Mindfulness is a lot like golf. It’s simple in theory, but complex in practice. Consider this: Golf is about hitting a ball with a club into a hole. Easy, right? Well, I can tell you as someone who spent many years trying to do that, it’s anything but easy.
Mindfulness means purposely focusing your attention on the present moment – what you’re feeling and sensing right now – and accepting it without judging it. That sounds easy, right? Just sit and pay a attention! But as someone who’s been trying to do THAT for many years, I can safely say it’s anything but easy.
The Mind Is a Wandering Thing
The concept of a “monkey mind” is an ancient Buddhist concept. Minds leap, dance, and jump from one thing to the next. And, in these days of social media and on-demand TV and movies, it’s easy to see why.
But mindfulness and meditation techniques help to calm the mind down. When we approach a task with the intention to pay attention, we start the process of taming the mind so that it serves us well instead of driving us mad. We become the observers of our mind’s antics instead of being dragged away by them. Over time, and through discipline, we can grow calmer. More responsive and less reactive.
Getting to Mindful Means Paying Attention to Your Life
Consider the life around you right now. Are you reading this on your phone in the park? Are you sitting at home on the couch? Are you sipping tea at a café? Any of these things – and so many more – are opportunities to practice mindfulness.
Try it. Close your eyes and feel the weight of your clothes on your body. Feel the soft rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Sit quietly and watch your thoughts travel here and there. Make a very gentle fist and feel how your fingers fall together and apart.
All of this is mindful practice if you do it with an intention to be mindful…if you simply notice the sensations or thoughts. If you get distracted from the point of focus, simply reset it.
And just like that, you’re there….right in the life you have.
Mindfulness Exercises to Try Right Now
Any moment can be a mindful moment, so here are some mindfulness exercises to try. (You can also download my free Mindfulness Quickstart Guide for more practice!)
When we get scattered, anxious, or stressed, it’s easy to live in our heads and forget we exist on this earth. Grounding techniques are a gentle reminder that we’re present, alive, and in this moment. Try these:
- Earth Grounding
- Sit with feet on the floor or lie down in a comfortable position on the floor
- Close your eyes and feel your natural breath
- Imagine magnets in your feet (if sitting) or back (if lying down)
- Imagine those magnets in you are connected to magnets in the earth
- Focus on the connection, and notice the sensation…just notice
- If you want, you can try a variation where you imagine vines growing out of you and intermingling with vines growing from the earth
- 5-Sense Grounding (5-4-3-2-1)
- Take a few natural breaths
- Notice 5 things you can see (your desk or the wall)
- Notice 4 things you can feel (a pencil or your clothes)
- Notice 3 things you can hear (traffic or a fan)
- Notice 2 things you can smell (coffee or perfume…or just quietly name two pleasant smells)
- Notice 1 thing you can taste (a mint or coffee…or just quietly name a pleasant taste)
This ancient technique relies on the power of your inborn, ever-present point of focus: breath.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position
- If you want, close your eyes
- Tune in to the natural flow of your breath, without changing it
- Train your focus and attention on the in and out breaths
- If your mind wanders from breath – with an anxious thought, for example – notice or name the feeling by whispering or thinking, “anxiety”; name…don’t judge
- Gently return your focus to breath
- Over time, you will increase your awareness of what your mind does and where it goes, and you’ll get better at releasing the frustration and judgment of a wandering mind
Washing a Dish
Mundane chores are ideal for mindfulness practice, because they give us a chance to notice what we’re doing instead of being on autopilot. Try using dirty dishes as an opportunity.
- Wet a sponge and put soap on it; squeeze and feel the squishy, soft bubbles
- Pick up a dish and feel the weight in your hand
- With intention, slide the sponge around the dish…hear the sound and watch the flow
- Feel the warm water…really notice what “warm” is
- Dry the dish, noting how its state changes from “wet” to “dry”
- Put the dish away, and hear the clink it makes as it comes to rest
Our ability to communicate is our chance to give attention to others, and to be mindful of how we interact.
- Call a friend with the intent to focus on them – to listen more than you talk
- Take a few deep breaths and dial the number
- Ask your friend how they are, and then just listen
- Ask meaningful questions, and focus your attention on your friend’s words – in other words, don’t just hear them…give them an intentional ear
- If you feel the urge to interrupt or to do something else, just notice that feeling – gently return your attention to the conversation
Other Mindfulness Exercise Ideas
Anything can spark the mindful journey. Here are some things to try. Remember, if your focus strays or your mind wanders, simply return attention to the task, and don’t judge yourself.
- Sort and fold laundry with complete attention
- Do yardwork (pulling weeds or raking) with total focus
- Enjoy a cup of tea with total focus on the process – bob the teabag to darken the water, then savor the flavor and aroma
- Shut off social media and TV for 10 minutes and just sit with your thoughts, noticing them rise, fall, and pass…get to know what’s on your mind
- Scan your body from head to toe, paying attention to areas of tension or pain
- Take a mindful walk, noticing how your feet contact the floor or pavement
The only limit to a mindful moment is your imagination. Make the stuff of everyday life the stuff of mindful practice, and you may just find your monkey mind quieting and your focus on the moment increasing.
If you want to explore the power of mindfulness, consider a coaching session, check out my free Mindfulness Quickstart Guide, or peruse the tips and tools in my novel, An Audible Silence. Let’s connect!