Mindfulness practices have been littering social media for the last couple of years, yet no one seems to be able to define it for what it really is and how to go about building the skill. So instead of grasping at straws trying to find mindfulness in your life, here are some ways in which you can actively practice it without completely during your life upside down.
First of all, one of the first things you learn when you practice mindfulness is to pay extra close attention to what it is you’re doing in the present moment. This is especially valuable when it comes to eating. Such a mundane task which some people only do out of necessity, it is a wonderful opportunity to get back to your roots. Pay attention to the feeling of each ingredient in your mouth, to the flavor of each seasoning. Put your phone away and forgo your lunch partner at least once a week to pay attention to what’s happening during the eating process.
Similarly, walking is a great way to connect to the earth, yet most people do so in the most mechanical way, more focused on getting to where they’re going than on the process of getting there. So next time you need to walk somewhere, leave a few minutes early and walk according to Thich Nhat Hanh, who said to “walk as though you were kissing the earth with your feet.” Pay attention to the way in which your muscles move and of your surroundings. We can’t stress this enough-put away your phone. If you’re walking in an area that you’re familiar with, you shouldn’t need a maps app.
Connecting with your senses is the next step to mindfulness. While you’re going through the motions, lost in thought, you aren’t paying attention to what they have to offer. Your sight, smell, and touch are especially useful tools in mindfulness, so pay attention to the beautiful flowers that were planted while you were off in your dreams, smell their pungent fragrance, touch their velvety petals. In short, being told to stop and smell the roses is a better piece of advice than you could ever imagine. But it’s not just about the flowers. Enjoy the sensation of climbing into a bed with clean sheets, of grass under your feet, of the warm water flowing over your hands as you’re washing dishes. It will change your life.
Another way of practicing mindfulness that especially applies to people who live life on the go is to pause between actions. By that, we mean to stop and listen to the phone ring before answering it, to stop after each bite of food, to stop before getting up from your chair. You won’t waste any noticeable time but will get into the habit of taking a deep, cleansing breath between actions, something that will help center you when you’re rushing around.
Finally, one of the best ways you can be mindful is by being a better listener. Too often are we so absorbed in what we’re going to say next, in what we had for lunch, in our dreams, that we don’t pay attention to what our conversation partner is saying. Giving them our full attention not only is a great mindfulness practice but is also a way of being a better friend.
Once you have started practicing these small steps, you are ready for the ultimate practice in mindfulness: meditation. Even sitting in stillness for ten minutes a day with a lit candle and some mild incense will make a huge difference in the way in which you perceive the world.