When we think of mindfulness, what often comes to mind is an image of people sitting in lotus position with eyes closed silently meditating. I’ll admit that there was a time when even just the idea of sitting meditation made me squirm.
So what’s the deal with mindfulness?
Nowadays it feels like you can’t get through the week without running into some mention of mindfulness. What is mindfulness and what is it actually good for?
I like this definition by The Greater Good Magazine: “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”
The literature expounding on the benefits of mindfulness has been growing exponentially in the past decade, reporting on improvement in immune function, stress reduction, lowering of emotional reactivity and reduced rumination (anxious repeatedly worrying). Mindfulness also boosts working memory and increases focus - remodeling the brain to improve learning capacity through the magic of neuroplasticity.
But I don’t have time . . .
So it turns out that mindfulness is not so much something you do, as it is a way of being. Awareness is simply a matter of slowing down and paying attention.
In my everyday life. I try to pay attention to sensory inputs, like how the toothbrush feels when I am brushing my teeth. Can I feel the breeze on my skin when I step outside?
Even mundane chores can be done with mindfulness. My teacher and famed health guru Dr Andy Weil likes to talk about how much he enjoys washing the dishes after dinner as a mindfulness practice.
Take 5 minutes
In a world that is too full of stress and urgency, mindfulness becomes a deliberate practice of intentionally slowing down to notice how my body feels when I am
walking or exercising.
Challenge yourself to try it. What if you set your timer for 5 minutes and slow down? What do you notice? Are you hearing the voices of your co-workers in the background, the hum of the air-conditioner, the rumble of traffic outside?
One of my favorite mindfulness activities is creating art. Time is virtually suspended as I play and work through each of the problems presented in rendering any given piece.
And yes, it can take just 5 minutes. Check out the 5 Minute Art post by one of my favorite bloggers at the Amy Maricle at the Mindful Art Studio.
Amy Maricle is an art therapist who teaches that art is about the creative process, rather than about creating perfection. I love that she sees art as the “natural creative expression that is the birthright of each one of us.”
Greater Good Magazine: Science-based insights for a meaningful life is published by the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California at Berkeley.