Just be here…be fully present for your life, moment by moment. After all, the present moment is all we really have.
Think about this: one of the most powerful and relevant tools we have to help us navigate our fast-paced, hyper-connected, ultra-distracting modern lives is over 2500 years old. This is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is an ancient practice, over 2500 years old, rooted in the Buddhist tradition. The Buddha taught from his personal spiritual experiences. He spoke of four foundations of mindfulness (from the word "sati" in the ancient Pali language):
The purpose of mindfulness as he taught it to his followers was to help people cultivate an observation and understanding of themselves and of the world in which they lived, with the ultimate goal of attaining enlightenment. These lessons were written down as the Satipatthana Sutta thousands of years ago. And they are still highly relevant today.
How does all this translate for us in the modern world? And what are the benefits of mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about cultivating awareness. It’s about paying attention to all of our experiences (inward and outward), in the present moment, with kindness, curiosity, and without judgement. This involves acceptance…meaning we pay attention to our body sensations, our thoughts, feelings and experiences without believing they are right or wrong, good or bad. Without clinging, without expectations. It’s like finally waking up and seeing things as they really are. Here and now.
By training yourself to live fully in the present moment instead of ruminating on the past or worrying about the future, you can rediscover a sense of peace and calm, more happiness, more enjoyment in your life, better relationships. And mindfulness trains you to face stressful situations and difficult challenges with greater resilience, steadiness, serenity and self-confidence.
In other words, mindfulness creates all the conditions that you need to flourish and thrive. To find more joy.
This has been my own experience, and it's why I continue to deepen my mindful living practice every day.
How can we learn mindfulness? You can find a good teacher, either in person or through their books and other teachings. And there are many ways to practice mindfulness including "formal" practices such as body scan, different forms of mindfulness meditation, mindful eating, walking meditation, mindful movement such as yoga. Mindful yoga and meditation are excellent practices to develop body and mind awareness. (Check out the HUM RESOURCES below for lots of ideas and inspiration).
And then there is living in awareness. I think the best way to learn about mindfulness is to experiment and experience the present moment for yourself. Mindfulness is a “practice” that you can slip into every moment of your daily life until it becomes a habit. The “practice” is in cultivating awareness of everything that’s going on in your body, your mind and in the world around you.
Whenever you are practising mindfulness in any form, your mind WILL wander, and that’s OK. Our minds seem to always want to take control and take us away from the present moment, to distract us with thoughts and fears and worries, with rehearsing and planning. Part of practising mindfulness is just noticing that your mind has wandered and to gently bringing it back to focus on your present moment experience.
Here are 10 easy ways to switch on your awareness and slip mini mindfulness practices into your day. Try them all to see which one works best to bring you back to your present moment experience. Or choose one single practice and do it every day for a week. Then see how much you start to notice naturally as you move through your day, how much you never really noticed before.
1. Pick a colour…any colour. And then notice where it shows up for you during the day. Really keep your eyes open for it. And notice all the different shades and unexpected places you find your chosen colour.
2. Notice what you eat. Before each meal, sit for a moment before you begin to eat and really notice what you have on your plate. Notice how it looks, the different colours. Breath in the aromas. Recognize the work that went into bringing that food from the earth to your table. And then fully savour every tasty bite, noticing the textures in your mouth, the evolution of the tastes. Be fully aware of the multi-sensory experience of your meal.
3. Every time you sit down, be aware of your posture. First just notice your body sitting. And then pay attention to your posture. Are you slouching? Sitting up tall? Are your shoulders relaxed down or bunched up near your ears? Can you make slight adjustments to your posture to find more comfort, relaxation and easier breathing?
4. Any time you wait, look around with awareness. If you have to wait, even for a minute or two, close your eyes briefly, breath in and out, then open your eyes and notice what you see around you. Notice all the ordinary objects, all the details. You can take as little as one or two minutes to just notice. Perhaps you can see the beauty in each object, just as they are. And also notice the miracle it is that you can see them.
5. Notice hot and cold. Throughout the day, be aware of temperatures. The warm and cool of your environment, your body heat, water temperatures, hot and cold food. Be aware of temperature changes. Notice your reactions (physical and emotional) to the temperatures.
6. Take a moment to just listen, wherever you are. Sit anywhere, close your eyes and open your ears up to all the sounds around you. Just notice the sounds, in your own body (your breath, your heartbeat), in the place you are sitting, in the space beyond. Just listen. To all the different sounds and the silences. You can do this for as long as you like, even just for a minute or two.
7. Notice yourself standing. Every time you place your feet on the floor, pause for 30 seconds, notice yourself standing, and feel yourself rooted, connected to the earth below you, feel the support that it offers you every single moment of the day.
8. When you walk, just walk. Every time you walk somewhere, just focus on your body walking. Notice how your whole body moves as you walk, how everything is connected to move your body forward. Notice each and every muscle and movement of your legs and the sensations of your feet as they land on the ground, getting you to wherever you want to go. One of those everyday miracles!!
9. Every time your phone rings, breath. Instead of answering right away, take one deep cleansing breath, a deep inhale and a long exhale. And then answer.
10. Write down 5 things you did during the day (doesn’t matter what they are, big or small). You can also write one or two words about how doing those things made you feel. This is a great thing to do sitting quietly at the end of the day. If you don’t like to write, just sit and remember. By doing this, you train yourself to be more aware of whatever you do during your day, to remember the details, to be present to your experiences.
HUM RESOURCES, MORE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR MINDFUL LIFE:
See Things Differently: 7 Fun Ways to Practice Mindfulness
How to Bring Mindfulness to Any Yoga Practice
Your Guide to Walking Meditation
7 Mindfulness Tips to Stress Less and Get More Done at Work
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