Do you ever find yourself avoiding your meditation cushion? Whether subconsciously or on purpose, you’re not making the time to sit. Or have you tried meditating, and you’ve decided it’s not for you?
Luckily, meditation and mindfulness are not one in the same. You don’t have to meditate in order to be mindful. Mindfulness is a nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts, sensations, surroundings, and emotions, and meditation is one tool for developing mindfulness but isn’t the only tool.
When you are consciously bringing your wandering mind back to the present moment, you are cultivating mindfulness. You can do that in everyday life by tuning into your surroundings.
I often remind myself that all I have is this very perfect moment, right here, right now, in front of my nose. I’ve got to notice it, savor it, cherish it. It will never come again as life changes constantly and I am always in transition.
When I allow myself to get in the moment, I am truly present, truly grateful. There are no thoughts or regrets of the past. There are no worries or anxieties of the future. Just now. Feeling the breeze. Hearing the birds. There are no coincidences of everything happening within and around me at this very moment.
Experiment with using your senses to notice these new things as you move throughout your day, and see what happens.
1. Notice Your Bed
When you first wake up, notice the feeling of your sheets against your skin and your mattress and pillow supporting you. Feel the air against your face, and notice the air temperature.
2. Take a Mindful Sip
Stop for a moment to savor your morning beverage of choice. Smell and examine your coffee or tea before taking a slow sip. Close your eyes and wholly feel and taste the liquid on your tongue before swallowing.
3. Savor Your Shower
Have you ever truly paid attention in the shower? What does the water feel like as it hits your skin? Notice the soap as it lathers, and tune into the feeling of the soap on your skin. Mindfully massage your scalp as you shampoo your hair.
4. Cherish Your Family Members
If you have children or a partner at home, can you notice something new about their morning routines? With nonjudgmental curiosity, observe their moods, energy levels, morning greetings, and favorite breakfast items. What can you notice that you’ve never seen them do before?
5. Consciously Commute
If you drive to work, try tuning into the feel of your steering wheel in your hands, and notice the air conditioning or heat against your skin. If you’re on a train, subway, or bus, first pat yourself on the back for taking mass transportation. Then tune into the feel of your seat, and take in your surroundings by noticing who is with you and what you can see and hear.
6. Look Up
Pause to take in the sky above you. Are there clouds? What do they look like? Do you see any birds or trees? Can you see something in the sky that you’ve never seen before?
7. Truly See Your Colleagues
Is there something new you can notice about your coworkers? Perhaps the person next to you listens to classical music or has photographs of her family on his or her desk. Maybe your boss has a skip in his or her step today.
8. Slowly Munch on Lunch
Before digging into your lunch, take a moment to examine it. What colors and textures do you see? What does it smell like? Take a small bite and allow your mouth to take it all in by noticing what the food feels like. Is it crunchy or soft? What tastes do you observe? Does the flavor change as you swallow? Try to take several slow and mindful bites. If your mind wanders, try to bring it back to the process of eating.
9. Take a Hike
Stretch your legs in the afternoon with a walk around the block, and allow your senses to engage with your environment. Can you see something that you’ve never seen before, whether it’s on the ground, on the side of a building, or high in the sky? What do you hear? Tune into each step and notice what your legs do and how they feel with each step. Also notice your feet and the important job they have.
10. Scan Your Body
Take a moment to close your eyes and tune into your body. Start at your toes and move up, observing each body part until you reach the top of your head. Be curious about what you find, noticing any tension, lightness, heat, pain, or other sensations. Notice if the mind wanders and creates stories about those feelings. If so, see if you can bring the mind back to the sensations without judging them.
I use this method of scanning my body when I feel tense, when I allow myself to be riddled with tension. I begin with totally tensing up my entire body. And then I relax. Starting at my toes, concentrating on them, feeling them, I release any tension. I work my way up to my body this way. Every part of my body up to my head, fully concentrating on each body part and releasing all tension.
I trip on what each cell in my body is doing without my awareness. It’s magical how each cell has a purpose without my control or intentions. They just happily go through the day doing their business, keeping my body as strong and healthy as they can. When I have an injury or sickness they gear up the army and concentrate on the body part that is no longer strong or healthy. They know what to do. I can’t tell them what to do. They fix me. I’m better.
My brain, my heart, lungs, every organ in my body do their own thing as well. My thoughts seldom go to what they are up to. They know what to do. They do it without my awareness or permission. Again, their purpose is to keep me as strong and healthy as they can.
My eyes blink, I cough, I have an itch, my hair grows. Again, without my control or awareness. Our bodies are so amazing!
11. Notice Your Social Media Use
Do you have a habit of checking Facebook or Instagram without even knowing it? Start tuning into those habits and see if you can be more intentional with your time. Once again, don’t judge yourself for the time you spend on social media, simply observe it.
12. Appreciate the Sunset
Step outside to take in the unique colors of the sunset, and try to notice something you’ve never spotted before. Is there a cloud shape that reminds you of something or someone? What colors do you see? How does the air temperature change once the sun dips below the horizon?
13. Glimpse at the Moon and Stars
The night sky offers up a feast for your eyes. When is the last time you truly looked at the stars and moon? Take the time to examine what’s beyond the atmosphere and allow yourself to feel awe if it arises.
14. Listen to the Sound of Silence
As you make your final moves toward bedtime, stop, close your eyes, and listen. What do you hear, and what don’t you hear? Can you notice the sounds or silence with curiosity, allowing your ears to hear the texture of each sound?
Practicing mindfulness throughout your everyday life can help train the mind to focus on the present, with or without cushion. Observe what happens when you make noticing a priority.
Last year as I was sitting on the beautifully manicured lawn of the Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu, mindfulness and living in the moment became a priority for me. My husband was having heart surgery and I was waiting to hear from the doctor how the operation went.
I remember my head bouncing from thought to thought. It was a long month being away from home with just the clothes on our backs when we were Medivac’d immediately from the Big Island to Queen’s following a heart consultation. I’m a busy person. I NEED to keep busy to keep out of my thoughts and to keep sane. I found a lauhala tree on the grounds, pulled and prepped leaves (lau) and started weaving bracelet after bracelet. The island, the aina (land) and mana (spirit) provided me sanity and serenity. Again, no coincidences.
But as my husband lie on the operating table and knowing that the end of his life could be near, my thoughts bombarded me with fear. I started thinking about how I might be flying home alone. I thought about calling my sons to help me clear out Dad’s belongings. I thought about living in a home and having a life that would be so empty and void without my soulmate.
And then the mindfulness kicked in. “Shit, Dee! He’s not dead yet. Get up to the waiting room and be there when he comes to. Everything happens for a reason. You’ll be okay and never alone. If God has a purpose for Graeme greater than what he can do on this planet, be accepting and joyful for that.” I made my way up to the waiting room. And today…we live happily ever after.
One more thing. I am an alcoholic in recovery. During my quiet times on the Queen’s lawns I would sometimes think about how a drink would take the edge off. Thank goodness I’ve stuck closely to AA and the fellowship which reminds me that it’s the first drink that will kill me. I’ll be off and running. I’ll be sneaking drinks and hiding booze. I’ll have to cover up the smells of alcohol on my breath. AND I WON’T BE FULLY PRESENT FOR MY HUSBAND who needs me NOW! I don’t drink. I get humble. I get grateful. I use the toolbox for living that Alcoholics Anonymous has given me. I weave more bracelets.
With warmest aloha, Dee Harris
For those interested in Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration, Recovery and Being in the Moment, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com. Mahalo and have an awesome day!
Learn the keys to conscious living from the comfort of your own home with our Primordial Sound Meditation Online Course, led by Deepak Chopra. Learn More. (https://www.chopra.com/online-courses/primordial- sound-meditation/on-demand)
About the Author
Sara Schairer is the founder and executive director of COMPASSION IT (http://compassionit.com/), a start-up nonprofit organization and global social movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions and attitudes. She created the one-of-a-kind reversible COMPASSION IT wristband (http://compassionit.com/wristbands/) prompting compassionate actions on six continents, 48 countries, and all 50 states. Wristband sales fund compassion education programs for youth, teens, and adults. As a public speaker, Sara encourages her audiences to “compassion it” in their daily lives. A Stanford-certified instructor of Compassion Cultivation... Read more (/bios/sara-schairer)
From The Chopra Center
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- Tags: Alcoholics Anonymous, Deepak Chopra, Hope, Inspiration, Meditation, Mindfulness, Recovery, Self-Care, Self-Love, Self-Worth, Sobriety, Well-Being, Yoga