Mindfulness—lately it’s become a hot topic of conversation in book clubs and popular magazines.
Last weekend someone even brought it up in conversation at a party. If you haven’t attended a mindfulness class and you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, it’s quite simple. Mindfulness is awareness of the present moment without judgment. Living mindfully allows you to stay in the present moment without getting lost in worry about the future or regret about the past. When you’re aware of the present moment, you have the power to respond rather than react and can cope more effectively with difficult thoughts or feelings. The result? Increased feelings of relaxation, peace, and well-being.
On first glance, it may seem like mindfulness is all about doing nothing, but far from it.
Mindfulness is about learning to keep the attention focused on the present moment, whatever we’re doing. The formal practice of mindfulness meditation is a perfect training ground for learning to focus our attention in this way. Focusing the attention on the breath and then meeting whatever dominant sensations, feelings, or thoughts arise with an attitude of interest, curiosity and compassion while we’re sitting trains us to cultivate the capacity to open our hearts to whatever arises in our life. For me, that’s where the real work of mindfulness practice is—applying the principles and practices to our everyday life.
How can you apply mindfulness to your everyday and live a more mindful life?
1. Cultivate a formal mindfulness practice. Practice sitting still and focusing your attention on the breath. Notice your experience of the breath in your body—the rise of the belly with the inhale and the fall of the belly with the exhale. When your attention wanders, gently, and without judging your wandering mind, bring your attention back to the breath. Begin to apply this attitude of non-judgment to your everyday life.
2. Live intentionally. Become intimately familiar with your values, passions, and purpose, and design your life around them. Create clear intentions for the life that you want, continually put effort toward your intentions, and maintain optimism about living your intentions. Decrease the amount of time spent on activities that drain your time and energy. Get in touch with your strengths, and find a way to incorporate these strengths into your life and your work every day or at least on a regular basis. Cultivate happiness and joy!
3. Practice Mindful Self-Care. Get adequate sleep, eat mindfully, and exercise regularly. Know when your schedule is full, and practice saying no. Set healthy boundaries and limits. Schedule time for being instead of always doing. Slow down your pace. Life is not a race to the next moment or to the end.
4. Practice treating yourself with compassion. Treat yourself as though you were your only child. Once you get the hang of it, try approach others with this same attitude. Find the common thread of humanity between you and anyone you meet.
5. Savor the simple pleasures. Seek out expressions of beauty and healthy pleasure. Get out into nature every day, and stop to notice all of the beauty that surrounds you every day. Notice the beauty in creative expression. Savor the smell and taste of nourishing foods. When you experience a moment of happiness or pleasure, stop to become aware of how you feel in your body, mind, and heart, savor the experience, and then recall the experience several times throughout the day.
Ok, try them out, and let me know what you think! Remember to be compassionate toward yourself as you develop new ways of being in the world!
Warm wishes for your well-being,