In a world of blinking screens and beeping car horns, smartphones and spoiler alerts, it’s almost impossible not to have a cluttered mind. Going about busy lives, we operate on autopilot, performing the many tasks required of us and not taking care to notice the details of the spaces around us. As Practical Mindfulness explains, however, it doesn’t have to be this way. With some simple exercises and a small amount of dedicated time, we can develop mindful habits to strip away the chaos and connect to a peaceful centre within — if only for a little while.
We asked the book’s consultant Ken A. Verni, Psy.D. for some simple exercises, so that you can begin to cultivate mindfulness this very minute. Have a go.
Practise bringing awareness to the breath when you first wake in the morning. Just notice the rise and fall of the belly for a moment or two. Then stand up out of your bed slowly and mindfully, attending to the body as you stand for the first time that day… pause… breath… and then proceed with your morning routine.
Practise bringing awareness to transitions when moving from inside to outside, and outside to inside. Notice the shift in temperature, the sounds, textures, smells, the feel of your feet on the ground, and the general ambiance of the space you are moving into. Be curious about the direct experience of the present moment as compared to the “stories” the mind might be telling.
Practise “arriving” in random moments throughout your day by inviting your attention to focus on the five senses, beginning with touch by noticing the points of contact between the body and the earth or the chair. Do this with the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that are available in any moment, practicing a non-judging awareness of whatever happens to be available to the senses in that moment.
Practise picking one thing to do mindfully each day, perhaps at the start of your morning. Simple everyday things like brushing your teeth, showering, having a cup of tea, or feeding the dog. Whatever you decide on, do it with the entirety of your attention, bringing awareness to all the senses and reigning the mind back in from its habit of wandering. As you engage in the activity, make sure that you are paying attention to what you’re doing while you’re doing it.
Practise bringing a mindful awareness to pleasant, unpleasant or neutral events throughout your day. You can try using the sentence “(Blank) is like this.” For example: “Waiting for the train is like this,” or “Feeling the sun on my face is like this,” or “Being bored is like this”. Attend to the direct sensory experience, not the story the mind might create about what “should be” happening. Practising with this sentence helps invite us to bring a more curious, reflective awareness to what we are experiencing in any moment, and can sometimes take the edge off a challenging experience, such as “Dealing with an automated phone system is like this”.
Want more mindfulness tips? Check out Practical Mindfulness. Focusing on simple breathing techniques, meditation tips and relaxation methods, this unique book will improve your concentration and help you achieve success.
Courtesy of the NJ Center for Mindful Awareness