In the early morning, as I sit at the kitchen table, I listen to the humming and bustle of my neighbours through the apartment wall. Their creaks and thuds echo through the floor, adding percussion to the soft melody of water flowing through the pipes below. I sip my coffee slowly between the soft chewing of each Cheerio bite. I feel the crunch in my teeth and taste the mellow bitterness of the previous sip of coffee. Through the window, there shines thin white rays and the blinds sway from the humming fan’s wind. Though the moment is brief, it is full of life.
Mindfulness is a popular and often mystified practice that has shown to have tremendous psychological and physical benefits. Its mysticism, by my understanding, it tied to its association with eastern religion, new age-ism, and the seemingly endless variations of yoga. Ironically, mindfulness requires no belief system and is used in some of the most scientifically stringent psychological and behavioural approaches available today. It has shown to help ease anxiety, depression, PTSD, high blood pressure, and hypertension among other serious conditions. Check out some empirically supported mindfulness facts here.
Mindfulness is simply a practice of awareness. Being mindful means to be aware of whatever is happening in the current moment, internally and externally, as if observing the passing of clouds in the sky. It can be done anywhere at any time. Doing so allows us to play a more active and thoughtful role in our actions, speech and thought, which contributes to a greater state of well being and self control. The book “Mindfulness For Beginners: Reclaiming The Present Moment And Your Life” By John Kabat-Zinn will help you to better understand mindfulness.
Here are Four Mindfulness Exercises For Beginners to help get you started:
DOING THE DISHES
Most of us know the dreaded sight (and smell) of a dirty dishes in the sink. Cleaning dishes is often seen as a burden, but can actually be an excellent way to boost your mood.
I recommend starting small. Begin by cleaning the plate or bowl used to eat your last meal or a coffee cup if you’re at work. Focus on the temperature of the water, the smooth surface of the dish, and the tension in your fingers. Slowly expand this awareness to your arms and then your shoulders. Are they tense? Focus on relaxing your muscles, listen to the sound of flowing water, the clinking of dishes or silverware and chatter in the room.
COOKING AND EATING A MEAL
Cooking, like most chores, can either be a stress inducer or stress reliever. Having to cook for yourself or others can seem like more work than it’s worth. However, by working slowly, paying special attention to each step, each chopping of the vegetable, the sound of a sizzling pan and the smell of seasonings, can help you become more absorbed in the process.
Trying cooking as if you’re making each meal for someone you love (and usually we are!) even if you’re cooking for yourself. Try adding music or a favourite beverage to your cooking routine. Treat cooking as a gift to yourself and others, even if it’s a simple pot of mac n’ cheese.
MAKING THE BED
Slipping into a nicely made bed at night can be one of the best feelings after a long, hard day. However, making the bed after being jolted awake at five in the morning is usually not.
Begin by practicing mindfulness as you awake. Pay attention to the light coming in the room, the softness of bed, the chirping of birds or bustle of cars outside the window. As you rise out of bed, feel the softness (or hardness) of the floor below your feet. Move slowly, paying attention to your muscles as they begin to stretch. Pull the sheets up slowly, like wrapping a present, tucking in each spot with care. Set up the bed in whatever way you find most appealing and imagine the joy it will bring at the end of the day.
By doing this simply task, you have already rewarded yourself at the end of the day and overcame the first obstacle of the day!
SITTING AND WALKING
If the chores above seem too difficult a place to start, try being mindful of sitting in your chair or on the couch. Even as we watch TV or surf the internet, we can be aware of our state of mind, posture, how it feels to laugh at our favourite show or react to sad news story. Each moment has a wealth of experiences that await our attention.
Lastly, try practicing mindfulness while walking. Imagine each step as a kiss to the earth below. Feel the pressure on your feet, the weight being held by your knees and wind against your face. If you’re feeling ambitious, focus on the sounds and sights and how they affect your thoughts. With each step, a new world of experience emerges.
LIVE AS IF EVERYTHING IS A MIRACLE
Part of practicing mindfulness is embracing the way things are in this very moment. Mindfulness is an acceptance of life as it is, even during the most mundane and boring tasks. After some practice, we become more aware of the subtleties of life and everyday routines become a gift rather than a burden. Though it is simple to begin, mindfulness can be quite difficult to maintain, as it forces us out of our everyday “auto-pilot” way of experiencing the world. This can take great effort at times, but becomes easier as we continue. It is important to set aside certain tasks or times each day to practice this and soon it will generalize into more aspects of life.
“If you clean the floor with love, you have given the world an invisible painting.” – Osho
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Bio: Kristopher Keith is a practicing therapist and writer for Living-Lite.com. His writing emphasises mindfulness, simple living and intentionality as way of creating and maintaining a life of wellness and peace.