Mindfulness is quite the buzzword these days. It may be becoming stale and less impactful because of that, but it truly is highly beneficial to practice being mindful.
What is mindfulness? The word is a bit misleading, since we want our mind to become LESS full, at least less full of all of the extraneous input and unhelpful thoughts. Really, it’s about being aware and PRESENT, without judgment. Jon Kabat-Zinn notes that the Chinese character for mindfulness is a composite of Presence and Heart. I love that.
When we’re present, just in the moment…the NOW, we let go of what happened in the past and don’t worry about the future. We can just BE.
Contrary to a common assumption about mindfulness, it doesn’t require meditation or sitting quietly and trying to empty the mind. We can be mindful during a variety of meditation styles, but it’s really about focusing on and paying attention to whatever it is we’re doing in the moment. We can be mindful while doing mundane or complex things. By letting go of wandering, competing thoughts and just coming back to the present, our nervous system shifts into rest and digest mode, accessing the Parasympathetic system, and we calm and function more easily.
Tips for honing your mindfulness practice
- Pay attention to every little detail of what you’re doing: if you’re washing dishes, what temperature is the water, how does it feel on your hands, how do you feel when you set the dish or pan in the drainer?
2. Notice things around you as you do what you’re doing: listen to the clock or music or exterior sounds…what do they sound like exactly, how would you describe them?
3. Like with meditation, when you notice that you’re not present and paying attention to what you’re doing, just let those thoughts go without judgment and refocus on the task or experience at hand.
4. Eat mindfully: give yourself the time to enjoy your meal rather than working on a project while eating, and pay attention to each bite and how it tastes, smells and feels. Eat slowly and savor.
5. Notice visual details around you: what are you seeing that others might not be? What can you focus on that allows you to feel relaxed, calm, happy?
If you’re overwhelmed or your mind feels overfull with too much input, being mindful may help you revert to that place of calm and clear focus. You don’t need to do nothing, nor do something special, just be aware in the moment. And breathe. Deeply.
Feel free to reach out if you would like some guidance on developing a sustainable mindfulness and self care practice. I’d love to chat!