When most people think about mindfulness, they envision sitting quietly, perhaps in the lotus position, eyes closed and breathing deeply. While this is a truly effective way to practice mindfulness, it’s not the only way. Activity can provide a great platform for becoming more mindful, too!
Move Your Way to Awareness
The key to becoming more mindful is paying attention to all the nuances around you — from sights and sounds to smells and skin sensations. You feel emotions and let them exist. You don’t fight them. When you move, whether by walking or via wheelchair, you are engaging not only your muscles, but also your senses. The following exercise is designed to help you become more mindful whether you’re going from the car to your building, or out for a stroll.
What You’ll Need
Obviously, you don’t need much, as conveying yourself from one point to another is a large part of the average day’s activities. Part of mindfulness is being aware of everything, so don’t go out of your way to change anything about your routine.
What to Do
Decide when you’re going to practice mindfulness — this is important to start with, but as you become more adept at it, it will come naturally in all situations. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to practice mindfulness. It’s all about you and deepening your awareness, so there’s no set of rules that dictate exactly how it should be done. Rather, I am providing you with some guidelines that you can modify until everything feels right to you.
1. As you set out, choose one sense to focus on. This can be what you’re hearing around you, the feeling of the ground or floor moving underneath you, the feeling of the air on your skin or the colors and shapes you see.
2. Once you’ve settled on a sense, focus as much as possible on everything in that realm.
For example, let’s say “Josh” is focusing on his sense of touch. It’s a slightly foggy winter morning. He steps out of his car and the first thing he notices is the feeling of heaviness in the air. The cold crispness is cut by the damp feeling that moves across his face. His stomach growls, causing a slight fluttering under his sternum. He shuts the car door, noticing the vibration move up through his arm as his fingers come in contact with the dew gathered on the door handle.
As he steps away, he can feel the impact of the concrete against the soles of his shoes and the weight of his briefcase in his hand. He notices his left ear itches slightly and the collar of his coat is tugging against his neck. His breath comes out in small puffs of steam and his nose is growing cold. As he reaches the building he can feel the movement of the doormats rolling under his feet slightly. When he opens the door, he is enveloped in a cloud of heated air.
In this scenario, “Josh” is fully aware of everything that is going on with and around him. He has tapped into the moment and is experiencing each sensation as it happens. He is not judging it or questioning it — just observing it.
Now it’s YOUR job to choose a sense to focus on as you move from Point A to Point B. Whether it is the textures of your furnishings and the quality of the light you’re seeing, or the tang of fresh-cut grass on the air, focus on everything you can within that sense’s scope.
Don’t worry if you aren’t noticing much — it’s going to take a while to get used to viewing the world in this more objective and accepting manner. Allow thoughts and judgments to come and go as you move, taking in each new thing and noticing it before letting it go.
Mindfulness doesn’t happen overnight, but once you start to embrace it and notice the world through this new set of lenses, you’ll find yourself feeling calmer, more accepting and generally more connected with your body, your mind and your environment.