try this for 10 to 20 minutes, or even for 5 minutes.
Your mind will wander. If you’re like most people, you’ll get upset with yourself for this, or feel that you aren’t doing it “right.” This happens, however, to everyone. In fact, the moment you realize that your mind has strayed from your breath is perhaps your moment of greatest mindfulness. When you notice it, just gently bring your attention back to your breath.
You’ll probably find counting your breaths to be helpful with concentration. As you breathe in, silently say “one” to yourself. On the outbreath, “two.” Do this up to ten then count backwards to one. Continue this throughout your meditation period.
You’ll get the greatest benefit from a regular meditation practice. Try to start out with 3 to 5 days a week for 5 to 15 minutes, and gradually work up to 5 days a week for 3o minutes. Since you will no doubt come up with questions, look for a group of people in your area who meditate, and join them. It is much easier to keep your meditation going with the support of other people. If you live in or near Washtenaw County in Michigan, visit the website of the Ann Arbor Center for Mindfulness to find out about mindfulness classes. If you live elsewhere and can’t find a local group, do an internet search for online support.
Questions for my readers — please comment!
1. Do you meditate or practice any other form of mindfulness? Please tell us about your experiences with it.
2. Do you have any mindfulness practices you use with money?