With the arrival of spring comes the urge to declutter the house, tossing whatever nonessentials that no longer “spark joy," as Marie Kondo would say.
But what about clearing out the clutter in your mind?
Annamarie Fernyak, founder of Mind Body Align, says this can be done through mindfulness meditation, a secular practice aimed at bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment.
“One of the real benefits of mindfulness meditation is that it assists you in knowing yourself better, and you begin to understand your habits and your beliefs,” said Fernyak, whose been teaching mindfulness meditation for three years.
As you consider these habits and beliefs, you can then start to weed out those that no longer apply.
“You notice your thoughts and decide, ‘Do I believe this or don't I believe this? Do I act on this or don't I act on this?’ It gives you the strength and the ability to pause and make a choice,” she said.
Ultimately, the goal is to find peace and clarity.
Oftentimes meditation is perceived as a formal practice that involves sitting cross-legged and chanting “Om.”
“I think people tend to have a very formal idea of what meditation is, and yes, it is that for some people, but it doesn't have to be that way,” Fernyak said.
“The mindfulness meditation that I practice is not so formal.”
Fernyak encourages participants to take whatever posture they prefer — whether that’s seated, standing or lying down. If done lying down, make sure you’re still alert enough that you won’t fall asleep.
“You want your body to be alert yet relaxed,” she said.
You could also make it a moving practice by walking or doing yoga.
“Walking in nature as one of the best forms of meditation,” she said.
During this time, you’re committed to being quiet and taking notice of what's happening in the world around you.
“Notice your breath. Notice your heartbeat. Notice how your body feels. Notice what you see, what you hear, what you taste, what you smell, what you touch,” she said.
If you’re new to meditation, Fernyak recommends easing into it slowly by starting with five minutes.
“I would simply find a quiet place, set an alarm, sit quietly for five minutes, and in that span of five minutes, notice your breath, notice how your body feels, notice what you hear. And every time you notice that you're not in the present moment, for instance, you're thinking about something that happened yesterday or you are imagining something that's going to happen in the future, you just gently bring your thoughts back to the present moment.”
Don’t get discouraged if you experience difficulty in avoiding distractions.
“It will be challenging,” Fernyak said. “It sounds simple to sit quietly; however, the mind really is a very-well used muscle, and so the ability to begin to quiet those thoughts and to be still takes practice.”
If you’d like to have music playing in the background, select only instrumental songs, Fernyak suggested.
You can also listen to guided meditations which can be accessed through apps like Insight Timer, which has over 15,000 free guided meditations, including two by Fernyak.
The time of day to practice meditation depends on the person.
“I have to meditate in the morning,” Fernyak said. “Other people meditate before they go to bed. I have a number of friends that meditate in the middle of the day during their lunch hour.
"It really depends on what works for you.”
One of the main things to bear in mind is that mindfulness meditation is a loving, compassionate practice, Fernyak said.
“If a person is noticing that they're just feeling tortured while they're meditating, then I would encourage them to simply sit quietly and allow their thoughts to just go,” she said.
Fernyak has experienced the fruits of meditation firsthand.
“For me, it basically helps me to pause whenever I notice I'm triggered by something and then choose how I want to act rather than react to what's happening,” she said.
“It also has taught me the importance of being quiet, and I mean that literally as in not speaking but listening, and then I also mean just allowing myself to be quiet and still.”
Further, she’s less inclined to become overwhelmed.
“I do occasionally still get overwhelmed, but the real beauty of practicing mindfulness is that the more you practice, the more you have the ability to notice the first signs of feeling overwhelmed before it's taken full root,” she said.
In time, this could become an all-day, everyday practice.
“Mindfulness practice happens every day in the present moment all the time,” Fernyak said.
“It's simply being present in this moment with awareness in a way that's nonjudgmental. You're not judging what's happening around you. You’re not assessing it. You’re simply noticing it.
"And rather than being controlled by what's happening in the world around you, you begin to control how you act to what's happening in the world around you.”