Mindfulness is the new buzzword. Although we hear it often, I’ve discovered – through the Twelve Mindful Months class I teach weekly at Golden Door – that a lot of people aren’t exactly sure what it is or how to go about it. In this post, I hope to demystify it.
But first, let me tell you why I got into mindfulness. Over time, I observed – as a fitness instructor/trainer for 30 years and a yoga teacher for 10 – that most people had adapted to a healthier diet, followed a cardio and strength program, but had not incorporated the weekly one hour mindfulness component (like meditation, yoga, T’ai Chi) that ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) recommends for stress management and total body/mind/spirit wellness. Usually it was the last activity to be added (if at all) and the first to go when time was limited. Many people have told me “Cardio is my stress management.” It is an effective way to release stress, but how does it help you when you’re not exercising? Mindfulness, on the other hand, is available to you 24/7: You can do it anywhere or anytime and you don’t need any equipment or special clothing.
What exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the process of being present with your surroundings and with what you are doing and feeling. I like to describe it as living your meditation, or taking meditation off the cushion and into your life. A sitting meditation practice will certainly help improve moment-to-moment awareness, but it is not necessary to the process of being mindful. (That said, you may find with time you develop desire and patience to do a sitting meditation.)
So your mindfulness practice goes like this: You practice awareness in everyday life: breathing, sensing, speaking, listening, grooming, eating, walking, exercising, working, and even driving. The best news: You don’t need to carve out extra time in your day. So you can’t say “But I don’t have the time.” 😉
You don’t need to practice all day or in every activity. Mindfulness is not about being perfect, as it’s impossible to be mindful 100% of the time. Sounds simple? It’s not so easy. It takes patience, because the benefits are not immediately noticeable. But over time, you will feel more calmness and clarity and less chaos and chatter.
Create a daily wake-up ritual. Each morning before you rise, set a mindful intention. Choose 3 activities that you will attempt to do mindfully. Choose one meal, one rote activity, and one other. Examples:
1.Just eat: No reading, emailing, texting or TV. When we eat mindfully we will be satisfied with less, and with time, crave healthier foods.
2.Just shower: Feel & appreciate how the hot water soothes your body. Avoid thoughts of what you have to do after your shower & stay present to the sensations we often take for granted.
3. Just exercise: Stay tuned into your muscles, how you place your feet, your breath, your heartbeat & how you move through space. Get out of your head (away from unrelated thoughts) & into your body. You’ll benefit more with focused exercise & be less apt to get injured.
If you forget, forgive. If you notice yourself being unmindful, you’re being mindful: Be glad you noticed! Before long you will be aware of times when you are more mindful than you were in the past, or of when you are mindful without intention. Enjoy the new sense of peace, focus and balance mindfulness brings to your life.
For more on living the mindful life, read “Twelve Mindful Months: Cultivating a Balanced & Fit Body, Mind & Spirit” by Carol Tibbetts.