By: Sai Techawongtham
When we think of mindfulness meditation, a lot of us often have an image of a person sitting crisscross on the floor with their eyes closed, concentrating intensely on their breath. And while that is one way of practicing mindfulness, it is far from being the only way.
In fact, there are so many ways of practicing mindfulness that, really, the only limit is our own imagination.
But, before I go any further, let’s first define what I even mean by mindfulness, just so we are all on the same page.
Mindfulness, as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, is the “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally” (Mindful Staff, 2017). The benefits of mindfulness include decreased stress, anxiety, and rumination, and improved working memory, attention span, positive affect, and emotional regulation (Davis & Hayes, 2012), just to name a few.
However, at the most basic level, the potential benefit that can come from the acknowledgement of the present moment is the appreciation of the richness of our experience at any given moment.
To give some examples, as you are reading this post, are you being aware of the texture and surface of the chair or cushion you are sitting on? Are you being aware of how the cold air or heat feels on your skin? Are you being aware of the range of sounds happening around you? Were you even aware of the various flavor of whatever you have had for breakfast this morning?
There are so many experiences we have come to take for granted as they become a part of our daily routine, that we often forget to appreciate the way they are adding to our lives. These little
moments are like small wildflowers that grow along the gravel path: their beauty is there to be appreciated, but if we only focus on where we are going, we might miss them altogether.
So, how can you begin to integrate mindfulness into your daily life?
First, find something you have been engaging in mindlessly, perhaps a daily activity or routine you have been doing for so long you no longer have to think about it. Some examples include eating food, brushing your teeth, washing dishes, taking a shower, going on a walk, sitting at a sofa, etc.
Second, as you engage in that activity, instead of letting yourself fall into an autopilot mode, bring your attention to the way your body is engaging in and experiencing that activity. Notice the way you experience that activity through your five senses: What things are you seeing? What sounds are you hearing? What textures are you feeling? What smells are you smelling? And what taste are you tasting? Really concentrate and explore each aspect of your senses closely, as though you are experiencing it for the first time.
You might notice that, as you try to become aware of these details, you find yourself having to slow your activity down. You might also notice that after a while, your mind begins to wander to other thoughts.
These things are a normal part of practicing mindfulness. If you observe your mind beginning to wander, simply acknowledge it, and gently bring your awareness back to the activity you are engaging in. The goal of mindfulness is not to develop perfect concentration, but to simply be aware of the internal and external state of things at a given moment, and that includes the nature of your wandering mind.
And there you have it: a simple way to practice mindfulness in your daily life.
I hope, as you continue to apply this practice to your life, that you come to appreciate the different little things happening around you at any given moment. And perhaps, you might also learn something about yourself you have never noticed before in the process.
Davis, D. M. & Hayes, J. A. (2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness? apa.org. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner
Mindful Staff, (2017). Jon Kabat-Zinn: Defining Mindfulness. Mindful.org. https://www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/#:~:text=The%20Definition%20of%20Mindfulness%3A,self%2Dunderstanding%20and%20wisdom.%E2%80%9D