Author | Photos Stephanie Greene

The Art of Mindfulness Can Start Anywhere, Anytime

If you really want to feel more in control of your life but you’ve never tried any kind of mindfulness practice, start here. A consistent mindfulness practice can make it easier to let go of past stresses, be calm when we need to be calm, and focus more intently on the present, which is where life is really happening! Mindfulness is a small, simple act that can be a big game-changer.

The thing is, our thoughts can carry us away places. They can put us into certain states of being, stick us into ruts, send us into spirals, and keep us up at night. These subtle, invisible things are really the bedrock of our day to day experience. The good news is, we have control over them; they’re the only thing in life we really can control! This is why I believe in mindfulness. 

Mindfulness is the practice of becoming totally aware of our thoughts, feelings, sensations and our environments from the perspective of a detached observer. In a mindfulness practice, when thoughts arise, we don’t need to attach to them, or spend too much time on them. We just observe them and let them pass. They might come up again, but we don’t need to worry about how we’ll feel when or if they do. We practice not worrying about anything aside from just the present moment. It’s about tuning into our senses in a deeper way. The more I do it, the better I feel, and honestly, the more rich my experience of life. 

There are so many ways to do it; you don’t just have to sit on a pillow and OM. Here are a few ways to incorporate more mindfulness into your day.

Get to a meditation class. Toronto is having a bit of a mindfulness renaissance right now, with more meditation studios popping up in the downtown core than ever before. Meditation classes are group meditation sessions led by a pro, who talks you through the whole process. This can be a super helpful intro if you’re new to it. You’ll definitely pick up a couple techniques you can try on your own. Good Space (360 Dufferin St.) Hoame (430 Adelaide St. W) Quiet Company (stay tuned for events). 

Stop multitasking. We are all guilty of doing way too many things at one time. Take a more mindful approach, and when you notice yourself moving too quickly, losing focus, or feeling frenzied, take a breath, and simplify. Do just one activity at a time and bring all your focused awareness to it. Close all tabs except one. Put down your phone and be engaged in the conversation you’re having. Walk without listening to a podcast. One thing at a time. 

Try a simple breathing exercise. A mindful breathing exercise can be as simple as breathing in, holding for three counts, then exhale and count seven breaths. The act of becoming more aware of your breath and counting yourself through it can bring you back into your body and the present. 

Take a mindful walk. Mindful walking is about taking a walk with the purpose of fully engaging with your senses. Feel your feet on the ground and the air on your skin. Smell the air. Listen to all the sounds near and far away from you. See everything as if you are there for the first time. I like doing this as a mini ritual to separate my morning from my afternoon when I work from home, or in the evening before bed. 

Do a body scan. This is a practice to try in the bath, laying down in bed, or just any time you want to take a break to tune into your body. In a body scan you bring your full awareness to each part of your body, starting at your toes, then working your way up to the top of your head. You can imagine your breath flowing into each part of your body, or just feeling the warmth in each spot. 

Eat or drink slowly, with your full attention. Mindful eating is about turning off all distractions and being present for every second of the experience. You are engaging your senses by noticing colours, smells, sounds, textures, and flavours. How different do you feel after eating mindfully as opposed to not? Try this with a cup of coffee and you’ll definitely feel a little more intensity.

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