With mindfulness meditation, you have choices. You can focus on breathing, your body, your thoughts, your emotions, your senses…
Basically, you can choose anything and focus on that. As long as you are present and free from judgement, it’ll work.
It’s like having a buffet for the mind. Should you sample from each of them, loading up your plate until it groans under the weight? Or should you focus on one appealing dish and forget the rest?
I suppose it depends on what you’re trying to do.
If you are new to meditation, then the main thing is to develop your skills. Holding your attention for longer and longer periods is your main exercise.
If you want a rock-solid foundation, then pick something to focus on and do not move on. Let’s say you choose to pay attention to your breathing. You could spend a day, week, month or lifetime of regular meditating, focusing on nothing but each inhale and exhale.
Then, to keep your mind fresh, you switch to focusing on your body’s sensations.
This robust protocol develops your skills. If you want to get good at meditation – and I mean really good – you need to master these basics.
Well, what if you don’t want to be a world champion at meditation? What if you’re just looking for a little extra calmness, focus and tranquillity?
Then I’d say throw out the protocol and do whatever seems natural.
If you can hold your attention steady throughout your meditation session, then do so.
But if you’re having one of those days where it’s hard to focus, then switching what you focus on helps. Each time you move your attention, it’s like a mental reset.
And the cool thing is that, yes, mindfully switching your attention may be easier for most beginners. It also happens to be great exercise later on.
Being able to move your awareness from your breath to your thoughts to your hearing, without losing focus, can be challenging in its own strange ways.
Or you might find it easier.
My philosophy is that any meditation is better than none, so do whatever works for you. Challenge yourself every now and then, but the main thing is to do it.
As a final thought:
For shorter sessions, it’s easier to focus on one thing. For longer sessions, it’s easier to switch between points of attention. Experiment and see what works for you. Some days you’ll want a challenge; others, you’ll just need to get through the exercise.
But in my experience, you get the best results by learning how to sustain your focus, then learning how to switch it.
Then again, maybe what you need is more variety. After all, there are mental arts besides mindfulness meditation. The wise ones speak in hushed whispers of self-hypnosis.
That’s because it’s powerful and strange when mixed with meditation.
You can learn all about how and why: