Mindfulness – a way of perceiving, thinking, and behaving
Life can feel overwhelming, frantic and exhausting at times. Just think of everything going on right now, our unstable economy, load-shedding, and interrupted water supply, to name a few. And it’s impacting our happiness and health.
As our minds fill with chatter, our worldview becomes tainted and distorted, and our ability to be present is lost. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment. You would be forgiven for thinking that mindfulness is just an activity; in fact, mindfulness is a way of perceiving and observing, and it can be developed using various tools. Some of these tools include meditation, exercises, and breathing.
Mindfulness takes us beyond coping and making do. To be mindful means paying attention to what is happening in the mind, body, and immediate environment and remaining present. It improves in response to a straightforward meditation practice that increases awareness of thoughts, sensations, and feelings.
Moreover, mindfulness is not complicated. The practice can be as simple as an awareness of a simple daily task, and it doesn’t have to take long. Feeling unsure how to start, try these simple one-minute mindfulness exercises.
This is a chance for you to step out of the daily grind and allow time to be present with yourself; that is, being present with yourself and whatever arises in your mind and body. Take a minute to observe your breathing. Breathe in and out as you usually would: notice the time between each inhalation and exhalation; notice your lungs expanding. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
You can practice mindful walking any time as you go about your day. It’s good to try it slowly at first, but once you’re used to it, you can practise it at any pace – even when rushing. Walk slowly: become aware of the sensations in the soles of your feet as they make contact with the floor and any sensations in the muscles of the legs. You don’t have to look down at your feet. When your mind wanders, use the contact of the feet on the floor as an anchor to bring you back into the present moment. Just take a minute to focus on the sensations generated by walking.
Eating mindfully can take us out of autopilot, helping us appreciate and enjoy the experience more. The next time you eat, stop to observe your food. Give it your full attention. Notice the texture: really see it, feel it, smell it, take a bite into it – noticing the taste and texture in the mouth – continue to chew, bringing your full attention to the taste of it.
Taking this time out to tune in to your environment and listen to what it tells you will help you bring mindfulness into the rest of your life – bringing your awareness as you move through the day. Take a minute to listen to the sounds in your environment. You don’t need to try and determine the origin or type of sounds you hear; just listen and absorb the experience of their quality and how it resonates with you. If you recognise a sound, label it and move on, allowing your ears to catch new sounds.
As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment.”