Can you remember your last lunch?
The one you ate today or yesterday.
Did you stop to look at the colours or the shades? Did you notice the aroma? What about the texture and taste once the food was in your mouth? Or did you wolf it down in one go with barely any time for it to hit your sides?
I used to do this so much that I’d get food stuck in my gullet. (Consequently the doctor told me to chew more).
One of the attitudes of Mindfulness is a Beginners Mind. It is a chance to slow down. To imagine that we are doing something for the first time. Therefore approaching events in life with new eyes and new senses.
Formal meditation is the times when we sit or lie and focus. During this time we pay attention to our body or mind, or to what’s going on in the world around us. Always in a non-judgmental, kind and gentle way.
We can bring this focused attention onto our normal everyday lives. While not stopping any of our usual activities, we can heighten our appreciation of moment to moment experience. All in the same non-judgmental way.
Too much of our time is spent lost in thought.
Rushing from one activity to another.
Quite often we try several different tasks at the same time. These frantic ways cause much of our anxiety, unhappiness and tiredness. By using the beginners mind we can switch, just for a few moments, to another way. Even if we only do so for one or two of the different activities in our day, in those moments we move away from the ‘doing’ mode and into the mode of ‘being.’
Our lives offer lots of opportunities to just ‘be’ and not to ‘do.’ To be a beginner again. To bring all awareness to something, like it’s the very first time.
Here are five simple ways:
First thing when you wake up, spend a few minutes just noticing your breathing. Just being aware of the sensations in your body. The awareness of the rise and fall of your chest, of the steady inhalations and exhalations of air. Expand your awareness to the feelings outside you, to the duvet, to the pillow. What sounds and smells are there?
What sensations, feelings do you have?
Notice anything and everything in both your internal and external world. Even if it’s only a minute. Now it’s time to get up! Enjoy your day!
I always thought that watching the kettle meant it wouldn’t boil, but it turns out that with a bit of mindful practice it’s possible. Watching water boil not your cup of tea?! How about making a cup of coffee! As you prepare the coffee notice the smell.
If you grind the beans take a few in your hands and notice their feel. What do they smell like? What sound does the grinder make? Do the ground beans smell different from the un-ground one?
Notice the steam rising off the boiling kettle. Can you tell from the sound the point at which it will boil?
Does the smell of the coffee change again as you pour water on it? Can you notice the smell wafting up to your nose?
Finally, is the coffee fresh, tasty, worthwhile?
As a result of your attention is it now one of the best coffee’s you’ve tasted?
We often approach journey’s as a routine. In our mind we’ve already labelled the experience “the unpleasant bus ride” or “the journey to work.” We then experience the journey through these labels.
But there’s another way.
You can approach the journey fresh, through the beginners mind. Try to notice everything around you, as if it’s the first time. The route may be the same, but the people, sights, sounds and smells aren’t identical. Experience is always fresh when you experience it in the here and now.
Unless you’re in danger of missing your stop, why not close your eyes and explore the sounds that enter your ears. Your journey will never be the same.
During work we have many conversations, but how often do we really listen?
How often do we focus on what a person has to say, rather than listening to our own thought stream?
Try to be more attentive than usual to their words and try to listen without a reaction. Listen in an emphatic, non-judgmental way without formulating responses in your mind.
What do their words and body language tell you? Have heard them?
Listening is one of the most important skills we have. Neglect it at your peril.
No matter what the day is like. No matter how rushed or busy it is. And no matter how much there is to do. Try to take a few moments just for yourself.
Switch from ‘doing’ to ‘being.’
Take one Mindful breath with your awareness on that act.
If you find it easy to get caught up in doing, then consider setting a few reminders at regular intervals. By giving yourself a few minutes of downtime to just be, the rest of your doing time is likely to be more productive as a result.
All of the above exercises might seem a little silly or inconsequential, but they can have a big effect. And you don’t need to do all of them or to do them everyday. In fact, you don’t even need to do any. Just by reading about them you are increasing your awareness that there is another way to exist. To be.
One that treats each experience as fresh. One that tries to step outside our mind, into the actual experience as it is.
Most people who do the exercises, however, do report benefits. Soon you might be waking up with a whole new mind-set and having a much happier productive day.
You might be happier too!
Matt is a trained and licenced Mindfulness teacher and Stress and Anxiety Reduction Counsellor operating in and around the Peterborough area. After overcoming his own stress and anxiety he's found his purpose teaching others to do the same.
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