Last week, we established all the things mindfulness is not. Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty to better grasp what exactly mindfulness is. Mindfulness, or the act of being ever present, is as simple as it reads though not easy at all. When you think about it, the task of being aware of every sensation in your physical body as well as each point of stimulation surrounding you from moment to moment may feel so daunting that you don’t know where to begin.
Never fear! This is a task that is free of goals or cookie-cutter results. It’s all about practicing. Nothing more. Don’t believe me? Let’s give it a go.
Tips for introducing mindfulness into your personal practice:
Instead of jumping out of bed as soon as your alarm clock rings, pause to observe your physical state. The physical state acts as a window into our mental and emotional states, so if we get to know our bodies, we get to know ourselves.
Similarly, take a few minutes before falling asleep to check in with your physical body. Take notice of the not-so-subtle as well as the subtle sensations throughout your body.
During simple activities that you do everyday, several times a day, bring your attention to that activity rather than letting your thoughts wonder. For example, actively observe the many tingles in your mouth while you brush your teeth.
Find a quiet space in your home that can remain de-cluttered. It doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be big enough for you to be able to sit comfortably, either on the floor in a cross-legged position or in a chair with both feet evenly resting on the floor. Ensure that your spine is upright and your hands are placed palms down on your thighs so that your shoulders can relax downward away from your ears. Sit for five minutes with your eyes closed. Bring your attention to your breath without trying to control your breath. Thoughts will arise, and that’s to be expected. Let your thoughts come and go without attaching to them. And bring your attention back to your breath. After consistent practice over some time, you can sit twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening. And after further practice, you can extend the amount of time you sit by five-minute increments.
Due to the overstimulation of televisions, tablets and smartphones, you could consider re-introducing the traditional alarm clock, so that you don’t have your phone at your bedside to glare at until you fall asleep with it in your hand, ready for you to check immediately upon waking.
Tips for introducing mindfulness into your professional practice:
Check in with yourself regularly while you work at your desk. For example, at the top of every hour take a two-minute mindfulness break and simply observe your breath and release the tension you find yourself holding in your body (neck, shoulders, jaw, abdomen, etc.).
Before meetings take a mindfulness break. Meetings are most efficient when everyone is focused, and mindfulness is known to significantly increase an individual’s ability to focus.
If you practice consistently and often, it will not take long before you begin to experience many of the positive benefits mindfulness experts and researchers alike have documented.