Mindfulness is that elusive goal of any meditation practice, and can feel like an impossible task when just starting out. Here's how to make it happen.
So what is mindfulness? One of my favourite definitions is from Jon Kabat-Zinn, who describes it as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally to the unfolding experience of moment to moment.” Signs you may not be practising mindfulness can include: often feeling behind, an inability to focus on one thing, being accident prone, experiencing emotional outbursts, and indulging in distractions such as alcohol, food, or work.
Being mindful feels different for us all, as our experience of day-to-day life is unique to each of us. Rather than jump in the deep end, a useful first step is to try to bring more mindfulness into your everyday moments. Over time you, and your brain, will adjust and mindfulness will feel easier and more joyful. These two mindfulness exercises will help you train your brain for inner peace, as well as slow down your inner pace.
Take something that you do several times a day, such as flicking on a light switch, and designate that action as your trigger for mindfulness. Rather than complete this action on autopilot, deliberately pause - close your eyes if you wish - and take a deep breath. Then notice the temperature of the room, the sounds, smells, and light in the room. After this trigger, try to move slower and with more awareness on each step.
Choose a time each day, such as straight after you wake up, at the start of your lunch break, or before you go to bed, to practise this exercise. Close your eyes and take your awareness to your toes, then your feet, ankle, calves, and knees. Continue up along the body, taking a deep breath while focusing on each body part. Once you reach the top of your head, take three deep breaths, open your eyes and slowly take in awareness of your surrounds.
3 tips for shaking off distractions
* Put down the smartphone. These devices are amazing tools, but they can become a negative influence when used in excess. Try and keep the two hours before you go to bed, and the hour after you wake up as screen-free time. Your brain will thank you for the break.
* Stop overcommitting. Take a look at your schedule and find some space. One of the ways we often keep our mind distracted is to keep it so busy that it has no time to be in the present moment.
* Write your own mindfulness affirmation. Examples could be: “I am open to the experience of the present moment”, “I will think before I speak” or “By focusing on the now, I will create mental clarity in my life”. Keep these words in a few places at home, work and in your car to keep your mind focused on the goal of being in the moment.
Krys Hansen is a yoga and meditation instructor, author, online mumpreneur, veggie mama, lover of a surfing yogi and deliverer of truthbombs on yoga and life. www.modernyogimama.com