A beginner practice to everyday mindfulness in 5 easy steps
It’s all about spirituality in The Boho Loft this month. This means we’re talking about things such as purpose, gratitude, doing...
It’s all about spirituality in The Boho Loft this month. This means we’re talking about things such as purpose, gratitude, doing good, making a difference in the world, and being our true selves. Through my own spiritual journey, I have found all these considerations and more to help me be happy and live a full and rewarding life. But I have to say that nothing has helped me more than discovering the practice of mindfulness.
This is why, through this post, I want to encourage you to start an easy mindfulness practice, so that you, too, can reap the benefits of being aware of yourself by focusing on the present moment.
The Oxford Mindfulness Center defines mindfulness as:
The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, with compassion, and open-hearted curiosity.
To me, mindfulness basically means discovering how to live in the present moment through cultivating awareness, rather than brooding about the past or worrying about the future – or zoning out, as this is often referred to.
Mindfulness enables you to concentrate on what matters now and how you want to live your life – as opposed to fretting about the past you cannot change or the future that is yet to come. For a recovering worrier like me, I can honestly say that practicing mindfulness has changed my life – and helped me quiet my mind in a way I would never have thought possible!
Because achieving this present moment awareness enables you to discover a richness in your life that you may never have imagined was there, you start to understand yourself differently, and having love and compassion for those around you becomes second nature. Through the daily practice of mindfulness, you learn how to look at the world with a beginners’ mind, remembering the wonder you had for the world when you were a child.
In my own process towards a mindful life and business, I have found myself increasingly conscious of the more important things in life. Myself and the love I have for me, the wellbeing of the people around me that I care for, and the impact that my actions have on the world and the environment.
The personal benefits I have from living more mindfully are plenty. When I keep the daily practice up (it’s a work in progress, I have to admit) I feel less anxious and less stressed. There is more room in my mind because I worry less. I’m happier because I feel more love and compassion for myself and others. I do better work because I’m more focused on what really matters.
So, here are 5 easy steps that you can take to start or keep up an everyday mindfulness practice:
- Be aware of your inner voice – and recognize that a thought is just a thought
If we let our inner voices have their way, the chatter in our heads would probably never stop. Often, though, when she’s talking, you’re not aware of it. At least not consciously. But the problem is that, unconsciously, we’re listening. So the first thing to do is to start paying attention, and be aware of your inner voice. Then recognize that that inner voice is not you, that those are not your thoughts. And these thoughts are not defining who you are – rather, they’re just that: thoughts.
- Use your body to focus on the present moment
Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the great mindfulness advocates and practitioners of our time, teaches the Body Scan Meditation as a way to focus on the present moment through your senses. If you’ve never done the body scan meditation, I invite you to do it (follow the link above for a free, online, guided meditation by the master himself). I love this meditation, although I find it challenging at times. Another way to use your body to focus on the present moment is simply to make yourself aware of your senses, whatever they are. When you’re doing the dishes, feel the warm water on your hands, and when you’re outside, feel the breeze on your face; when you’re standing, feel gravity press your feet onto the ground. Every sensation can guide you back to the present.
- Be compassionate with yourself
Not all forms of awareness are equal. When I began meditating, for instance, I could get so annoyed at all the thoughts that were running through my head. I couldn’t seem to find one moment of peace and calm within the turmoil of my thoughts. The reason was that the awareness I was bringing to the practice wasn’t mindful at all. Instead of being angry and frustrated at your mind’s constant wandering, having a compassionate or even curious relationship with your thoughts is the kind of awareness that we aim for in the practice of mindfulness. So, remember to be compassionate with yourself, and to find joy in your thoughts by letting your curiosity follow their stream.
- Turn off your autopilot when doing daily activities
Even when a mindfulness practice is part of your daily life, it’s so easy to fall back into autopilot mode when doing most of our daily activities. In a way, this is a good thing, in that our minds don’t need to be fully conscious at all times for anything we do. Imagine if we had to be present for every muscle movement, or every thought we ever had. We would go crazy! But this ability to switch on autopilot is also a curse, and especially in the world we live in today, where things go faster and faster and we are constantly bombarded with information. Because of this, we’ve become master multi-taskers, and have forgotten to enjoy a part of what makes us human: simply being or doing our everyday activities. A big part of mindfulness, I find, is to rediscover the simple pleasure of being with yourself in those moments. Jon Kabat-Zinn has a great way of putting it when he asks if you’re alone when you take a shower. The obvious answer is yes – of course – but on a mental level, you probably aren’t. Maybe your boss is in there with you, or your kids, or your clients. Turning off autopilot means tuning in to what you’re doing, when you’re doing it. With the shower, this means being mindful of those moments: the warm water, the soap on your skin, its smell, etc.…
- Check in with yourself
Just like with turning off the autopilot in our lives, it’s important to check in with ourselves regularly. Even the most experienced mindfulness practitioners tell of moments where they find themselves lost in thought again, unaware of themselves or what they are doing. By checking in with yourself a few times a day, you give yourself the opportunity to return your awareness to yourself, and away from an external world that – come to think of it – has very little to do with your inner sense of wellbeing or reality.
Practice mindfulness regularly, and you will see the world around you change. Maybe start with the body scan meditation mentioned above, or with being in the present moment more. Try to enjoy brushing your teeth, or notice your thoughts and know that they do not define you.
And please, do let me know below what mindfulness practices work for you. I’d love to know!