Mindfulness is often something we turn to when we find ourselves amidst overwhelm, or crisis. We immediately rush to google who tells us to start meditating. We give it a go. We find we can’t switch our brains off. We think “this isn’t for me”, and we give up.
It makes you wonder what the hoo-ha is about this thing called “mindfulness and meditation” and if mindfulness is so great, then why must it be so.damn.hard?!
Whilst being able to sit for 20 minutes with nothing on the brain would be amazing, the ultimate goal, however, is to be able to implement it into our everyday lives to avoid feeling that overwhelm in the first place. That being said, I have begun to implement some “everyday” mindfulness practises that don’t (check this out) take me away from my usual routine. Yeah you heard that right. I don’t even have to search for the extra 20 minutes to sit and say “om”.
Mindfulness in the Shower
Notice the temperature of the water and the way that makes your skin feel. Is your skin tingling? Can you feel the hairs on your head raise in anticipation of the water before you step underneath? Notice the pressure of the water and how it hits your head and shoulders. As you wash, close your eyes and visualise a process of washing off any negative energy or tension that you might be holding.
Turning on my Computer
Every morning as I wait for my computer to turn on I sit at my desk and observe my breathing. Am I breathing deeply or shallow? I then actively work to bring my breath back to a 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out count. Counting in itself allows me to stop thinking about whatever personal stuff I have going on in my mind, so I have a clean slate to work with to take on my email inbox. Once I have regulated my breath I can then focus my attention on how comfortable I am at my desk, so I can alter anything before working.
Eating in a distracted manner, whilst scrolling through Insta or watching Netflix, or picking up and putting down that sandwich in the middle of writing an email may seem like you’re multi-tasking as a “necessity” but the result is that we’re missing out on how brilliant eating can actually be. We miss out on the flavour, the smell, the texture. Make a point of really noting all of these aspects of your food as you eat, spend longer chewing.
As spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh says, “walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” Pay attention to the weight of your body as it transfers through your feet and through your legs. Feel your muscles supporting you through the motion. Do you notice any tightness in your calves, flexing issues with your feet? Are your shoes even comfortable? Is your breathing in alignment with the pace of your legs movement? Connecting our mind with the physical activity our body is pursuing makes us feel connected and whole. This can, of course be applied to any physical activity such as running or swimming.
Use daily habitual cues such as boiling the kettle to stop, pause, and observe yourself. Observe how you are feeling in that moment. What emotions are coursing through you? Do you have anything pressing on your mind? Do you have any tension in your body? Are you tired? The simple act of taking a moment to really check in with ourselves can be very powerful, and using habitual cues to encourage us to do this (boiling the kettle is just an example) can really help in reminding us to do so.
I understand more than anyone else that it’s so tempting to whip out your phone on your commute, but I implore you to try not to… even if just for one journey. Even if just for 20 minutes of your journey. Don’t listen to music. Run through all of your senses to reconnect with your environment. Take the time to look at the expressions on everyone’s faces (if it’s anything like my commute they probably look pretty miserable!). What can you hear? Mentally identify 3 different sources of noise… this could be the conversation of the couple next to you, the sound of the train on the track, the tinny noise of music emanating from the earphones of your neighbour. What can you smell? Is the seat comfortable? Feel the coolness of the pole you’re holding if you happen to be standing on a busy tube. Count the number of other hands holding that pole. Get out of your head and into your environment.
As You Fall Asleep
I have recently been introduced to the concept of doing a body scan as a form of meditation, as a way to help us relax and switch off our body and mind which makes it a perfect precursor to sleep. Here’s how to do it: lie down or sit still in a chair with your eyes closed, and begin to take inventory of the sensations in each part of your body, starting at your toes and traveling up from there. By the time you have mentally “switched off” most of your body parts, but the time you reach the point where you’re “switching off” you’re brain, you are already halfway there.