Many people think that meditation is a practice that involves emptying your mind of thoughts. This misconception can leave beginners feeling like “bad” meditators. Mindfulness meditation is not about emptying the mind, but rather stabilizing our attention and training our minds to be more focussed, effective, and skillful in everyday life. You can bring mindfulness to everyday activities simply by tuning in to your senses, which helps you to actually be present in what you are doing, rather than lost in your internal thinking.
Here are 10 steps to bring mindfulness into your daily life:
1. Be mindful in conversation. Use listening as a meditation. Pay attention to the whole person speaking. Notice the sound and rhythm of their voice and facial expressions. Notice your mind drifting off into fantasy or thinking while the person is speaking. Notice your urge to speak: Is it easier for you to listen or talk?
2. Be mindful when eating. Notice the food on your plate, pay attention to colours, shapes, and smells. Bring awareness to the sensation of chewing and to the flavours, textures, and temperatures in your mouth. Notice any urge to eat quickly or swallow your food without chewing it completely. Be aware of the mind being hijacked from the experience of eating and gently bring it back to the food.
3. Be mindful in line at the supermarket. Tune in to the body. Notice your feet on the ground, the sounds around you, and your breath. Check in with how you are feeling, notice any irritation or impatience in the body. Using your breath, see if you can let it go.
4. Be mindful on social media. Before checking in to Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, bring a conscious intention to the amount of time you are intending to spend engaging on social media. Notice the urge to keep checking and scrolling through your feeds. Notice any emotions that arise as you experience other people’s lives.
5. Be mindful while driving. Notice your hands on the wheel. Feel your posture. Notice any tension in the body and actively relax the body. Let your shoulders be soft, perhaps turn off the radio and be in silence. Notice any urges to use your phone.
6. Be mindful in confrontation. Tune in to the body, notice any sensations that come with anger or fear as you are in a difficult conversation: heat, tightness, a rapid heart beat? Notice your urge to defend or react in some way. Anchor your attention to sensations in the body as you negotiate.
7. Be mindful at the gym. Observe the sensations of your body while exercising. Notice the kind of thoughts that arise when you are exerting yourself. Take a moment to be grateful for the capacity of your body to accomplish such a miraculously function.
8. Be mindful in bed. So many people use digital technology, whether laptops or phones, in bed. Phones are commonly used as alarm clocks these days. Notice how you relate to technology in the bedroom and whether this impacts on your ability to fall asleep.
9. Be mindful in the shower. Choosing something you do regularly each day can be a helpful way to remember to practice mindfulness. Tune in to the sensations of water and temperature on your skin. Notice when your mind wanders off and gently bring it back to the sensations of your body.
10. Be mindful when walking. These days we often do many things while walking—we listen to music through headphones, send text messages, speak on our phones. Try using walking as a mindful practice. Feel your feet making contact with the ground. Notice what it feels like to walk a little slower if you’re not in a rush. Take in your surroundings, the smells, the colors, the sounds. Use mindful walking between meetings to create a moment of mindfulness in your day.
To learn how to find more focus, calm and contentment in everyday life and make a positive impact in the world sign up to www.mindfulinmay.org before April 30th. You’ll receive a one month online mindfulness program including audio meditations and interviews with global experts in wellbeing. Clear mind for you, Clean water for others.
Photo by Leah Martin for Wanderlust Festival.
Elise Bialylew is the founder of Mindful in May, an online global mindfulness campaign that teaches thousands of people worldwide to meditate while raising funds to build clean water projects in the developing world. A doctor trained in psychiatry, Elise has a passion for coaching people to reach their full potential at The Mind Life Project. Her work has featured in the Huffington Post, New York Times, and on Australian Television. Register for the Mindful in May challenge before May 1st.