Our mindset is one super powerful tool influencing our wellbeing on a daily basis. We need to learn how to harness the power of our minds in order to optimise our overall sense of health and wellbeing. Finding activities, people, events, places, experiences that ‘light us up’ and ignite our inner energy is one thing we can do to assist us create a more positive mindset. Try it today!
I have just come back from a four-day retreat with the wonderful Melli O’Brien at Mangrove Mountain Ashram where I was immersed into ‘The Art of Mindful Living’. This retreat was life changing for me. It was a real wake-up call and I am so pleased I went. Coming home from the retreat I realised there were heaps of simple ways of incorporating the skills I had learnt into everyday life, albeit in a more challenging environment than an ashram, however it is doable. I just had to share some of the tools and techniques I was given over the four-day retreat with you guys so that you have some practical skills that you can start and use each and every day to improve your mindfulness.
Mindfulness is such an easy and accessible way to help us let go of our stress and live in the moment. By learning how to become mindful in our approach to living and integrating simple practices into our days, we can find freedom from stress and ruminating thinking which serves no good in our lives. Now I am by no means an expert in the subject of mindfulness and there are heaps of great ‘experts’ I can refer you to if you want some really thorough and comprehensive practices in mindfulness, but what I can do is share with you some simple tips that I have found work for me, that I can incorporate into my hectic life without having to set aside a formal practice time (although the more I do of this, the more motivated I am to dedicate time to formal practice each day).
There are so many different ways that we can integrate mindfulness into our day, from being as simple as just taking one single conscious breath to reset our presence during challenging times to formal meditation practices. Now I know formal practice isn’t for everyone, so many of us find it difficult to allocate a chunk of time to sit or lie down and meditate daily, or quite simply find the act of trying to meditate stressful in itself. For those of you out there I’m here to tell you it’s so super simple to incorporate mindful practices into your everyday life, if you are not the formal meditation type. You don’t have to shut yourself off from the world in an ashram like I did in order to ‘become mindful’. You can quite simply incorporate mindfulness practice into your daily activities that you’re already doing by just being fully present in those activities. Take a look over some of the tools I have provided you with here which we can incorporate into our daily lives as they focus on activities each and everyone of us do on a daily basis; breathing, eating, chores etc.
One Conscious Breath
When we become stressed, launch into autopilot or find ourselves ruminating about the past, a simple way of bringing us back the present moment is to simply take ‘one conscious breath’. Stop thinking, and just breathe. One breath. Focus your attention on the air entering your nostrils, the coolness of the air hitting the back of your throat, and then travelling down into your lungs, filling your chest, making your rib cage rise and your stomach expand. Focus on the sensation of the opening of your body when receiving the breath and then watch the breath as it starts to leave the body, exhaling through the same track, out through the lungs, up the throat passage and out the nostrils. Notice the warmth of the exhaling air as it exits from your nostrils. Now, from this place of presence continue with your day.
One Mindful Minute
One minute of mindfulness is exactly what it says, it’s one minute focusing your whole attention on your immediate experiecne at that very point using your breathe as your anchor of awareness. You can do this at any point in time. You can do it when you get up in the morning, when your waiting for the kettle to boil, when your stopped at the traffic lights waiting for a green light, and even when you’re having a stressful time at work, you can just go and pop yourself in the tea room or go for a walk outside and just find somewhere to sit down quietly, just for one minute, just to reset your mind. If you really are that strapped for time you may want to set a timer, and just set it for one minute. During this one minute of time, your sole task is to focus your entire attention on your breathing, nothing else. Sound simple? Simple, yet so damn effective!
You can do this practice with your eyes closed, or you could do it with your eyes downcast in soft focus, (half closed and looking down at the floor). Basically you don’t want to have your eyes wide open taking in all of the stimulus that’s going on around you. The whole purpose is to really become introspective and be aware of what’s going on for you internally at that present point in time rather than being stimulated by the outside world. What I want you to do is to adopt either a seated, lying, or walking posture, whatever if comfortable and available to you at that moment. Then I want you to just hone in on your breath. I want you to focus on the sensation of the inhale coming through the nostrils, the coolness of the air hitting the back of your throat, and then travelling down into your lungs, filling your chest, making your rib cage rise and your stomach expand. Focus on the sensation of the opening of your body when receiving the breath and then watch the breath as it starts to leave the body, exhaling through the same track, out through the lungs, up the throat passage and out the nostrils. Notice the warmth of the exhaling air as it exits from your nostrils. Now, repeat for a minute.
Over that time you might become aware of your breathing actually slowing and deepening. That’s okay. If it doesn’t and it remains short and quick and shallow that’s okay too. Everything is as it should be. The purpose is for you to just be aware and accepting of the breath for what it is. No judgement. Just focusing on the rise and fall of that breath.
By focusing your attention on that one sole task, you become present, and that is the key to being mindful. As a result of that one minute, your brain can slow down. It provides you with space between your thoughts and emotions and allows you to be able to respond consciously to things rather than react to situations in the ‘heat of the moment’. It takes you off autopilot and gets you back into that present point in time. It’s a really useful tool and it takes one minute of your time, so give it a go.
Another way that you can incorporate mindfulness practices into your day, if you don’t have time to commit to formal meditation practice, is to start and see your household chores as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Next time you’re preparing dinner or doing the laundry or cleaning the bathroom, mowing the lawns or whatever it may be, think about using that chore as a dedicated mindfulness practice.
To do this I want you to fully immerse yourself into whatever chore it is you are doing. Try and avoid thinking about what you still need to do, or what you’ve done during the day and focusing on how things could’ve changed or things could’ve been different (living in the past or worry about the future). I want you to stop ruminating about events that have past and stop moving into the future, and just ‘be’ in the current moment. I want you to just be present and focus all of your attention on the task at hand.
For example, if we’re using our dinner preparation as a mindfulness practice, I want you to actually look at the vegetables that you’re cutting up. Have a look at the colour of each vegetable. Be aware of the brilliant colours that you’re seeing. Be aware of the texture of how they feel in your hands. Be aware of how your knife feels in your hand as it moves along those vegetables. Breathe in the scent that the vegetables give off as you’re preparing them. Close your eyes and really breathe them in. Taste them as you are going and give the experience your full attention….trust me, carrots can become a taste bomb sensation in their own right by just immersing yourself in the task of eating a slither. Be fully present and absorb everything that’s happening at that point in time non-judgmentally, just accepting what is and being fully aware and engaged with your task at hand.
Another example may be when you are folding the clothes….Take the time to look at the clothes, be aware of the colours in the fabric, how the fabric feels in your hands, how the fabric smells and the lines you are folding the fabric in. See the chore as a form of moving meditation.
Obviously being a mother of 2 young boys, I realised that we often don’t feel we have the time to ‘slow down’ and be present in all our chores and perhaps there are some chores that you prefer to not dedicate mindfulness too (eg cleaning the toilet), but what I want you to give a go is to just choose an activity when you know you have a little more time to dedicate to that task (eg washing the dishes once the husband is home and playing with the kids or washing the car on the weekend) and immerse yourself in that activity. Engage all of your senses and be aware of them all throughout the task.
Another way of incorporating mindfulness practices into your everyday life is through bring your awareness to the present when sitting down for your meals. Eating mindfully can really allow us to reclaim an enjoyment in one of life’s greatest pleasures…..food, rather than our meal times becoming a means to an end (to fill the belly).
Be honest with yourself, when was the last time you sat in front of your meal and really looked at it and smelt it, taking in all the beautiful colours and smells of the dish before launching in?
We tend to save this way of ‘mindful eating’ to when we eat a really fancy restaurant and we are challenging your inner Masterchef critic….yes?
So next meal you sit down for, set the intention to be aware and fully present in the act of eating.What that looks like is to switch off any distractions (televisions, phones, ipads etc) and really engage in the task at hand and what you’re about to do, which is ingest this beautiful food. I want you to look at your plate of food. I want you to be aware of the different foods that are on that plate, the different colours, the different textures, the different smells that you’re receiving from that plate.
Then I want you to focus on the feel of your knife and fork when you are cutting the food. Before you actually put the bite into your mouth I want you to just look it over, up close. Really look at that food that you’re about to ingest like you are looking at it for the first time ever. Smell it. Get a real sense of the aroma. Once you finally put the biteful into your mouth, that ingredient, although you’ve probably had it hundreds and thousands of times before, is going to taste different. It is going to be sensational. Just being fully present and engaged with what you’re doing brings a heightened awareness and sense of enjoyment from what you’re doing. Eating included.
Once the food is in your mouth, move it around your mouth and feel the textures of it. As you bite down, actually sense the flavours being released with each bite. Then swallow. Only then once you’ve completed the full process with one bite, then pick up the knife and fork and get your next forkful. By eating this way, you’re slowing it all down so that you can actually engage and enjoying, reclaiming the pleasure of food. We’ve become so out of touch with this as we go, as life has gotten busy. It’s one of life’s most simple and wonderful pleasures if you take the time to be fully aware and engaged in what you’re doing.
Another added bonus of engaging in mindful eating practices is that it has been shown to actually assist with weight loss, by aiding our digestion and allowing us to sense when we are full, hence reducing the tendency for us to overeat. It’s really beneficial to start engaging in this practice. Next time you go to prepare your dinner or you go down to sit down for a meal, please just try it and use it as a mindfulness practice. See what your experience is like. Enjoy.
Meditation when you have ABSOLUTELY NO TIME….
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