Do you need to sit on the meditation cushion to practice mindfulness? No. In fact, you've probably practiced mindfulness hundreds of times, but you just didn't call it that.
Mindfulness is the practice of giving all of your attention to whatever it is you're doing in any given moment. Now, here's the thing. Because our minds tend to wander, and because we're distracted and hyper-stimulated, it takes a lot of practice to be present. But it's more than worth it.
The rewards of this practice are rich and many. Living mindfully grounds you in your five senses. You notice more. You feel more. You become more sensitive to your inner and outer environment. You become aware of how much of your daily activity is on autopilot. You notice countless patterns of thought that run like a repeating loop in your mind, draining your precious energy.
Mindfulness is all about waking up and living the life you already have.
So how can you live a more mindful life? As we launch into the New Year, here a few ways that you can practice mindfulness in 2016.
This is one of my favorites. Whatever you're doing, wherever you are, just stop. Listen with every fiber of your being. What do you hear? Allow the waves of sounds to wash over your being. Notice the fact that you are in the midst of a soundscape.
As you listen, watch as your attention starts to sift through the layers of sound. You'll hear things you never hear but were there all the time. You just weren't paying attention. Notice the sensations in your body as you do this.
What do you feel? Can you let go into the sound? Can you feel your attention expanding into the soundscape? What does that feel like? Focus on your solar plexus and the space behind your eyes. Do you notice contraction or expansion?
As you practice this mindful listening, observe how you can only fully listen like this when you're totally present and attentive in the moment. This simple exercise has the power to open new worlds for you. Among other things, it's a gateway to deep relaxation.
Do yourself a major favor and build up your mindfulness muscles by practicing this little exercise for a few minutes every day.
2. Watch Your Mind
Have you ever spent time observing the movement of your own mind? It's a powerful exercise.
Our mind ranges across a vast landscape of thought throughout the day. It waxes and wanes in its clarity. It's up, it's down, it's positive, it's negative, it's nursing its wounds in the basement, and the next thing you know it's shouting about its victories from the roof tops.
And not surprisingly, this all follows a predictable pattern. But most of us never really awaken to this fact. We just live in the movie theater drama of our minds, believing it all to be the essence of who we are.
But we don't need to. It's possible to step outside the erratic rattle and prattle of our minds. How? By paying attention to it.
The moment you choose to pay attention to the movement of your mind, you step outside of it's habitual momentum.
Now, I'm not saying that it's easy. But it's a worthy exercise. As you start to watch the erratic nature of your mind, you'll notice that you don't have to follow the same patterns of your mind. You can act and make choices from a different place. Some traditions call this the "witness" awareness.
Just like the listening exercise, you can only "watch" your mind in the present moment. Allow yourself to tune in to your five senses. Be completely attentive to what you're doing. Then, simply observe the patterns of your mind. Where does it go?
As you practice this mindfulness exercise, the trick is not to get lost in your thoughts. Instead, keep coming back to the present moment. From this place of wholeness, you can continue to observe the movement of your mind. And be sure to do this without judgement. Just watch your mind without getting lost.
This takes a lot of practice, but over time, you'll get more and more sensitive to the difference between watching the mind and being lost in it.
Notice how your body feels when you start to get lost in thought. You'll always find that there is a subtle contraction in your body as you get involved in the thinking process. And conversely, you'll feel expansion in your being as you let go of it and return to the present moment.
We Are More Than Mere Mental Beings
Practicing mindfulness reminds us that we are more than merely mental beings. I believe that we are born with extraordinary gifts of perception and attention, but they are seldom nurtured and tended.
Life is a vibrant, animating, and mysterious force that flows through us, around us, and between us all the time. You and I are supple and sensitive organisms, and we are constantly receiving information, impressions, intelligence, and feelings from the world we live in. We literally need to be here now to receive and respond to all this.
These two simple mindfulness exercises will help you do that.
How do you plan to be more mindful in 2016? Share with us below!