We all lead busy lives. Jam packed full of errands and to-do lists, places to go and people to see. And we often forget to stop for a moment in between all those things to simply be present. Also, technology plays a big part in keeping us always on the go. Our smartphones and other devices seem to be constantly reminding us to PAY ATTENTION to the latest social media post, text message, or email. It can be increasingly difficult to disconnect from all that. As a result, mindfulness isn’t always at the top of our minds.
In my work with clients, I encourage them to start a regular mindfulness practice. Research has shown that meditation can play a part in managing hypertension and symptoms of ADHD, reducing stress in breast cancer patients, and improving overall mental health. But knowing those benefits and putting them into practice are sometimes very different things! It can feel overwhelming to try and add one more item to the every-growing to do list. Especially when we might have an incorrect idea of what it means to have a mindfulness practice.
So what does mindfulness mean?
When I first introduce the idea of mindfulness to my clients, many of them react by saying something along the lines of “but I don’t have hours to sit on a cushion!” And I agree– most of us don’t! But that’s not necessarily what it’s all about. Being mindful can be as easy as taking a 5 minute walk during your lunch break and paying attention to what’s happening around you in nature. Or spending a few moments throughout the day taking a few deeps breaths and noticing how it feels to simply breathe. Or truly savoring your morning cup of coffee without looking at your smartphone.
Mindfulness is being intentional about where we’re putting our attention. We can allow ourselves to get sucked into the busy-ness of daily life. Or we can choose to spend a few moments every day intentionally being mindful of what’s going on around us. Listen to the birds. See the vibrant colors of the spring flowers or changing autumn leaves. Notice how sunlight filters through window blinds. Feel the warmth of the afternoon or the cool morning air. It’s not difficult to simply stop and pay attention. In fact, you could do it right now as you’re reading this!
A personal example
Even though I encourage my clients to practice mindfulness regularly, I’m just as guilty as anyone else of forgetting or neglecting to do it. Recently, I was puppy sitting my parents’ new dog. We have a family dog who’s a few years old, and her daily routine is fairly well-established at this point. Adding a puppy (even for a week!) into the mix threw all of us off a bit. The family dog likes to stay inside and sleep in her bed most of the day. The puppy prefers to be outside, playing. So I spent a fair amount of time sitting on the back patio with the puppy. I’ll admit that the first couple of days, I tried to occupy that time with my smartphone.
But then I realized that I had the perfect opportunity to be mindful during those times. So I started intentionally leaving my phone inside the house and really started paying attention to what was going on outside. Early one morning I noticed a planet (probably Mars, but I’m not completely sure) right next to the moon before the sun fully rose. I heard the sound of a neighbor’s metal suncatcher scraping against itself in the breeze. I watched as a mama robin flew in and out of her nest in my peach tree. So many things I never would have noticed if I’d stayed buried in my smartphone.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a strict, hours-long, cushion-sitting practice. It can be as easy as opening your ears, your eyes, and your awareness to what’s happening all around you at any given moment. Give it a try today!
If you’re curious about my work, or want to know how music can be part of your mindfulness practice– I’m always happy to answer questions and provide more information. You can also check out my video here about a mindfulness app I like or here for a book recommendation.