We often talk about mindfulness in the context of a sitting or moving meditation. But mindfulness is a practice ultimately meant to be weaved into your day to day life.
Give some thought to some choice times throughout the day when you can work mindfulness into your daily life apart from a sitting or moving meditation. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Start your day with mindfulness. I actually try to meditate even before I get out of bed. Doesn’t happen every morning but it’s a centering way to start the day. It doesn’t have to be a meditation though. Another way to integrate mindfulness first thing is to scan your body and notice all of the physical sensations. Any tension, aches, pains? Notice the sensations of feeling contact with the sheets, cover, pillow, perhaps another person’s body against your skin? If focusing on your body first thing brings serious discomfort to you, you could spend some time focusing in on the subtle (or not so subtle as the case may be) sounds of the morning.
- Integrate mindfulness into your snacks and meals. It is estimated that over the course of a year many of us eat over 1,800 times. LOTS of opportunity there to practice mindfulness. One approach to mindful eating is to notice what is prompting you to eat. Is it because you’re hungry? Or, is it because you’re bored, lonely, or frustrated (or all of the above)? You can be especially mindful while you’re eating, chewing your food slowly and being fully aware of how your food tastes and smells. If you’re new to mindful eating, start with one meal during the day a few times per week. You can take time after you eat, to check in with a gentle curiosity to see how your body feels. Did you feel better or not so good after you ate? Does your body feel satisfied or stuffed and bloated? What else is coming up for you?
- Pay attention to the transitions in your day. There are numerous transitions in our day. Getting yourself and others ready in the morning, moving in and out of meetings, and leaving work to head home or to pick your children up from school are just a few examples. What opportunities do the transition times between these moments present you for your mindfulness practice? Do you have three minutes for a brief gentle breathing exercise or a few moments for a check-in on how your body is feeling?
- Ride out cravings. When you suddenly have an urge to do or eat something, stop before you act. Check in with your body and how it is feeling. What thoughts are coming up for you? Notice those sensations with a soft gaze so to speak and let them fade away in their own time. Then make a decision about whether you still want to move forward. This is something I definitely want to do more of when my colleagues bring those delicious snacks into the office. Riding out cravings is not limited to food. It can, for example, relate to technology as well. The smartphone is, of course, a prime example and a perfect foil for the practice of mindfulness. What if you delayed checking your email or your Facebook or other social media? Think about other cravings in your life and how you can bring a more mindful awareness to bear.
- Listen. Have you had a conversation with someone and realized afterward you didn’t really hear a lot of what was said. Pretty common. Try giving your full attention to your conversations. Pick some typical conversations in your day when you make a concerted effort to listen with full awareness. Notice if you are composing in your mind how you will respond, rather than hearing what the other person is actually saying. Notice if you change the focus of the conversation before it is quite done because your mind has moved on. Do this with a sense of kindness towards yourself. Listening is a skill that a person can learn to do well with practice, just like anything else.
Mindfulness is not an intellectual exercise. It is a practice meant to be relied on throughout your day and each way in which you practice informs other parts of your life. Slowly and gradually work in ways in which you can bring mindfulness in to your day. It is possible others will notice and appreciate the transformation even before you do.