Many people think meditation is a practice which involves emptying your mind of thoughts. This misconception can leave beginners feeling like ‘bad’ meditators. Mindfulness meditation is not about emptying the mind, but rather stabilising our attention and training our minds to be more focussed, effective and skillful in everyday life.
You can bring mindfulness to everyday activities simply by tuning in to your senses, which helps you to actually be present to what you are doing, rather than lost in thinking.
Here are ten steps to bring mindfulness into your daily life:
1. Be mindful in conversation
Use listening as a meditation. Pay attention to the whole person speaking. Notice the sound and rhythm of their voice and their facial expressions. Notice your mind drifting off into fantasy or thinking whilst the person is speaking. Notice your urge to speak – is it easier for you to listen or talk?
2. Be mindful when eating
Notice the food on your plate. Pay attention to colours, shapes and smells. Bring awareness to the sensation of chewing and the flavours, textures and temperatures in your mouth. Notice any urge to eat quickly or swallow your food without chewing it completely. Be aware of the mind being hijacked from the experience of eating and gently bring it back to the food.
3. Be mindful in supermarket queues
Tune in to the body. Notice your feet on the ground, the sounds, and your breath. Check in with how you are feeling, notice any irritation or impatience in the body and using the breath, see if you can let it go.
4. Be mindful on social media
Before checking in to Facebook or Twitter, bring a conscious intention to the amount of time you are intending to spend engaging on social media. Notice the urge to keep checking and scrolling through the feed. Notice any emotions that arise as you experience other people’s lives.
5. Be mindful while driving
Notice your hands on the wheel. Feel your posture. Notice any tension in the body and actively relax the body. Let your shoulders be soft, perhaps turn off the radio and be in silence. Notice any urges to use your phone.
6. Be mindful in confrontation
Tune in to the body, notice any sensations that come with anger or fear as you are in a difficult conversation: heat, tightness, a rapid heartbeat? Notice your urge to defend or react in some way. Anchor your attention to sensations in the body as you negotiate.
7. Be mindful at the gym
Tune in to the sensations of your body while exercising. Notice the kind of thoughts that arise when you are exerting yourself. Take a moment to be grateful for the capacity of your body to so miraculously function.
8. Be mindful in bed
So many people use digital technology, whether laptops or phones, in bed. Phones are commonly used as alarm clocks these days. Notice how you relate to technology in the bedroom and whether this impacts on your ability to fall asleep.
9. Be mindful in the shower
Choosing something you do regularly each day can be a helpful way to remember to practise mindfulness. Tune in to the sensations of water and temperature on your skin. Notice when your mind wanders off and gently bring it back to the sensations of your body.
10. Be mindful when walking
These days we often do many things while walking – we listen to iPods, text message, speak on our phones. Try using walking as a mindful practice. Feel your feet making contact with the ground. Notice what it feels like to walk a little slower if you’re not actually in a rush. Take in your surroundings, the smells, the colours, the sounds. Use mindful walking between meetings to create a moment of mindfulness in your day.