Mindfulness seems to be a big buzz-word these days, but what exactly is it? In today’s world, so much of our life is defined by frantic busyness, anxiety, stress and exhaustion. Most of us operate in automatic pilot mode. We walk so quickly that we often can’t remember how we got to where we are going. We rush through tasks at work without really being attentive. We get so focused on our goals that we lose touch with what we are doing to get there. So how do we shift gears into a state of being in the present moment versus constantly doing or thinking about the future?
It should come as no surprise that mindfulness has become such a catchword these days. Mindfulness is a state of nonjudgmental awareness of what is happening in the present moment, including the awareness of one’s own thoughts, feelings and senses. Through mindfulness, we can start to see the things around us as they are, not as we expect it to be nor how we want it to be. Mindfulness is about observation without criticism as you learn to become compassionate with yourself. When you become more mindful, you learn to stop wasting time pointlessly running through the same old habits of doing and thinking. You can finally become more alive and aware again.
Focusing on one thing at a time and being non-judgmental with oneself are skills that take time and practice to develop. To help you get started, here are some helpful hints:
- Set the stage: Schedule some time in your busy day for this and decide on a location where you will practice. You may find you have to wake up in the morning a few minutes earlier but it’s important that you make this time for yourself.
- Patience is a virtue: Take your time with mindfulness practice- even if it is boring or feels too difficult. There will be days where your mind just won’t settle, and that is okay! This is not a sign of failure, just continue to practice with commitment and kindness towards yourself.
Here is a really simple exercise (one of my favorites!) to help you get started. You can practice for two minutes, five minutes or twenty minutes- it is totally up to you!
Mindfulness of Breath
Start by finding a comfortable position. Either lie on a mat or sit on a firm chair or meditation stool. Ensure that your posture supports your intention. If you’re sitting in a chair, allow your feet to rest flat on the floor with your legs uncrossed. If you are lying down, allow your legs to be uncrossed and your arms lying alongside your body.
- Allow your eyes to close. Start by breathing in and out slowly. One breath cycle should last for approximately 6 seconds.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, letting your breath flow effortlessly in and out of your body. There is no need to try and control the breath in any way at all.
- You will find your mind wander and that is fine. Just continue to breathe and let go of your thoughts. Let go of all the things you have to do or pending tasks that need your attention. Gently redirect your attention back to your breath. Your breath is like an anchor of a large ship, constantly grounding you and bringing you back to the moment.
- Let go of the tendency to fix things. Remember that your breath is always there for you, to help bring you back to the present when you find yourself rushed and scattered.
Try the above exercise, or another exercise of your choosing, daily for two weeks and note how you feel after. If you enjoyed two minutes of this exercise, why not try five or ten? If you think you can’t do it, take a minute now to think of all the pleasures that are drifting by you, completely unnoticed, each and everyday. We only have this present moment to live and mindfulness practice might just be the tool you need in your toolkit!
Here are some of my favorite meditation apps for those interested in furthering their practice:
- Insight Timer
- 10% Happier
- Relax Melodies