Mindful practices to keep you living life in the present
Often when I talk about meditation with people, their eyes sort of glaze over… like I’m suggesting they do “ONE MORE THING” in an already too busy day. There are many ways to put a calming, de-stressing practice like meditation into your life. And who of us don’t need a bit of calm, peaceful loss of stress?
Mindfulness is a simple practice of setting your attention on this moment, assessing what’s going on and accepting that you are okay with whatever is going on right now, especially if what is going on is not in your control (and most of life is not in your control.) That might sound a bit overwhelming, but I think of it this way.
- In this moment is your life.
- This moment is the only one you can live.
- You can’t relive that moment from yesterday.
- You can’t live the event you’re worrying about that may or may not be coming.
- You can only savor life in the now.
- You can only take action in this moment.
And if you aren’t present and aware in this moment… it’s gone. We miss too many of our precious life moments by rehashing old stuff or worrying about what we’re guessing is to come. And while we’re occupying our brain with the replaying and worrying, we totally miss out on the now.
Take a moment with me… take a deep breath, pause, then let it go. Relax. In this moment, right now… you are fine. Likely you’re clothed as you want to be, you have shelter, food… you are okay. You may have some challenges going on with your body or life but at this very moment, you’re sitting here reading encouraging words and You Are Fine! Learn to enjoy your okay-ed-ness and don’t waste this moment worrying about “what if I’m not okay” in the future. You are fine right now, relax. Breathe.
So, choose to live this moment. Mindfulness practices are tools that help you get into this moment. These practices give you little ways to look at things we do every day in a different light or with a different focus. Over the next few weeks, I’ll give you some new mindfulness ideas. This is not your to-do list. It’s just a list of ideas to try. One or more might appeal to you. If you adopt even one of them, you will begin creating a habit of experiencing mindfulness on a regular basis. Remember, in this moment, you’re fine. So get into this moment of your life as often as possible.
Eating meditation– Like many things in our day, eating is often a rushed event, shoveling nourishment in while thinking about 50 things that need done after eating. In eating meditation, you’ve got several choices. You can try focusing on your meal with friends or family. Or you can make it a special solo time, perhaps with just a tiny special snack. Either way, the practice goes like this.
Look at your meal. Appreciate the colors, the textures, the variety of differences. Smell the odors coming from your plate. Even if you’re snacking on a lowly raisin, pick that little gem up and have a whiff. Take a moment to imagine the journey your food has been on to reach you. Was it grown locally, or has it traveled from another part of the planet. Imagine how many people were involved in the process of growing, nurturing, picking the food and getting it to you. Then take a few grateful moments, realizing that it’s this food that allows you to live, to keep your body strong and healthy. Then it’s time to taste… but just a small bite at first. Allow just a tiny bit to roll around on your tongue, perhaps even noticing which part of your tongue picks up the flavor. Continue eating but notice how a bite of vegetable might taste after a bit of bread. Again, realize that whoever prepared this meal for you, and yes, perhaps it is you, has given you a lovely gift. Bon appetit!
Walking meditation– Take a walk… it’s good for body and soul. Maybe take your doggie pal along with you. To work on mindfulness, set an intention for your walk. Think of things you’re grateful for. Or notice how many different shapes of leaves or colors of green you see. Listen to all the bird songs or other sounds that surround you. Notice people who might walk past you and make kind eye contact with them and SMILE!!
Slow Walking meditation– Slow walking is a different sort of walk. This walk isn’t going to cover a lot of ground and can even be completed indoors. I have done this in meditation groups and we all walk around in a circle. The focus is to walk Very Slowly. Notice which muscles tense first to begin taking a step. Do your arms move first or your legs? What part of the foot makes contact with the ground first? How does it feel when your entire foot rests on the floor? Is there a slight pause at any point while you walk or are you in continuous motion? The slower you walk, the more there is to notice. And if you’re walking in a circle, with a group, your pace is set by that person in front of you. Let them have some space and enjoy yours.
Chanting meditation– Chanting is an ancient practice that can be performed just as the ancients did or with some updates. The practice is intended to give you a phrase to repeat, often silently to yourself but sometimes out loud. This is to keep the mind busy doing something in this moment. But only part of the brain is really occupied with this simple repetition. The busy brain is chanting but you can also find some stillness inside to explore. This higher self, wiser self is part of you that often is ignored. In time you might realize you have forgotten to chant but as you plumb the depths of your own mind and heart, you remain solidly in this moment. People use different phrases to chant. If you need some ideas, you might start with “Peace… peace… peace…” or “I’m okay… It’s okay… we’re okay…”
Speaking and listening– We talk and listen all day but often without mindful attention. Sit with a partner, perhaps over a meal or a cup of tea and practice mindful conversation. Take time, relax. Listen with your whole attention to what the other is saying. Once they’ve completed their statement, take a moment to digest what was said before even beginning to think about what you might now choose to say. Initially limited each participant to one sentence at a time will help you learn to relax thru the pauses in the conversation. We often speak just to fill in the silences. Stay mindful of your discussion partner and what they are truly sharing with you in this moment.
So there’s your first five ideas for incorporating mindfulness into your day. Once you get more comfortable with the concept, you’ll have ideas of your own to bring your mind into this one lovely moment of life. And if not, I’ve got a long list… more will be coming.