Mindfulness is a concept which has swept its way over from the east, and is beginning to enter the lives of millions across the globe. It is a practice which encourages you to stay in the present moment fully and completely, adsorbing it with all of your senses. It helps you to be awake and alive, rather than walking around in a dazed slumber, or running around on autopilot.
You can apply mindfulness to any part of your life, and as you practice it you may find that life is best when lived as mindfully as possible. In that respect, the aim of the practice is that life itself becomes a more mindful process. You can be internally mindful too. See here for a step-by-step guide to internal meditation.
Mindfulness: A Walk In The Park
If you need help understanding the concept then take a moment to think about some examples. Imagine two people walking through a quiet park. One of them is walking very fast, talking on his mobile phone, and eating his donut. His mind is racing because he is late for work, and the time pressure causes him to glance between his watch and his emails. He is also worrying about a meeting next week. The second man is walking calmly, breathing in the air, enjoying a steady pace. He is feeling his feet as they curl on the ground, and his legs as a slight pressure shows that he is exercising his muscles. He can feel his heart beat raising slightly, and his blood flowing well. He hears the birds and smells the flowers as he brushes passed them. All of his thoughts are on the present; a slow analysis of his current experience; “that smells nice”, “the wind is refreshing”, “my feet are hurting”, and so on.
To further understand go and practice mindfulness right now. Take a walk around your living room, or your garden, or a park or green space that you love. Instead of rushing around, trying to “finish” the walk so you can get on with your next task, just take your time and stay present. This may take some effort at first; to adjust back to the present moment when you drift away. When you find yourself elsewhere come back to your senses, the reality of the moment, and the experience of now. Feel your body as you walk, and feel any other sensations that come your way. Try to take in your surroundings moment by moment, letting your thoughts and environment wash over you in an eternal now.
Eating Mindfully- Engage The Senses And Stay Present
This is a really fun exercise that will help you to enjoy and embrace mindfulness. Take a piece of your favorite chocolate, or if you prefer a healthy snack like a raison. Make sure it is something small, and something that you will enjoy. Usually you would shove it straight in your mouth and chomp it until there is nothing left, lick your lips, and cry out for more, right? That’s not going to happen this time.
You are going to mindfully eat your chocolate, and in doing so one piece will be enough to satisfy you. This is a common exercise in mindfulness classes:
- Take the chocolate in your hand. Feel the texture of it. Roll it around in your fingers, and squeeze it in your palm. Run your fingers around it, and really start to get an idea of what it feels like to touch. Is it warming in your hand? Melting a little at the edges perhaps? Is it soft to touch? Does it bend? Do you want to eat it yet?
- Next bring the piece of chocolate up to eye level. Look at the color of it. Is it dark chocolate, white, or milk? Does it have a pattern on it, or a brand design? Is it thick? How does it make you feel when you look at it? Does it look like good quality chocolate? Look at it for a good minute or so at least. Contemplate its origins, and its journey from being a plant, to being close to your mouth. (This exercise also eventually leads to a natural development of the need to eat more healthy and responsibly sourced foods).
- When you have finished looking and contemplating, bring the chocolate up to your ear. This may sound ridiculous, but your hearing is a sense too, and this only helps to build the growing anticipation. If you were using a raison for example, a squeeze of it would reveal a very slight juicy noise. Nevertheless, give the chocolate a rub and a squeeze. Does it make much a noise, or no noise at all?
- When you are ready you can bring the chocolate up to your mouth, but do not bite it. Simply place it on your tongue for a couple of seconds, and then remove it. Remain present and mindful as the first sweet taste works it way around your mouth. How does it taste? Sweet? Does it have a tangy edge, or a sharp taste? Is it creamy and rich? What is the consistency?
- Take one little bite out of the corner of the chocolate, just a tiny bit to start with. Allow it to roll around your mouth until it completely melts away.
- Place the whole piece (assuming it is small) on your tongue and allow the chocolate to melt away, releasing its flavors. You have made it this far in the mindfulness exercise, so don’t ruin it by rushing the final part. You have explored all of your senses, and now it is time for the main event. Take your time and enjoy every sensation that tantalizes your taste buds. Suck the chocolate for a bit, and then bite into it to feel the texture. Is it solid, or has it meted enough to be soft? Is there any crunch? Does the bite release more flavor?
When you have finished you can take another piece, but do it mindfully again. You will find much more satisfaction eating this way, and you will hence be able to deal with bad habits like over-indulging and over-eating. You can do a similar mindfulness practice with any simple activity in your life. Stay present and with the experience of life; that is all that is required to be mindful. I bet you never thought one piece of chocolate could be so good?