Mind, Body, Heart

The Sanskrit word citta has been translated as “mind,” nevertheless its more literal sense connotes a dual concept, more like “heart/mind.” This duality is reflected within the practices of many mindfulness traditions, which combine an awareness of the body with a concentrate on the activities and attention of the mind.

So the focus on the breath in many meditation traditions is more than a strategy for distracting the mind (though it also serves that purpose quite well). Concentrating on long, deep breaths slows the nervous system and creates a state of physical relaxation in which the separation between mind and body dissolves.

Whatever mindfulness-related activity you might pursue, keep these things in mind:

  • Gradually improve your perception of the breath. Notice how, at first, your awareness is in your chest and lungs. Let it move to the fine sensations of air passing into and out of your nostrils.
  • Relax and befriend the mind, no matter what it’s doing. Acceptance and interest will serve you better than fighting your mind’s habit of activity.
  • Remember that physical and mental relaxation go hand in hand. If you feel your mind or body beginning to relax, lean into the feeling by noticing and enjoying it.
  • Know that every thought and sensation is common and an important part of your journey. There’s no need to compare, judge, or scold yourself.
  • Each day, try to take five long, deep breaths while reflecting without judgment on your feelings and thoughts. If you experience a feeling of peace and relaxation, for a second, compliment yourself on the great job you’re doing.