When I was about 7 years old, I remember lying down in the back of my mother’s car after an exciting and exhausting day. As I looked up through the window, I could see the light peeking through the tree leaves as we sped through our usual school to home route.
There was something about that image of nature and the smooth gliding of my mother’s driving that sent me into a deep state of awareness.
I could feel the texture of the car wheels on the pavement, the wind shaking the trees, the heaviness of my tired body sinking into the fabric of the car seat. My body was ready to receive and process a huge amount of sensory information without being overwhelmed.
It felt natural and effortless, like I was always meant to experience the world in that copacetic and kindred way.
I wish I could say I slip into this state as easily nowadays, but unfortunately, I cannot.
With life being the carousel of experiences that it is, I find that I need to make a concerted effort to release and surrender the barrage of thoughts unrelated to the present moment. This is one of the reasons I practice mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
From the Oxford Dictionary, we get the following definition of mindfulness:
1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. "their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition"
2. a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
How Can I Become Mindful?
Spending time by yourself to become fully present and in the moment is truly a rare experience in the world today. Getting there can seem impossible, but if you consider the following, you may find it a bit more accessible.
Step One: Think about Why
Whether your goal is to reduce stress, improve your sleep, or simply to slow down and better appreciate the things around you and/or yourself, defining what you want to gain from mindfulness improves your success when embarking on the practice.
Take a moment to think about it and imagine your preferred outcome. Write it down, say it out loud, and announce your intentions to the universe to make it real and tangible for yourself.
Step Two: Don’t get too caught up on How
There are a lot of methods on how to do mindfulness - seated or walking meditation, breathing, listening to music, writing, going for a drive, talking it out, practicing yoga, swimming, or enjoying a long bath - the possibilities are endless.
**Reminder** - The one thing all of these methods have in common is that they do not use substances. As long as you don’t try to use substances to achieve mindfulness, whatever technique gets you into a heightened state of peace is the best one for you.
Try as many or as few as you like, and trust your body’s instinct for achieving mindfulness.
Step Three: Be practical about When
Setting aside time to practice mindfulness often ends unsuccessfully because we already have too much going on in the day. A better method is to add a mindful moment to something you already have in your routine.
For me, I like to take the 1:30 minutes that I heat up my tea in the morning. I might try a breathing exercise, mantra, or yoga pose for the duration of the 90 seconds. Since my morning tea is already a strong habit, it isn’t an enormous amount of extra energy to add a mindfulness exercise.
In my opinion, this is the easiest way to make mindfulness a part of your daily routine.
I hope that these three steps will help you on your mindful journey. It can be very challenging at first to get through the mental chatter that many of us are used to hearing every day. This is normal.
Remember: the first effort you make is always the hardest and the more time you spend practicing mindfulness, the easier it will get to be able to access that state.