You probably know that mindfulness has something to do with being present and being aware of your thoughts and surroundings. I am not going to specifically define mindfulness here, but I recommend checking out mindful.org for more information and resources if you want to learn more about mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to be confusing or sound like something that only wise yogis do in remote mountain caves. It’s something you and I can practice daily.
Here’s how to start a simple mindfulness practice:
- Find something that you do on autopilot (see examples below).
- When you do this activity again, devote as much attention as possible to this one thing.
- Be mindful of how you do this thing, what happens, what it looks, sounds, smells, and feels like.
- Continue for the duration of the activity.
- Repeat daily for this activity and others.
That’s it. Mindfulness is being aware of our thoughts and being present in the moment. The best way to do this is to pay attention to the physical aspects of whatever it is you’re doing.
Here are some typical activities that I find myself doing on autopilot and how I’m working to be more mindful:
- Driving to/from work – find something new on the drive, like a cool old building. Take a different route to work. Even changing one or two streets can change the whole drive.
- Brushing my teeth – I usually do other things while brushing my teeth. I don’t pay attention to make sure I brush every tooth or notice anything weird. I’m trying to focus more on how my mouth feels – the sensation of the minty flavor or the feeling of the brush rubbing my teeth, gums and tongue.
- Getting dressed – pay attention to how the clothes feel against your skin. Are they cold or hot? Do they feel smooth or itchy? Is anything tight or too loose? Feel the muscles contract and relax as you put on different clothing items. Be grateful that you can move your body in a way that allows you to dress yourself (or be grateful for the person who helps if you can’t dress yourself!).
- Washing the dishes – notice how the water flows across the different textures and shapes of dishes. Where do the water drops end up when they splash? Which parts of your hands and arms are more sensitive to the hot water? Notice the texture of sponge (or wand, rag, whatever) and how it feels against your skin. Notice the difference between how it feels dry and wet.
These are just a few examples. I’m sure you can find many more. Don’t worry about the amount of time or the quality of your mindfulness. Even a minute or two of practice with a few distractions is beneficial.
Doing this will rekindle a sense of wonder in the simple things and let you see the simple beauty in these daily tasks. Mindfulness in these simple things will make you more aware of the world around you, bringing more fulfillment from life. You’ll feel more awake and involved, instead of taking the backseat in your life.