To live in the moment; such a simple concept but so hard practice in today's world. We live by the idea that more is better and being busy is a sign of success. Constantly being pulled in multiple directions while balancing numerous tasks - it's no wonder we're all so stressed out. How can we truly live our lives when every moment is passing us by without us noticing? How can we live well if we don't take the time to actually LIVE?
A few years ago I was feeling stressed and burnt out. I was balancing a full and part-time job and household duties all while trying to build my yoga business. It got to the point that I was no longer enjoying any of it. How could I? I was trying to accomplish so many things at once that nothing was being given the attention it deserved, especially my family and myself. That's when I began practicing mindfulness.
Creating mindfulness in your every day tasks doesn't have to be complicated. Below are 5 simple ways to incorporate more awareness into your daily tasks so you can LIVE in the NOW.
Meditation is an excellent way to practice mindfulness. This 5 minute breathing exercise will get you started. This meditation focuses on the breath, not because there is anything special about it, but because the physical sensation of breathing is always there and you can use it as an anchor to be in the present moment.
To get started, find an out of the way place where you're likely to be undisturbed. Sit on a comfortable chair or cushion. Lengthen the spine and relax the shoulders. During the practice do your best to be in the moment and disconnected from any outside influences. Feel the different sensations in the body. Feel the flow of the breath and the different experiences created on an inhale and exhale.
Throughout the practice you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions, sounds—wherever your mind goes, simply come back again to the next breath. Even if you only come back once, that’s okay. Just being aware of your minds wandering is mindfulness in practice.
We all are so busy these days that it can be hard to simply sit and listen, REALLY listen to another. Our minds wander and before we even notice, we've missed large amounts of the conversation. A deep listening practice can be a great way to cultivate better listening skills so you can have more meaningful conversations.
This practice is quite simple but mastering it takes some dedication. Try these simple tips when talking to a loved one today. Begin by looking into their eyes when they’re speaking to you. Listening is more than just hearing – listen to discover what is being conveyed. Don't listen to respond. If you find your mind wandering, use the speaker’s voice to bring you back to the present moment. If you missed something they said, there is nothing wrong with asking the other person to please repeat it. This shows sincere interest, and that you’re trying your best to pay attention. Resist the urge to jump in when there’s a gap in the speaker’s speech – welcome gaps and silence. Extend open-ended invitations and cues to the speaker to share more if they wish – e.g.: “Tell me more…,” “I hear you…,” “I’m listening…”
One of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness is when I'm walking. These days we often do many things while walking - we listen to music, check our phones, take pictures. Today I invite you to walk without distraction. This is a simple practice and doesn't need to take up more than 5 minutes of your time. You can even practice on your lunch break or between meetings. If you're short on time, set a timer so you can focus solely on the practice. Any setting will do and will have an impact on your experience. If possible, I suggest a grassy area surrounded by nature.
When you're ready to begin, take a few deep breaths and begin to tune in to the sensations. Feel your feet making contact with the ground. Consider going barefoot to increase your connection to the earth. Walk slowly. Observe how it feels to slow down and really feel what it is to walk. Take notice of your surroundings, the smell, the colors, the sounds, the sensations of the body. Feel the wind against your skin. Be observant. That's it. Uncomplicated but impactful. Incorporate this practice daily or as often as you can.
Being mindful while eating allows you to experience this every day event with new appreciation.
Aim to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Avoid refined sugars. Eat only when your body is signaling hunger.
Begin by removing yourself from all distractions (i.e. your computer, phone, headphones, paperwork, etc). Once you're comfortably settled in, look at what you’re eating. Note the different colors and smells.With each bite, pay attention to the tastes on different areas of the tongue. Chew slowly. Are there different textures? Is is salty, sweet, savory? It takes 20 minutes for you body to register that your full so take your time eating. Be observant of this signal. Don't overeat.
Once your done eating, if you so choose, you can journal about the experience. Make note of your emotions while you ate, what you ate, the time, etc. Mindful eating can help lower stress which improves gut health and overall mind function.
Your actions before bed can have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep. That’s why it's important to create a mindful, sleep-inducing ritual before crawling under the covers. Below I share my evening rituals. Try one or all of them. Have an evening mindfulness ritual of your own? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.
Ideally, you would begin this practice 30 minutes before bed by unplugging from your phone, TV, computer or other electronics and dimming the lights. I start my ritual by washing my face. When doing this, be aware of the sensations that arise in the body. Notice the smell of the cleanser, the feeling of it in your palm and as you massage it into the skin. Brush your teeth with the same intention of awareness. Make your way into the bedroom. Turn off the lights. Turn on a diffuser if you have one (I like to use bergamot and lavender). Begin to observe. What do the sheets feel like against your skin? What does your head feel like against the pillow? Feel your body relax into the mattress. Take a slow deep breath in and a slow exhale out. Do this three times. Close your eyes and rest easy.
For a full, three-minute breathing meditation, click HERE.