Many people think mindfulness is some new age thing which goes hand in hand with meditation. Viewed this way, many are turned off by the idea and toss it aside as something not worth entertaining. I use to think the same thing, until recently. The picture of me above is an example of practicing mindfulness.
So what is mindfulness exactly? Well, it is a fancy way of saying, pay attention to what you are doing!
Living in such a fast-paced world, constantly on the go with our overly busy schedules, we often do not take the time to really pay attention to what we are doing. We think we are the gurus of multitasking. Texting, eating a sandwich, and driving our car all at the same time. Talking on the phone while walking our dog in the park. Shopping, yelling at the kids, all while trying to schedule a doctor appointment. Yes, we think we can do all this and more, but what do you think happens in the process? We do not really enjoy the walk in the park, our dog does not get much of our attention, and we only heard half of our friend’s conversation. We forget to pick up the one thing we needed at the store. We did not actually taste the sandwich we ate and we might have even gotten in an accident while driving. None of these things are fantastic. Our day may even turn into one big whirlwind of stress because we never really stop, or at the very least…slow down. It is frustrating and exhausting at best and at worst it can be dangerous.
The solution? One word, mindfulness.
Ok, so what is mindfulness really? It is about focusing on one task at a time. Paying attention to what you are doing. I mean really paying attention! Noticing the details of the task and appreciating it for what it is. For example, instead of multitasking while driving, do this instead. Clear your mind from all of the thoughts that normally run rampant, do not worry about cursing at the stupidity of the other drivers, do not eat and do not text. Focus on the road ahead. Notice all of the things happening around you as you drive. The vehicles you pass, the road signs, the buildings, the speed limit and even the weather. Notice everything about driving from point A to point B. This is driving in a mindful manner.
Another example of practicing mindfulness would be eating dinner in a mindful way. When cooking dinner, take the time to read the recipe. Take the ingredients out one at a time, notice how the ingredients look, smell, and taste. Notice as the ingredients come together, how they change the smell and taste of what you are cooking. Purposefully set the dinner table, paying attention to how the dishes are set and how the place setting looks when it comes together. Dish up the food and arrange it any way that feels right. Take a moment when sitting down to appreciate the smell of the food and its arrangement so carefully set. As you begin to eat, notice the color, texture, and taste of the food so lovingly prepared.
Oh, and what am I doing in the picture above that makes it an example of mindfulness? Well, I am listening to the sounds of the waves. Feeling the sand beneath my feet as the tide moves in and out. Noticing the way the waves hit my feet and legs. How cool the water is compared to how warm the sun feels on my skin. Noticing the blue-green of the ocean as it meets the blueness of the sky in the distance. Really, just being in the moment. It was so calming and relaxing. It took my mind off of all the craziness that is usually my life and spoke volumes about being on vacation in an amazing place. Soaking it in…being in the moment. Or also known as truly experiencing the present.
While practicing mindfulness cannot possibly happen 24/7 and multitasking is sometimes a necessity, I highly recommend practicing mindfulness when and where you can! Some of the side effects of practicing mindfulness are:
– Getting to enjoy the moment as it is, without distractions.
– Relieving stress and worry by keeping thoughts and worries at bay until dealing with them becomes the task in the present. So not focusing on the past or future.
– Not overeating, losing the keys or forgetting to turn off the curling iron before leaving the house because you are doing things with purpose. Paying attention to how much you are eating, where you placed your keys, and purposefully turning the iron off before moving on to other things.
– Quieting racing thoughts by focusing on the task at hand. Calming nerves and lessening panic.
– Finding joy in the little things.
Of course, if combining meditation goes along well with practicing mindfulness, then go for it! There are no rules on that as far as I know. Do what feels good. Do what you find helpful. Slow down! Take the time, make the time, to be mindful. I do not think you will regret it.
Enjoy the present, it is called the present because it is a gift. You cannot change the past and obsessing over the future will not necessarily make you better prepared for what is to come.
One day at a time, one moment at a time. Make the most of it.