How often do you find yourself forgetting why you walked into a room, are rushing from meeting to meeting, or wonder how you got to the other end of town whilst driving? Our lives are so busy that we often don’t have (read, allow ) ourselves time to actually live all these moments–no matter how crazy and frantic they may be. This is where a practice in mindfulness comes in. When you start to practice mindfulness, you will notice more about what’s going on around you, the way you feel, the way things smell and taste. You learn to live in the moment, in the present, rather than in the past and/or the future. Yes, it is a practice that you need to commit to in order to see results–there isn’t an option for you to land on GO , collect $200 and have another turn. And yes, it can be difficult and frustrating at times, but when you allow yourself some space to just experience a moment, you’ll see the benefit right then and there–even if it’s just for five seconds.
Start by focusing on something
As humans, we like to complicate things when they don’t need to be tampered with. For some reason we put ourselves through the pain of over-analyzing situations, relationships and interactions. Not only does this create a false reality, it also takes us out of the present moment. When it comes to practicing mindfulness, start small. You don’t have to have these grandiose expectations for yourself that you’re going to be able to go all day without deterring your mind from exactly whatever it is you’re doing at that time. Start by focusing on one thing, or one task. Maybe it’s just walking from your house to your car, or really listening to your co-worker when she’s going over a project. Even if you think you can do more than this right away, allow yourself these small victories. One thing you can always focus on is your breath. Yoga and meditation teachers talk a lot about attention to the breath because when we focus on the breath, we are in the present moment. We are also connecting our mental and physical bodies, creating a cohesion of all our senses. Don’t overload yourself all at once and appreciate these little moments for what they’re worth. In the long run this attention to detail will help you in your mindfulness practice, and you’ll be thankful that you took the time, and had the patience with yourself to explore these moments.
It’s not easy work
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just snap your fingers and poof! you were able to keep your attention in the present moment all the time? Since we don’t have mindfulness fairy godmothers, you’re going to have to put in some effort if you really want to practice mindfulness and learn to enjoy every moment. You don’t need to spend five hours, or even one hour, everyday working on your new goal; figure out how much time you can afford, or would like to spend each day actively practicing mindfulness. Start off small, especially if all of this is new to you, by carving out ten minutes each day. This time doesn’t have to detract from the rest of your life, either. You can practice mindfulness while you’re washing the dishes or doing the laundry. For example, when washing dishes, you sink your hands into the water; notice the temperature of the water and the bubbles on your hands. You pick up a plate. Notice how you’re washing a plate. Be aware of how you rinse it off and set it aside to dry. Go back to the water and pick up another dish and continue the process.
While this practice is time consuming, it can also bring about frustrations and a general desire to quit. We live in an age in which we expect immediate results; everything is at your fingertips. But you’re going to have to commit to mindfulness if you want to see the results. You may not even notice much of a difference after a week or a month. Don’t get discouraged. Keep at it. Set small goals for yourself so that you are spending more time practicing everyday, or practicing while doing new tasks (perhaps something you’re finding particularly challenging to focus on). The more you practice, the more results you’ll see.
You’re the only one who can do the work
When there’s something you really want, it can almost be an instinct to find the easiest way to get it. Whether it’s priority shipping for an online order, watching a YouTube video to help with your knitting project, or taking back roads to avoid traffic jams, there always seems to be a hack for getting what, or where, you want a little faster. But when it comes to inner peace and acceptance, you just have to do the work. You may have already learned this or are in the process of learning it, but you are the only one who can settle your insides, who can calm the waters of your soul and accept yourself for who you are. It’s a bandaid solution to find acceptance from others, and can often lead to more pain down the road. When you set out to practice mindfulness, make a commitment to yourself that you’re going to put in the work, and you’re not going to throw in the towel, even on the hard days. It will be tough and painful at times, and may seem easier to go back to our old habits, but taking a few steps back isn’t going to help you move forward. You’re a tough cookie, so stick it out. It’ll be worth it.
Feel the moment with all your senses
One way to help keep you in the present moment is to focus on all your senses. This is a method that well-known mindfulness and meditation teacher Jon Kabat Zinn writes about in his book Mindfulness for Beginners. He says that when you fully embrace a moment by noticing how it affects your sense, helps to pull you into the present. Say, for example, you’re in the shower washing your hair. Notice the temperature of the water on your skin. Take in the smell of your shampoo–is it fruity, full of coconut or scentless? How does the feeling of your hair change as you start to work in the shampoo, lathering up some bubbles? Does anything change, are any of your senses heightened, when you close your eyes to rinse the soap out? When you start to be more aware of how you’re feeling in a moment, you shift from what Zin calls doing mode to being mode . And it’s in this being mode where we really start to live and experience every moment.