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How to restore your mindfulness practice

Have you been practicing for years and you lost your enthusiasm along the way? Did your routine change dramatically and you struggle getting back to your usual practice? You’re not alone. When you're a long-time meditator or mindfulness is part of what you do as a profession, disconnecting from your practice might bring up guilt, disappointment and shame. It'd also feel overly vulnerable to share it with others. If your practice has been off lately, please know that it's OK. Use it as an opportunity to cultivate beginner's mind and refresh your memories about establishing a practice. It can be a huge resource when helping your clients to do the same.

Once more about the beginner's mind

Beginner's mind is dropping our expectations and preconceived ideas about something, and seeing things with an open mind, fresh eyes, just like a child.

"A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement." Rachel Carson

How is it truly practicing with the beginner’s mind? How does curiosity and openness change your practice? What new insights do you gain through looking at it with fresh eyes?

Witness your thoughts around your practice

If you want to return to your practice, it's a zero distance journey. There is nowhere to go. There is no movement in the present moment, it's about reconnecting with the stillness that’s ever present. You're not supposed to get anywhere, you’re practicing to be. It’s called practice for a reason.

Instead of judging how good you’re at keeping your routine and how deep you can go in your meditation, create awareness around looking non-judgementally at the practice itself. Catch your ego being caught up in the "I'm an advanced meditator. I should do it better."- type thoughts. What if you let go of these expectations?

Rediscover the basics

Remember how it all started for you. Think about how you discovered awareness in the first place. Create the environment in which mindful awareness first appeared in your life. Back then you probably had no idea it would happen. You might not even have known what mindfulness is. You just followed a routine or curiously tried something new that felt right. It’s like Csikszentmihalyi’s flow state. You can’t force it, you can only create the right circumstances for it to happen. Just do what once worked and trust the process.

What made you aware? What was is at first that helped you experience awareness? Was it a book, was it through your daily yoga practice or was it a simple activity such as brushing your teeth mindfully? What planted the seed of awakening in your being? What guided you towards awareness in the first place? Make a list of these and rediscover them one by one.

Allow your mind to “run out”

If you feel difficulty focusing on guided practices and all you experience is resistance, then turn off the recording and simply allow yourself to sit there for the time of the practice. Stare out of the window and just let the mind "run out itself". To avoid checking the time, set a timer. Insight Timer has a feature that allows you to set a timer and it ends with a gong or bell (much nicer than the usual mobile ringtones).

What happens if you gently invite yourself to sit without the slightest nudge to meditate? What if you give yourself permission to sit and do nothing for a few minutes? What if you let go of the idea that you need to practice and just allow yourself to be?

Informal meditation

Some days can feel harder. If you struggle to sit, still keep your time to practice and go for a walk instead. No phones, no headphones, just walk while you pay attention to yourself and your environment. Stop by and watch a leaf on the tree, notice the voices around you and allow yourself to discover something new on the familiar route.

What new do you discover during your walk? What is the nature telling you about the season? How is it walking without trying to use this time for something, like calling your mom, catching up with an audiobook or learning about the newest sales tips from a podcast?

Experiment with different styles

Try new styles, different traditions and teachers you haven't practiced with yet. If you usually practice alone on your own, join a meditation circle or listen to guided meditations. Don't judge a practice based on your mind's response (for example it sounds weird, I don't like it), rather judge it by the impact it had on you. If you feel calmer and more relaxed, then it's an indicator that it worked.

If you find a practice and teacher that you can relate to, stick with it for 2-3 weeks at least, allow the practice to evolve and observe what impact you notice on you and your life.


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