Notice your environment: sunlight, rain, the wind, trees, sights and sounds. On your way to work, school, an appointment or your daily errands, be mindful of driving your car, walking, sitting on the subway, arriving at your destination, your state of mind and your thoughts. Are you in the present moment or thinking ahead to what you will be doing next? Notice your body, and let your breathing help you relax your shoulders, soften your face.
These are the kind of days where unwinding our nervous system to remove some of the overload is very important so give yourself a brain break. Author M. Kahn shares this brief method for a quick pick me up.
Close your eyes, follow your breathing, notice if your breaths are shallow or deep into your core. To move from shallow breathing, breathe in through your nose while you imagine smelling your favorite fragrance. When we like a certain scent it automatically slows our breath so we can take in more of that scent. As you are imagining your favorite scent and your breath is at its natural peak pause for just a moment before letting the breath out through your mouth. Repeat this breathing pattern for 3- 5 minutes.
“By breathing in through your nostrils, you welcome in the delicious fragrance of your divinity, holding the breath for a moment to savor the magnificence of life and then letting it out as blessings of compassion, joy, and ease for one and all.” (M. Kahn) Your brain break becomes a blessing for you and for all those around you.
Pick one of these simple mindfulness exercises to build up your living in the moment muscle.
Mindful Hand Awareness Exercise
Grasp your hands really tight and hold for a 5 to 10 seconds, then release and pay attention to how your hands feel. Keep your attention focused on the feeling for as long as you can.
Olfactory Sense Exercise
Smell something strong like coffee beans or perfume and pay close attention to what happens in your nose, and then what feelings these scents evoke.
Sit and relax, and imagine yourself melting into everything around you. You might begin to feel at one with everything after some practice.
Years ago while having the opportunity to teach Early Childhood Churchtime, one of the children’s favorite songs included a verse noting that “Life without Jesus was like a donut….there is a Hole in the middle of your heart.” Taking time each day to center yourself and be with your spiritual connection can fill your heart, relax your body, and calm your mind.
Let this cartoon inspire you to mindfully eat your next meal. Start by giving thanks for all the hands that it took to get this food to your plate. The growers, the harvesters, the grocery store owner, the checkout person, the cook, etc. Next open up your senses to notice the colors of your food, smell the aromas of your food, eat slower than you might normally to enjoy the texture and flavor of each bite.
Mindfulness is an easy, inexpensive, wonderful way to support your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing. What is mindfulness? Try this: Think of your favorite restaurant. Now imagine standing in front of the building just before you open the door. Okay imagine yourself opening the door. You would be able to describe probably in great detail exactly what would be seen inside the door. Notice what you feel like stepping into your favorite restaurant.
There you go! You have just engaged in a mindfulness moment. You brought your attention into the moment, created a space where you were focused and you were aware of your thoughts, feelings and maybe even a bodily sensation of being hungry.
Practicing maintaining an “in the moment awareness” of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment is mindfulness. This practice can be very relaxing, centering and renewing. Key to mindfulness creating this positive internal environment involves acceptance; meaning that the goal is to pay attention to thoughts and feelings without judging them or believing that there is a “right or wrong” way of thinking and feeling in any given moment.
A mindfulness practice can start with simply sitting down, relaxing and breathing deeply. This simple action helps center the mind and bring our thoughts into the present moment. Close your eyes and take notice of your breath – breathing in and out. After a few minutes, move your attention to your body. Start at the top of your head and move your way down one part at a time, noting any sensations like warmth stiffness or tingling. Just notice each aspect of the body.
Now take a moment to notice what part of your body feels the most relaxed. It could be your ear, your pinky finger, your chest or your toe. Whatever part feels relaxed let your awareness go there. Spend a few moments noticing the calm then imagine that calm as something with dimension…such as a color. Let this part of your body slowly share its color (relaxation) with the rest of your body. When your entire body is this color observe what your body feels like.
The more you practice such simple mindfulness exercises, the calmer your disposition will become in everyday life. You will experience less distraction, less stress, less frustration and less anxiety.