What is Mindfulness? Mindfulness is our awareness of the present moment. It is our intentional and purposeful awareness of what is without judgment, without trying to change or alter it.
Simple tools that help us with mindfulness: Our breath and 5 senses are the simplest tools to begin understanding and practicing mindfulness. When we use each sense and our breath intentionally and on purpose, we become anchored in the present. We become observers of the experience without being attached to it, rather just observing and becoming aware.
Experiencing what is – Regardless of what we are experiencing on a moment to moment basis, our ability to accept it without judgment and without a need to change, control or alter the experience teaches us patience non-judgment and compassion. As we allow ourselves to flow with what is, and become observers, we learn to release attachment to an outcome. When we practice mindfulness meditation, we simply become observers. We can use the example of observing clouds drifting by. We pay attention on purpose and intentionally using our sense of sight. We notice as they pass us by how their form and shape changes without us having to do anything to alter the experience. Similarly, our breath is flowing continuously without any type of control or intervention from us. When we meditate, we allow ourselves to become one with the flow of our natural breath. We may also notice any other experiences such as sensations, feelings, or thoughts they may arise. As we notice more, we become more aware of what we may not have realized before. This is called our being state. On the other hand, when we are in the doing state, we most often are mechanical and on “autopilot” so to speak. We do not allow to ourselves to really pay attention purposefully. Living mindfully is the process where we pay attention on purpose.
Some daily activities we can do mindfully (Tip: remember to use your 5 senses and your breath to notice the complete experience)
- Brushing our teeth in the morning
- Sipping our morning tea/coffee
- Eating breakfast
- Going for a walk
- Taking a shower
Simple breath exercises to start your journey:
- Find a comfortable place to sit (floor or chair)
- Sit upright with your back straight and your hands comfortably placed on your lap
- Slowly begin to lower your eye gaze or you may choose to close your eyes
- Take a few centering breaths (a deep inhale, hold it for a few short moments and release with a deep exhale). This inhale followed by the exhale is called a breath cycle. Take about 5 breath cycles.
- Notice how your body feels as you perform these breath cycles. The goal is to take these breaths very intentionally, very purposefully. Pay attention to your experience. (sensations, feelings, thoughts, emotions that arise) You may notice some physical sensations such as tightness, tickling, coolness, warmth, etc. that are brought to your attention. Just notice this without judgment. You do not need to change or alter your experience. Just observe and be aware.
- Incorporate this simple breath exercise in your day. Beginning your mornings with this will help you start your day feeling more relaxed and grounded. Feel free to repeat it any time during the day when you feel off balance, stressed out, or just in need to tap into your inner peace.
- If you feel that you would like to incorporate a visualization while meditating, you may visualize a place that brings you a sense of deep relaxation and peace, for example the ocean/beach, a beautiful garden, your favorite vacation spot, a childhood memory …)
- Visualize yourself in the space and feel the positive feelings that arise with you being in that space – love, excitement, joy, fulfillment etc.)
- As you visualize this, set a mental affirmation “this space that I visualize in my mind’s eye is a reminder of the inner sanctuary of peace that resides in me.” “All the positive feelings that I am experiencing are a reminder of the love and peace that exists within me.”
Whenever you feel stressed out or anxious, take a deep breath, lower your gaze or gently close your eyes, and bring back to your mind’s eye, the visualization of your inner sanctuary of peace. Use your breath to anchor you in the presence of your visualization and as you breathe deeply, allow your body and mind to slowly relax.