Humans have come a long way and if I were to describe us in less than twenty words we’d be; globe flying, web-surfing, wing-suit gliding and dentist fearing moon walkers! Advancements today have allowed us to achieve things and change lives like never before and although we thrive in this age and time, we have inadvertently also become the sheep in an ever moving herd. In other words, life is passing us by.
For instance, you spend your typical day getting to a job that probably doesn’t challenge you, running errands on the way back home, half-mindedly interacting with your family, carrying out the humdrum routine of your day and finally on the way to bed, you wonder, where did today go? It’s possible you feel like you are always occupied, that everyday feels the same and that time seems to be an elusive factor that you just don’t have enough of.
Feel doomed? I assure you, you’re not. Let’ start by understanding that throughout any day we are flowing in a never ending current of thoughts and emotions. We are seldom completely present in any moment and that’s… where we miss LIFE. It’s like that time you drove towards a destination and when you finally reached you just couldn’t remember the journey. This mode of living is mindless-ness. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is being PRESENT and AWARE of every moment from your thoughts to feelings, your bodily sensations to your surroundings, without judgment and through acceptance. When we are able to observe and perceive every moment consciously, we slow down and create space for ourselves to uncover a whole new perception, one that allows us to connect with our true selves.
Now, what is the purpose of being mindful? We are seldom completely engrossed in any activity we perform because we’re constantly distracted and that makes us less effective and diminishes our experience. Mindfulness helps center our attention and we are able to observe as the source or an impartial witness of the thought or experience and not as someone who is defined by those thoughts and experiences. Mindfulness is not something you can adopt after a few minutes of practice; there is no shortcut or a cookie
cutter approach to developing it; it is a commitment and a way of life. Fortunately, there are many ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life without necessarily taking off to the Himalayas to meditate, although no doubt, that would be super too. Any activity can be mindfully performed when you bring your complete attention to it. You can start today, quite simply, by doing the following:
1) Breathe– What is the most natural, involuntary and untaught activity that we’ve been doing from the time we have come into this world?— Breathe. Conscious breathing is a well-established and practiced method in various relaxation techniques, meditation and yogic practices that engage our minds in an open, relaxed yet alert stage. It is a way to ground ourselves in the present.
2) Delight in the morning routine– This could be one of those rare times, you get to be alone with yourself and presents an easy opportunity to practice mindfulness. Observe everything from the sound of the toothbrush against your teeth to the way water runs down your skin or the subtle smell of the soap. Immerse yourself in the moment in every activity.
3) Observe Your Surrounding– Look up from the electronic device in your hand and acknowledge the brush of a carefree breeze, the slightly different green of new leaves, the chair in your living room or an article of a loved one. See them for what they are, observe the color, texture and the feel and as though you’re seeing it for the first time.\
4) Take advantage of Red Lights and Traffic Jams– Funny probably, but you can chose these brief moments to put down your cell phones and take deep breaths all the way down to you bellies and exhale any stress, negative thoughts and fears you may be riddled with. Alternatively, observe what do you see and hear outside. Do not judge, just observe.
5) Appreciate Noisy Reminders– Do you experience a sound or noise that occurs every day? Well use them as reminders to stretch, breathe deeply, say something positive to yourself, watch your posture, and relax your jaw, shoulder or neck. Often the simplest of exercises repeated can culminate into the most positive of effects on your mind and body throughout the day, every day.
6) Cook Mindfully– Cooking one or two meals of the day is an inevitable part of most of our routine. Ever delved into the color of carrots or the softness of cheese? As insignificant as it may sound, observe the feel, the texture and color of the food you’re handling with almost a childlike inquisitiveness. I remember when my baby cousin had visited me once, I caught her staring at the fruit bowl and she said something that stuck
with me. She said, ‘Don’t the oranges and melons and apples look so happy? They just look so colorful and happy!’
7) Pray– Praying is one of the most powerful ways to connect with our true selves and rid us of any stress and negativity. No matter what the faith or belief, we have nothing to hide or lie and we are our truest when praying. It is at this time when we remove our titles, the many faces we wear and present ourselves as we are. All of our thoughts and feelings are open and bare towards that one source that makes us feel safe and heard.
8) Gratitude and Compassion– Every day you wake up is a reason to feel thankful. Every day presents opportunities to help someone, make someone smile, apologize to someone you have hurt, forgive someone and start fresh without carrying yesterday’s baggage. Every day is an opportunity to feel compassion and empathy not just towards people but also towards the tree that stands just outside your house or perhaps the pigeon that’s taken a liking to your balcony!
9) Mindful eating– This part can perhaps do you a little more than enjoying a meal. We often watch television or engage in phone conversations while eating. We focus on anything but eating. Understand while eating; are you really hungry or just bored? Are you enjoying the food? What does it taste like, what are the colors and textures of the food? Chew consciously and completely. When you consciously savor every bite, your
body takes in the nourishment better opposed to when you mindlessly gobble.
10) Joy in Pets and Children– Constant engagement with your kids or pets may exhaust you but instead of driving yourself crazy, focus on how they find joy at their level, it’s simple and humbling. Kids and pets have very few inhibitions, fears or worries. Take a backseat, get down to their level, laugh and play your worries away.
11) Serenity in household chores– This may be one of the most boring and a mundane activity of your day but it does not have to be. Cleaning, dusting, ironing or washing can be done consciously. You can simple observe your activities as you do them mindfully or observe your thoughts, pay attention to your posture or repeat positive affirmations.
12) Smile– Wake up every morning, look at yourself in the mirror and smile. Smile to yourself, feel beautiful inside out and walk out believing it’s a perfect day. Wouldn’t you agree that’s a wonderful way to start your day? Why do we wait for an external factor to influence the way we feel, why not be the reason ourselves? You are only as happy and peaceful as you allow yourself to be.
13) Acceptance– Our idea of an ideal life comes not from our own but other’s understanding and what’s being fed to us through media and advertisements. When we accept people the way they are, stop trying to change and control everything and everyone, we are more at peace. It does not bother us anymore and it so happens that our inner state of peace inevitably reflects in the outer.
14) Connect with Earth– Know that you are part of an intricate system that’s interconnected. Everything you do no matter on how small a scale affects everything around you. Be kind to everyone and everything, use resources as needed without abuse. Everything that’s outside of us appearing to exist as discrete units, seemingly irrelevant and divorced, in essence is one. You are part and parcel of this system.
15) Meditate– Why meditate? Throughout a day filled with a million things to do and think and engage in, meditation is that one escape portal where we quiet the mind and shift our state of mind from negative to positive from loud to quiet from troubled to peacefulness. It is in fact the preliminary step to mindful living. You can start with a few minutes and build from there.
Often we think the solution to our problems is getting away from it. It’s not always about quitting your job, staying away from your family or taking off on a never-to-return trip around the world. No matter what line of work you are in or the kind of routine and struggles you have, the answer often is in the way we PERCEIVE it. When we consciously observe every moment, even when doing the most mundane tasks, in the sheer spirit of curiosity and study, without judgment and with acceptance, we unfold new avenues to
understand and adapt. When you live mindfully, you no longer feel the need for more time because it’s passing you by but because you can’t have enough of a life so rich and meaningful. Yes it takes commitment, as with anything else, but would you have it any other way?