A fantastic blog from Melli about bringing mindfulness into our everyday lives. I urge you to check out Melli’s other work, or come along and meet her in our forum.
A regular sitting practice is a powerful ally on the path to mindful living, but where mindfulness starts to get really interesting is when we can integrate it into everyday life.
Mindfulness is simply a shift in the way we’re paying attention to our lives. It means that instead of drifting through the day on auto-pilot, we’re fully inhabiting, and fully awake to, each moment of our life as it unfolds.
Through mindfulness, each moment of our day, even the simplest acts, can become opportunities for awakening.
Here are seven ways you can easily integrate more mindfulness into your life today.
1. Mindful Listening – An Act Of Love
When listening to another person we are often there in body, but not with our whole being. Very often, we are not focusing on listening to them; we are caught up in our own mind chatter. We judge what they are saying, mentally agreeing or disagreeing, or we think about what we want to say next.
Next time you’re chatting with a loved one or co-worker, use this time as an exercise in mindfulness. Don’t just hear their words, really listen to what they’re saying.
Focus all of your attention on the other person. Let them be heard fully. You’ll be amazed at the power of listening; it’s an act of love and kindness. People appreciate it deeply when you truly listen to them. The extra-added perk is that that they’ll listen to you more fully when it’s your turn to speak.
2. Transformational ‘Chores’
For many of us, housework takes up quite a good portion of our lives. Instead of thinking of it as just a chore – something to get through, the task can become a mindfulness practice.
The next time you have to prepare dinner or do the laundry, focus all of your awareness on the task at hand, in the present moment. Aim to be fully engaged in what you are doing as appose to caught up in mind chatter or just rushing to the end of your task.
If doing the laundry for instance, as you fold the clothes, notice the feel and textures of the fabrics and how fresh they smell. Pay attention to the patterns and colours and the way they are affected by the light of the room. Make folding into a sort of yoga practice and move with mindfulness, attentive to each fold.
In this way, every little act becomes a sacred ritual. It keeps you in tune with the moment, with yourself, your space and even the world around you—all functioning in harmony.
You may then come to realize that is no such thing as a mundane moment, only mundane states of mind.
3. Eating With Awareness
Eating mindfully can help you reclaim the pleasure of food. So many of us have become out of touch with this, one of life’s most simple and wonderful pleasures.
When you sit for your meal, turn off all distractions and focus on your immediate experience. Before you begin to eat, pause. Look at your food, take notice of the scent.
When you eat take small bites and chew slowly. Only pick up your fork after you’ve fully chewed and swallowed the last mouthful. Be fully present in the moment with your experience savoring the tastes and textures one yummy morsel at a time.
By eating mindfully eating you aid healthy digestion and avoid overeating.
4. One thing At A Time
For a couple of decades now, the catch phrase has been ‘multi-tasking’. Some people boast of their multitasking abilities on their resumes or at job interviews, others do it among friends and family as they talk about the things they try to get done in a day.
There is a myth that multitasking make us more productive; in reality, it drains us faster. Trying to spread our attention so thin and keep up with so many things makes us more prone to mistakes. We’re not more productive; we’re just busier, both mentally and physically, exhausting ourselves needlessly.
Try changing your focus to doing just one thing at a time. Take on each task with full awareness, one by one. When mindfully doing a task, you’re less prone to rushing, mistakes or forgetting details. You’ll find you can be more efficient with the task, and finish it without feeling worn out or tense.
When your ‘doing’ simply be there fully, with all of your attention, for each moment of it. Remember – Life is not a to-do list. It’s meant to be enjoyed!
5.Watch The Mind
Through watching the mind, more mindfulness automatically streams into your life. You have stepped out of the continuous mental dialogue of the mind and are now the observer. You are now watching the mind instead of being swept of in its current.
Any time you watch thoughts, you are being mindful. Start listening to the voice in your head as often as you can, especially any repetitive thought patterns. As you listen, aim to do so an impartial witness. You’ll soon realize, “there is the voice, and here I am listening to it. I am not the mind.”
The key is this – Don’t believe your thoughts. Don’t take them all that seriously. In this way thoughts (and the emotions they generate) lose their hold over you. You no longer have to play them out.
6. Nothing Time
Living in a culture where idleness is frowned on has made many of us forget how to be still and do nothing at all. The mentality has been ingrained in us that screams, do, do, do! Go, go, go! The idea of sitting and doing nothing can be so foreign to us, it makes many feel uncomfortable—guilty, even.
We don’t have to be doing all the time, though. Take some nothing time each day. Even if it’s just five minutes, sit for that five minutes and do… nothing.
Sit silently in a favourite chair or in a sunny spot outside. If possible without mobile phones, beepers or other distractions near you. Become still. Bring your full awareness into the present moment and to your sensory perceptions. All that exists for you is the here and now.
You may be amazed at how pleasurable and satisfying it is just to ‘be’ – how much taking five minutes from your day will give back to your life.
7. Mindful Walking
Walking can give you a chance to spend time being mindful without taking any extra time from your day. Whether you’re walking around your neighbourhood, from the car to the store or through the hallways at work, you can turn it into a meditative exercise.
Before even rising out of your chair, turn your attention to your intent to walk mindfully. Rise and allow yourself to become aware of the sensation of standing. Put your attention on your body. Pause, take one conscious breath.
Begin to move your feet. If possible you can walk slowly and deliberately to aid you in your practice. Notice how the floor feels under your feet, how your clothes feel swishing around your body.
Pay attention to the details in your surroundings—the architecture of the building, the plants you are passing, and the birds singing in the trees. Be present in your here in and now experience. Aim to be there for every step.
Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.
― Thich Nhat Hanh
Melli O’Brien teaches “the art of mindful living” in a fun, practical, dogma free style. After 15 years studying the world’s wisdom traditions she learned that eating dhal every day is not a good idea and that everything she was ever looking for was already here and now.Visit Melli’s website.