01/22/2014 07:10 pm ET Updated Mar 24, 2014

Mindfulness in Everyday Life: How to Meditate: 18 Tips to Successful Sitting Practice

In order to lead a more enlightened life, it is important, first of all, to understand how the human mind works. We are often unknowing prisoners of our minds, swept away by whatever thought we may be having at the time. We give our thoughts too much power.

Lost in regretting the past, or catastrophizing about the future, we miss out on experiencing the present moment, where all the promise and true joy lie. This video, recorded in Lhasa, Tibet in May 2012, is a brief "how-to-meditate" guide. It describes using the breath as an anchor to the present moment, in order to cultivate a more mindful, meaningful and happy life.

Mindful-awareness (shamatha-vipassana) meditation instructions can be used to develop a personal practice and enter the path to greater wisdom, understanding and well-being. Watched once in the morning and/or once at night, followed by a period of personal sitting practice, this 10-minute video provides helpful and gentle reminders of what to do during mindfulness meditation practice.

Mindfulness is used by psychologists, teachers, sports coaches and workplace consultants to help people develop skills to enhance presence to the here and now of experience. A growing body of empirical scientific research confirms what has been known for over 2,500 years: mindfulness leads to greater presence. (1-2) Greater presence leads to enhanced peace of mind. Enhanced peace of mind leads to more happiness, and more happiness leads to greater physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. As meditation master Thich Nhat Hanh writes, "The breath is the intersection of the body and mind."

Please check with your doctor or psychologist before undertaking physical or mental training exercises.

(Video of mindfulness meditation instructions.)

Mindfulness Meditation Instructions

1. Set aside time each day to develop a personal meditation practice. When undertaken with discipline, meditation can lead to clarity and peace of mind.

2. Select a place where you can sit, uninterrupted.

3. Practice meditation for at least five to 10 minutes in the morning and five to 10 minutes at night.

4. Sit in an erect and upright position on a chair or on a meditation cushion. Have a sense of regality in your posture, an inner confidence and a sense of self-worth.

5. Either close your eyes, or softly focus them on a spot on the floor about three to four feet in front of you.

6. At the same time, heighten attention to all five senses: touch, taste, scent, sight and sound.

7. Feel the skin of your palms resting gently on the top of your thighs. Hear the sounds of traffic or birds outside the window. Smell the scent of rain, or dinner cooking on the stove. Taste the mint you recently finished. Experience, through your senses, the richness of colors, shapes, scents, sounds and flavors of everyday things.

8. Now, while maintaining awareness of the five senses, bring attention to the flow of your breath as it comes in and goes out.

9. Heighten attention particularly to the out-breath, as you practice letting go of all thoughts and feelings.

10. At the end of the out-breath, notice a small gap, a space in time, before the in-breath occurs. Similarly, at the end of the in-breath, notice a small gap before the out-breath occurs.

11. Repeat the process of maintaining attention on the breath, as it naturally comes in and goes out.

12. When you find that you are lost in a thought while meditating: "What do I have to do tomorrow?" for example, or if you feel an emotion like anger or envy, or even joy, simply label that thought, "thinking," silently, within your mind, and return your attention, very gently, to the breath, acting as anchor the present moment. Follow the breath as it slowly goes out and dissolves.

13. At the end of the out-breath, notice the gap, and then bring awareness to the in-breath.

14. Repeat this pattern of following the breath, over and over again.

15. During sitting practice, when you realize that you are caught in a thought, swept away by a story in your mind, silently label the thoughts, "thinking," and return attention once again to the out-breath. Withhold self-judgment. Be kind to yourself.

16. Continue the pattern of following the breath in-and-out, labeling thoughts as "thinking," and returning attention to the breath. Meanwhile, maintain heightened awareness of the five senses.

17. Shifting awareness from thought, to the here and now of the present moment, is the practice of meditation.

18. Set aside time each day to develop a personal meditation practice. When undertaken with discipline, meditation can lead to clarity and peace of mind.

Questions about meditation practice? Write to

Videotaped interviews with Dr. Rockwell on the value of mindfulness can be found at PyschAlive: Psychology for Everyday Life.

Some mindfulness meditation resources:
Shambhala International
Insight Meditation Society
Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society
UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

Follow Dr. Rockwell on Facebook, and Twitter @drdonnarockwell, and at her website:

(1) Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (January 01, 2003). "The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 4, 822-848.

(2) Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T. (November 12, 2010). A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind. Science, 330, 6006, 932.