Mindfulness - you hear this word everywhere these days, but what does it mean exactly and how can we use mindfulness to improve our lives? Mindfulness is essentially about where and how we place our attention. We can experience mindfulness spontaneously, in moments of great pleasure or great pain and anguish. Think about the pleasure of taking that first bite of your favorite food or of watching an amazing sunset, or maybe watching your child take their first steps. Think about moments where you have felt the pain and grief of losing a loved one, or of experiencing the physical pain of an injury or illness. What all of these experiences have in common is that they bring your attention to the present moment - you are deeply aware of what's happening in those moments. You're not thinking about that project at work or that comment that so-and-so made on your Facebook post yesterday. You are actually experiencing your life - the pleasure and the pain of it. The present moment - right here, right now is the only place that life happens. It’s everything.
The truth is that your average adult spends very little time actually inhabiting the present moment. We are most often living out of habit - planning or worrying about the future, ruminating on the past or escaping the discomfort or boredom of the present moment with distractions like shopping, television or social media where we might end up curating our life instead of living it.
So how do we use mindfulness to help us live our life? The poet Mary Oliver offers this advice -
“Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.”
We can practice mindfulness in two waysFirst in formal meditation practice where we sit in stillness and use a number of different techniques topractice paying deep attention to whatever is happening in each moment - our breath, sensations in our body or our thoughts. Meditation is like practice for life. Just as a musician or athlete will spend hours practicing their art or sport we spend time practicing present moment awareness. In this way we train our minds and develop new habits of staying with the present moment. The more we train the better we become at life.
We can also practice a moment to moment everyday mindfulness where we bring the art of paying attention into the ordinary, seemingly mundane moments of our lives. Through this practice we come to learn that when we are living mindfully there are no ordinary or mundane moments. Through mindfulness any moment can become a revelation, a blessing, an astonishment.
“Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.”
Try this everyday mindfulness practices for the next week or two.
20-Second Miindfulness Break - Choose a reminder for yourself. Something on your hand or wrist is best - a ring, bracelet or maybe a tattoo, anything that you see often during the day. If you don’t have anything maybe tie a bright piece of string around your wrist or … maybe get that tattoo you’ve been thinking about. Every time you see your reminder take a 20-second (or longer) mindfulness break. You can try this this right now, wherever you are reading this, and see how it feels. Bring your attention to your breath, maybe take a few deep breaths exhaling through your mouth with a sigh. With each exhale let your shoulders drop and relax, relax your jaw and your tongue, soften your belly and let your pelvis sink into the surface that you are sitting on. Now tune into your five senses. Begin to look around you and notice whatever you see. Notice color, texture, shape, movement and especially notice the quality of the light. If there are people around you really look at them, (not creepily if they are strangers. ) Really see them especially if they are family members or co-workers that you see everyday and maybe take for granted. Notice all the sounds around you - those off in the distance and those close in. If someone is speaking really listen to what they are saying. Now notice your sense of smell and taste, notice the temperature of the air or your clothing on your skin. Notice and pay attention with a sense of openness, non-judgement and gratitude. You can do this anywhere anytime.
give your soul the gift of attentiveness....
at Westford Pilates & Yoga
288 Littleton Rd #16
5:00 6-:15 PM
Yoga Nidra means yogic sleep. This deeply restful and restorative practice has ancient roots in the Yoga Tradition and yet is perfect for helping us to unplug from the distraction, busyness and stress of living in our modern world. We'll use mindfulness of breath & body to help you untangle the knots of physical, mental and emotional tensions so that you can rest into your natural state of relaxed and joyful present moment awareness. Learn More...
Begins April 11
at Chelmsford Community Ed. Center
170 Dalton Rd.
This introductory class is great way to learn about meditation and maybe start your own daily meditation practice. We’ll work with teachings from the Yoga and Buddhist traditions and simple practices including mindfulness. Learn More...
* As you may have noticed the poet Mary Oliver's poems are filled with examples of the sacred ordinary and the art of paying attention. Really any of her books would be a wonderful inspiration.
* The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is a helpful guide in bringing the power of the mindfulness into your life.
Hope to see you on the mat soon.
Wishing you many mindful moments & a life well lived,