‘The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.’ Thích Nhat Hạnh
People often think mindfulness is about sitting in silence, meditating. In actual fact, it’s is a way of life and I’m interested in helping people discover how simple it is to bring mindfulness into every day.
Mindfulness is about paying attention in a focused way to whatever you’re doing or experiencing in any given moment. Importantly, it’s also about being able to do that without judgement. This is probably the most difficult part because we’re all hard-wired to judge our experiences, other people and ourselves – and we often do this harshly.
When we think about how to live in a more mindful way it’s easiest to begin with practical, workable activities that help you to slow down and connect more with the here and now. You’ll notice a remarkable drop in your stress levels when you do these things and you’ll feel more tuned in to your life.
1. Connect with your senses
Slow down for long enough to discover the beauty around you. Notice the afternoon light as you head home from work, take five minutes to lie on the sofa and listen to your favourite piece of music played loudly, savour a meal by eating slowly and really tasting your food, surrender to the experience of touch and literally stop and smell the roses.
2. Let go of judgement
Notice how often you label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Mostly you’ll do this unconsciously, but when you start to become aware of your judging you’ll see that you do this with activities and tasks you perform, with people you meet, with foods you eat and with just about all of your everyday experiences. Judging is something we were taught to do from the time we were children and it’s actually one of the greatest causes of personal suffering, because as harshly as you judge others is as harshly as you judge yourself.
As best you can, when you notice judgement arising, replace it with a simple statement such as ‘everything is just as it is meant to be’ or as my lovely friend Amy from The Holistic Ingredient suggests, tell yourself “I choose peace”. In a future newsletter, I’ll talk about how to balance mindful acceptance with peaceful activism.
3. Become more aware of your body
One of the first practices I teach people in a mindfulness workshop is to become aware of the experience of being in their physical body. When you’re stressed and uptight, this is often one of the first things you forget to do and as a result, your breathing becomes shallow and you hold tension in your muscles. When you’re physically tense, it’s impossible to create a spacious and open mind. Check in with your body a few times each day – where are you holding onto tightness? Are you breathing deeply into your lungs?
Make the time to practise one or two of these mindful actions every day for the next few weeks and notice the difference they make to your wellbeing. Next month we’ll explore some other ways to bring mindfulness into your life.