How to Start Your Own Mindfulness Practice

Meditation often feels intimidating. Even if you feel like it might be beneficial, it sometimes seems like it’s a practice mainly meant for those few, enlightened people who have the focus to sit cross-legged on a pillow for long periods of time.

However, mindfulness is actually a lot more approachable that you might think. One of my favorite practices that I've introduced to clients is integrating mindfulness and self-reflection into our everyday routines. 

If you're interested in developing your own mindfulness practice, this short video walks through some concrete first steps.

We also developed a worksheet to help you plan out your own practice, step by step. Download the worksheet.

I hope that these are some helpful tools to get started. See? Maybe mindfulness is not so far out of reach after all.

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There are so many different ways to engage in what might be called in a meditation practice, and the objective of this video is really to encourage people to begin to experiment with integrating some sort of a mindfulness practice into your life. But before we get into it, one of the things that I'd like to speak to is this idea of, “What is mindfulness to begin with?”

I think of it as a really powerful and valuable tool in being able to check in with ourselves and have a better sense of which version of me is here today, right now. Because in my experience, I'm not the same person from hour to hour, day to day. My life is not consistent--as much as I would like it to be--from day to day, hour to hour, week to week, and how I'm affected by things changes.

The working definition of mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, noticing your judgments or criticisms. If you notice in that working definition, there is no specific steps to sitting down, laying down, standing up, eyes open, eyes closed, and what it does is it allows you to bring in things that you already engage in, day to day activities, that might be really great gateways into developing a mindfulness practice.

So one of my absolute favorite meditations that I've developed, and something that so many people that are watching this video could integrate right now if it makes sense to you, was a young man who was really into his coffee.

Making his coffee in the morning was a process that he just loved. He would take the time and make his coffee every morning in this sort of ritualistic way. And one day he said, “You know what? I think I can do this mindfulness if I can do it as part of my coffee making process.” So we did that together and he chose to take one little piece of his daily coffee making routine and create a meditation in that.

So he would get all of his stuff prepared and that was his warm-up, like anybody might warm up doing anything, and then when he began to make his coffee, which he poured hot water on top of grounds over a cup, he would pay attention to the smell of the coffee as it was coming into contact with the hot water and dripping into his cup. And for the duration of the time that he would pour the water over his coffee, he would just pay attention to that scent. And, of course, while he was doing this, his mind would wander and he would start thinking about his child or thinking about his day and his to-do list and when he noticed, he would come back to pouring the water over the coffee. And when the coffee was made, that signaled the end of his meditation.

For him, this opened the door to being able to engage in practice. And if you think about those elements that I just spoke about:

Paying attention, well he was paying attention to the smell of the coffee.

In a particular way, in the morning, after he had prepared his coffee, by himself, in his kitchen, before the family woke up.

On purpose, he actually would make more than one cup of coffee a day, but this one part of his first cup of coffee in the morning was his meditation practice, so that differentiates a thing we do from the meditation.

In the present moment, and that's the challenge of all meditation is this exchange, this dance between focusing and distraction. And we call the focusing part being in the present moment and the distraction is when we drift off into our thoughts. Some days, we’re doing the meditation and the mind feels quiet, paying attention to the smell of the coffee and that judgmental mind comes in and says, “I finally got this, I am meditating like a pro,” which means that you're in the thinking mind and it's time to come back and just pay attention to the scent of the coffee or whatever you pay attention to.

And non-judgmentally, or noticing judgments and criticisms, is really about creating a flexibility so that we don't criticize our experience, but rather just notice what's coming up. Because what comes up from day to day is very different. If I'm doing my practice one day, and my mind wanders off and I begin to think about my to-do list, I could interpret that as, “Oh man, I'm really busy today. It's a good thing I'm doing my mindfulness practice so that I know where I'm at.” Another day, I could have that same experience and I'm trying to do my practice and I drift off and I'm thinking about my to-do list and that's met with, “I'm just not doing my meditation correctly. I'm this. Why am I even meditating? I'm just buying into this snake oil.” This reveals what state I'm in. On that previous day, I'm feeling kind of groovy and when I'm not doing something the way that I'd like to do it or in the way that I think I'm supposed to be doing it, it's met with some sort of humor and flexibility. And on the other day, I'm agitated. Something's bugging me. I don't even need to know what's bugging me, but how nice to know, “Oh, I'm a little bit on edge today. I might want to watch it as I go through my day and I interact with folks.”

And so that's really the greatest gift of a mindfulness practice, from my perspective, is to have a way, whether it's daily or multiple times a day or once a week, to be able to have some method that works for us to get in touch with, “How am I doing today? Do I feel focused or distracted? Am I agitated or am I calm? Do I have physical pain? How is my physical pain relative to other days?”

And just by knowing that--without even having to solve the very many dilemmas and challenges of my life--I have a better shot at going through the day looking back and having to apologize a lot less often, particularly to myself. I don't have to go beating myself up for the things that can happen when I'm not necessarily aware what's happening inside of me.

Evo Health and Wellness is an outpatient addiction treatment program that respects where you are and where you want to go. Clients set goals that work for them, whether they include complete abstinence or moderation. Evo sees success as lasting change in the client’s life, including physical health, movement towards personal goals, and their sense of connection and purpose. Evo’s program integrates psychotherapy, psychiatry, life coaching, and somatic therapy. Learn more about Evo’s program.