Do you often think that your mind is just constantly switched on? Like you always have thoughts brewing in your head, jumping from one topic to another –and at times it gets stressful.
I get this a lot. My thoughts shift from my work, to my son, to household chores, to what I am having for lunch (Yes, this is important) and the list goes on. The more I think of it, the faster it floods through my brain. I then become forgetful because there is so much going on in my head. It makes it difficult for me to wind down and relax. In times like this, I try to practice Mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness? How different is it to Meditation?
To be able to use this method well, we need to understand what it really is. So some of you may or may not know but Mindfulness is the simpler form of Meditation.
Meditation, as I would describe it, is attentive focus on one aspect such as breathing, a body part or an object. It’s about letting your mind and body surrender to this focal point. If your mind wanders, you try to bring your attention back to this. – This for me is very difficult. When I did my Yoga Teacher Training, part of the curriculum was to do 1 hour of Meditation everyday. I cannot sit still for 5 minutes, what more an hour?! So I started to do my research on how to meditate better (Fellow yogis, please don’t judge me). I jumped from one article to another and I stumbled upon Mindfulness.
Mindfulness, according to Jon Kabt-Zinn, a world renowned expert in this subject, defines it as, “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.” It means it is letting your mind consciously focus in the present. It is noticing everything around you without judging. This is where you can use your 5 senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. If you are a beginner, your mind will wander (because that’s what it does!). But all you need to do is to bring it back repeatedly and gently.
Ok. Some of you may still be a little confused. I was too in the beginning. It does take a while to understand and get used to Mindfulness. So when I started off, I only practised it for a good 3-5 minutes until it gradually built up to at least 15 minutes a day. You can do this at any environment and you do not have to be sitting still when you do this. You can include Mindfulness in your daily activities.
Incorporating Mindfulness in your Daily Routine
Let’s say you’re brushing your teeth. This is a good way to start as this can be done in around 5 minutes. Try to follow these tips:
- Start by bringing awareness to your senses: What is the colour and shape of your toothbrush? How does the toothbrush feel against your teeth and gums? How does the grip of the toothbrush feel in your hand. What does the toothpaste smell and taste like? What sound is the water making as you let the tap run into the sink? From here, carry on noticing what your senses are exposed to.
- Keep staying in the moment. If your mind wanders, come back to your senses.
- You can continue to notice what your body is feeling away from the task: How does your feet feel as it presses against the floor? If you are sitting down, how does your bottom feel against the seat? If you are facing the mirror, what do you see? What is there around you? Can you hear any sounds? If so, where is it coming from? Remember, you are just noticing and not judging.
- Allow yourself to get completely absorbed in your awareness of the moment.
Ease and Accessibility
It doesn’t take a Yogi or Buddhist to practice Mindfulness. Anyone can do it. You don’t even have to set aside time. You can do this in every mundane activity in your life. I often practice Mindfulness when I am washing the dishes, tidying up the flat and (my favourite) commuting via public transport. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts rise up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back. See if you can do it, even for a few moments.
Attaining a calmer and relaxed mental state is not a far-fetched goal. Just simply do whatever you are already doing in the present moment — in full awareness, mindfully.