BASICS 1 – A simple exercise that demonstrates the gist of mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation is many things. But it is not something you do. In this respect it is a mental attitude that is very different from what we are used to in everyday life. It is non-doing. It is to be aware of what already is.

The actual experience will tell you a lot more than any number of words. So let’s do an exercise and see what we mean. Credit to the great teacher Joseph Goldstein for this exercise.

Close your eyes. Rest your right elbow on the armrest or your desk and lift your hand with the palm facing left. Very slowly move it from left to right a few times.

Stop reading and do the exercise.

Did you feel your hand move?

Congratulations! You were mindful of your hand.

Believe it or not, it really is just that. And you are right, it is not something special. It’s something you’ve always had. You could start meditating right now if you closed your eyes and just felt your hand move from side to side.

It turns out it takes practice to be mindful of our experience continuously. It also turns out there is tremendous power in doing that. That is mindfulness meditation in a nutshell.


We’ll go more into how to actually meditate in the following posts. But let’s continue with the basic concepts. As you read them try to connect them to the experience of our little exercise above.

There are two important qualities of your mind as you are mindful.

  1. You are attentive to your experience.
  2. You simply witness its unfolding without attachment or pushing away.

It is impossible to overemphasize these two points as they are core elements of the practice.

Another important point is the non-doing aspect. Doing things is our everyday mode of operation. So a lot of us understandably get caught in trying to do meditation. But ask yourself the following question. Did you have to do anything to feel the movement of your hand? Or did the knowing of the experience happen by itself?

Go back and do it again. Allow your hand to be felt. Try to notice what we mean by non-doing. Pay attention to the fact that your hand just is.

So let’s summarize:

Mindfulness meditation is not about doing something, but about being aware of what already is. You direct your attention to an experience, the experience unfolds and it is known by itself.

When in doubt, close your eyes and allow your hand to be felt. That’s mindfulness.

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