In the rush to accomplish necessary tasks and manage our daily lives, we often find ourselves losing our connection with the present moment—missing out on what we are doing and how we are feeling. Did you notice whether you felt well-rested this morning or that your new rose bloomed today? You can improve your life with simple mindfulness practices.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing our attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness.
It generally involves a heightened awareness of sensory stimuli (really noticing your breathing, feeling the sensations of your body, etc.) and being “in the moment.”
While mindfulness has origins in Eastern philosophy, there is no necessary religious component to mindfulness. Anyone with any belief system can enjoy the benefits of mindfulness.
What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
Increasing our capacity for mindfulness supports many attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life. Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, helps us to become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events. By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others.
If greater well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered that mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in a number of ways. Mindfulness can help relieve stress, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.
Even an informal approach to mindfulness can help us to stay in the present and fully participate in life. You can choose any task or moment to practice informal mindfulness, whether you are eating, showering, walking, or playing with a child.
An Informal Approach to Mindfulness
- Start by bringing your attention to the sensations in your body
- Breathe in through your nose, allowing the air downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully.
- Now breathe out through your mouth
- Notice the sensations of each inhalation and exhalation
- Proceed with the task at hand slowly and with full deliberation
- Engage your senses fully. Notice each sight, touch, and sound so that you savor every sensation.
- When you notice that your mind has wandered from the task at hand, gently bring your attention back to the sensations of the moment.
Mindful tea-drinking practice
Frequently, even short periods of meditation can seem overwhelming at first. So bringing mindfulness to everyday activities such as drinking a cup of tea is a gentle way to begin. It’s also a helpful way to develop your practice. Below are a few suggestions on how to practice mindful tea-drinking.
1. Be open to your senses, rather than try to analyze what’s happening as you prepare the water for tea-making.
2. Notice the feeling of being in your environment.
3. When your mind wanders into thought, as it probably will, gently return your attention to sensing.
4. Be aware of your sensations and the liking or disliking of them. If there are thoughts, let them enter into and then pass through your mind without following them. Try to stay with the tea tasting. Notice without judgement any desire to rush the drinking, and any impatience that comes.
5. Bring gentle awareness to whatever emerges. Becoming conscious of how much the mind wanders is a sign of growing awareness. Be open to the spirit of the practice, sensing with gentle precision what’s happening, moment by moment, and coming back to sensing whenever you notice you’ve drifted into thought.
The key is understanding what drives your patterns of behavior and then learn how to shift them to serve you instead of holding you back.
Focus on the present and quiet that voice inside – the one that offers the running commentary on what you’re doing, what you’ve done, and what you will be doing. When we focus on fulfillment over achievement, we will enjoy the journey.