6 Essential Skills That'll Help You Practice Mindfulness Like A True Zen Master

Using mindfulness exercises every day will calm and give you a clearer mind.

woman meditating Dasha Petrenko / Shutterstock

The key to healing from emotional pain and suffering consists of allowing yourself to feel your feelings.

Whenever I say this to a client, they ask me why — why would they want to feel pain, sadness, or fear just to find happiness again? They have put forth so many strategies to avoid those feelings and here I am asking them to do so.

The key to finding happiness is not only to recognize how you feel but what you do to discover those feelings.


Here is where mindfulness comes in.

What is mindfulness, exactly?

Mindfulness is to purposefully pay attention to something. In this case, it's to notice your feelings or emotions in the here and now non-judgmentally.

In order to be happier in life, you need to be non-judgmental — bringing your kind and non-judgmental attention to your inner world helps clear and calm your mind as your thoughts and feelings settle.

RELATED: What 'Mindfulness' Means — And How To Practice It Daily

There are many benefits to using mindfulness techniques, including helping you feel more relaxed and focused.

To learn how to practice mindfulness, here are the 5 skills you need.

1. Set your intention

Your intention refers to the goal you set for yourself and what you wish to pay attention to. You might choose to pay attention to your breath, to your surroundings, or to a feeling.


Mindfulness is the capacity to bring your attention back to your intention constantly. If any distractions (thoughts or feelings) arise you can notice the distractions and gently set them aside as you bring your attention back to your intention.

You can do this with any task. You can do it during a "formal" mindfulness session where you can be laying down with your eyes closed focused on something or you can practice it throughout your day with any activity.

You can even be mindful while taking a bath, eating, or cooking. Simply pay attention to your whole experience.

For example, when you're in the bath, notice the smells and how your skin feels as you wash it. Notice each part of your body. Notice the temperature of the water and how it feels as it touches your skin. Notice the steam and how it feels as you inhale it.


2. Cultivate an awareness of awareness

An amazing capacity that only humans have is to be aware of awareness. This means to be aware of what you are experiencing here and now.

The key is to simply be aware without trying to change anything.

Try the following: Notice a thought, a feeling, or a sensation. Be aware of your awareness of this particular experience. Now, simply observe and accept what you are observing without wanting to change anything.

3. Focus attention

If you pay attention to your day, you can realize how we are bombarded with so many things that call your attention. Sometimes, we feel overwhelmed by all these distractions.

Mindfulness is the capacity to regulate what you pay attention to as you are able to focus your attention on whatever you wish to attend, to your intention.


This skill will help you improve your concentration, memory, and have general mental clarity.

Here are a few mindfulness exercises and techniques you can do to practice:

  • Set your intention to pay attention.
  • Determine what you wish to pay attention to.
  • Notice everything about what you decided to pay attention to.
  • If any distractions arise, notice them, acknowledge them, and gently set them aside.
  • Bring your focus back to your intention.

Do these as many times as you wish and notice what happens when you're being mindful.

Notice any changes in your sensations, emotions, thoughts, or feelings and see if your mind clearing up and any sense of calmness.


RELATED: The Real Reason Your Relationship Lacks Intimacy ( Plus A Guided Meditation To Get It Back)

4. Practice affect regulation

The more you practice mindfulness, the more your brain is able to regulate itself. You are creating and strengthening neural pathways that calm your mind.

Mindfulness helps decrease incidents where we get triggered, where intense emotions arise and we might end up doing or saying things we later regret.

Being mindful allows us to better regulate our emotions and be more present in the here and now. Sometimes, we need a reminder or a key to help us go to our calm place.

Whenever you find that place inside of you, notice it and find a word or a color that better fits your experience of calmness. Notice the calmness throughout your body and choose a word like "calm" or a color like a blue light.


Whenever you are doing anything, remind yourself to be mindful and say your word to yourself or imagine your color as you go back to that calm and clear place.

5. Have compassion, love, and kindness towards yourself and others

Have you ever noticed how you talk to yourself about yourself? We are our worst and harshest critics. We say things we would never say to anyone we love, but we say those things to ourselves.

Happy people are aware that the key to mindfulness is being non-judgmental, to be accepting, kind, compassionate, and loving towards themselves.


See if you can connect with feelings of love and send them to you. Be gentle as you pay attention to your inner world, notice your intention with kindness as you simply observe and accept.

For a week, try practicing compassion, kindness, and love towards yourself, a good friend, a neutral person, and a difficult person

Notice your experience as you are being kind, loving, and compassionate, and remember how it was like to be this way. Soon, you'll become the happy person you've always wanted to be.

6. Define your experience with mindfulness

After practicing mindfulness for a week, see if you can define mindfulness in your own way.

If you can be mindful of your experience of learning how to being mindful, notice it.


I wish you much peace and clarity as you make mindfulness part of your way of being.

RELATED: 6 Mindfulness Tips To Use When You're Upset About Everything Going On In Your Life

Dr. Carolina Castanos is a Marriage and Family Therapist. For more information about mindfulness and connection with your feelings, contact Dr. Castanos on her website.