“Mindfulness (or living mindfully) Is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
We often hear about being mindful with what you do on a daily basis, but when it comes to actually implementing it, we tend to feel lost or find “staying in the zone” difficult. Mindfulness is about cultivating the habit and practicing it to improve our lives, reduce stress, overcome anxiety, improve sleep and reduce pain.
In order to make it a way of life, let’s take a look at seven simple ways that can help us integrate mindfulness in our daily actions & life –
1) Express Gratitude
We so often take things for granted that we forget to actually spend time to be grateful for what we have. Gratitude is an important act to keep us grounded, and connected to who we really are.
It is easy to get carried away with what one has achieved in their lives, but if the person is not grateful for the people or situations that have made this possible, then it is just like a beautiful rose that you bend down to smell, but it has no fragrance.
Going through life with only seeing the “I” in everything will slowly seem to get more lonely or unfulfilled.
As the days go by the people who appreciate you will then have nothing more to give when they don’t receive. No matter how much we can think of ourselves as givers or takers, it is human nature to want or receive gratitude at some point of time.
Gratitude and reverence is the medicine for anxiety, judgment, jealousy etc. Make the time to express your words of gratitude to people who help you on a daily basis, who knows, it might just make their day.
Think about it: when you say something positive you are literally raising that person’s energy levels, they have no choice but to spread that energy, just expressing gratitude can have a ripple effect, so spread the joy!
An incident comes to mind that happened a few years ago, I would thank my house help everyday once she was done with her day’s work, and after several months, one day she mentioned to me that how nice she felt when I said those two words, and no one else did that.
2) Notice and soak in the environment
Become aware of your surroundings by allowing your mind to just be, without any negative thoughts or emotions. Go to a garden or the forest, and listen to the sounds of the whistling wind as it blows through the trees, the chirping birds or set your eyes on children manifesting their imagination as they play in the mud.
Immerse yourself in the rich bounty of stimulation that nature provides to transport you into another dimension; the spectrum of colours, the trees, the blossoming flowers, the wild plants and then the hints of fragrance that the breeze brings to sweeten the air that fills your lungs as you breathe in and out slowly and consciously.
Practicing this as often as you can will bring your mind to that moment and make you more aware of everything that is happening around you.
3) Breathe Mindfully
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
We spoke about the importance of our breath multiple times on Fractal Enlightenment.
It helps to relax and center our energy, and you can do it anywhere and any time of the day, because you breathe at every point of time.
Of course, I wouldn’t recommend you this on the commode, perhaps when you wake up, midday and at the end of the day would be a wonderful time to get things on track.
We have a small exercise for you to immediately experience what we are talking here, close your eyes…. no wait, hold on, first read this and then close your eyes.
You need to have your eyes closed while you breathe in nice and slow for 5 seconds, hold it for 2 seconds and release gently for 5 seconds. Now close your eyes and try it, do it 3 times to begin with and increase the number of times as you get more comfortable.
There you go instant relaxation, calming down, sink in to yourself, the lovely pleasures of life if we just know how to breathe right. This can be done whenever you feel the need to bring your mind back to the present moment.
4) Spend time listening
When was the last time you actually listened when someone was talking? When we say listen, it means paying full attention, maintaining eye contact, and for sure not listening with the sole intention to respond. There are very few of us that actually really listen.
There might be several reasons for this kind of ‘shallow’ communication, how about not looking into the phone while you talk to someone. If you’re mindful of being fully present with the other person, hearing everything they have to say and also your response to it, things will begin to change.
Good communication will help you not only build stronger bonds with people but again will bring mindfulness into another aspect of your being. Just like you have a strong foundation for a house to be build upon, brick by brick, step by step, and gradually, every action starts to become mindful.
5) Cleaning your space
Pick up a daily chore, either washing dishes, mopping, wiping windows or countertops, sweeping or anything that does not require you to keep your mind engaged. Just do the job focused on doing it well and do it with reverence.
When you do it with reverence, everyone including you loves a clean plate to eat from, so get completely immersed and flow with your actions. Cleaning gives us the perfect opportunity to experience the balance and inner peace that a practice of mindfulness allows us to cultivate.
6) A simple exercise to work on your will
The driving force to getting things done is having a strong will, the inner voice that edges you on to perform tasks. Throughout our lives we spend time doing things for others or just to ensure things are done and things are moving. But it is rarely done for our own self.
Here’s a simple exercise suggested by Rudolf Steiner (philosopher and founder of anthroposophy) not only to develop our will but also to keep us grounded in the moment, even if it is just for a short time. All you need to do …
- Pick a simple act to do daily at a fixed time during a span of four weeks.
- It could be anything like pulling your right ear lobe, removing and wearing the wristwatch on the other hand, untying and tying your shoe laces, rolling back one sleeve of your shirt and so on. Pick absolutely anything that can be done without any obstacle.
- Perform your chosen act every day at a fixed time (for example at 10 am).
- Do it every day at 10 am or the time you set for yourself.
- Avoid doing it before time, or in case you forget, put a note on the wall or fridge to remind you.
The purpose behind doing this exercise is to act on your own initiative and direct your will towards doing it. This will also make you mindful of your own action and keep you fully present when you are actually doing the act.
7) Slow down & go easy on yourself
The best and perhaps the most important point there, it is absolutely essential before you even begin cultivating mindfulness. The act of slowing down can be difficult, especially when one is leading a fast-paced, constantly on the move kind of life.
But slowing down will not only help you get things into perspective, but also maintain the balance. Don’t forget to practice the breathing exercise to bring you back into the right pace.
Mindful Living – What You Practice Grows Stronger
Speaking about the right pace always takes me back to the day I learned this poem, my grandfather used to recite this to me, and it has stuck with me for good, it’s a sound advice I tell you, Leisure by William Henry Davies ~
“What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep or cows. No time to see, when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight, streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, and watch her feet, how they can dance. No time to wait till her mouth can enrich that smile her eyes began. A poor life this is if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”
Take it easy, don’t be hard on yourself, there are no fixed rules when it comes to mindfulness. You can always get creative and come up with your own ways of leading a mindful life.
As Ram Dass sums it up beautifully, “We’re all just walking each other home.”