“Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now.” Eckhart Tolle.
The Buddhists call it our monkey mind. We are out of the present moment, swinging between the past and the future. Our busy mind is almost always thinking, and it tends to be about something we should have done or something we need to do. It takes a lot of effort to stay fully aware in the present moment. We probably don’t realize the tremendous amount of time we spend with our minds bouncing between the past and the future.
A busy mind can be really draining, and you may feel powerless to stop it. And so.. we turn to distraction; with TV, Facebook, and other social media. We multitask. The mind is so used to being busy. But as my first yoga teacher often said, we are not human doings. We are human beings.
We need to just be. But how?
Mindfulness, being actively intent on staying in the moment. This can bring so much peace and joy into your life, and make the day feel like it’s a bit more in your control. But it also means breaking a habit you may not have given much attention to.
There are myriad benefits to practicing mindfulness, which you can find all over the internet. But the most important one (in my humble opinion) is that you will better enjoy your life, and what better gift could you give yourself? Here’s a little quiz if you want to assess how mindful you currently are.
I think mindfulness is why I fell so hard for yoga in the first place. Yoga is a form of moving meditation. The definition of yoga is to yolk the mind and the body. I also think this is why yin yoga and savasana are so hard and so many people avoid it; when our bodies are still there is nothing to distract our mind.
So how to get started? Here’s what is working for me.
First, be intentional.
Write on a post-it note on your bathroom mirror ‘be present’ or something that alerts you first thing (when your brain is fresh) to your intention. My husband may think I’m crazy…or maybe its helping him too!
* Begin to observe your thoughts
As often as you can, shine the spotlight of your attention on the type of thoughts you have. Like, catch yourself in a thought and then label ‘past’ or ‘present’ without feeling bad or judging yourself. Just bringing awareness to your thoughts is a big step and it takes practice. Believe me! I’ve been working on this for awhile and I still have days that go by and I completely forget. But thats ok, I try again the next day.
* Incorporate mindful breathing
Try this now, breathe with awareness. Close your eyes and feel your breath move in. It may sound so simple but it will bring you into the present. Breathe in and out a few times. Feel the power of your breath. Feel your shoulders relax as the rise and fall of your breath slows you down.
Seriously, try it now- stop reading this and do it!!
Ok, did you do it? How do you feel? Maybe try to do this throughout your day to bring yourself peace and into the present. Its like a mini-meditation.
* Some resources that have helped me along the way…
If you watch Kino’s meditations on Periscope she will often begin by saying “Arrive at this moment in time.” I just love that! I say it to myself as I begin to breathe in and out. We are just clearing our head and being present with our body in the now. Even in the car or the bathroom, those moments of solitude are the perfect place to start!
Have you seen the adult coloring books? These are another calming way to be more aware of the present while you are doing something.
Another tip for steering your attention to the present is to notice your senses. I learned this from the Headspace app, if you have time to meditate this is a simple way to get started but it can also help with mindfulness.
* Use all of your senses to tune in
Noticing what is around you by using your senses can easily help you stay in the NOW. Like asking yourself, “what can I feel?” or “what can I hear?” Just notice without letting your thoughts run away. So it’s not like, “I hear the fridge, that thing is loud, we need a new one, I should check consumer reports.” And I’m off on a tangent… Its like, “I hear the fridge” or “The water feels warms.” Notice and be with it. Don’t follow a thought train further or attach judgment- its neither good or bad, it just is. Am I making any sense?
By trying to focus on what I am doing, I am helping my mind to be full of the present moment. And the key word is try. You will get distracted. You will think about your nails, or pizza or that show on Amazon prime (have you seen Good Girls Revolt?! wait where was I? oh ya…) And when you find yourself drifting, just gently guide yourself back to the present moment…again and again!
I found the easiest way to begin being mindful- other than yoga- was meditative walking and showering. You are moving and its just easier to be fully present while your legs are moving or the water is running over your skin. Soon everyday tasks like making dinner, driving, doing dishes, and cleaning become opportunities to practice. Instead of a racing, busy (and easily frustrated) mind you can begin to be fully present and joyful in the now. Which is the only time that life is.
* Set yourself up for success!
It may help to have your phone or a pad of paper nearby you so when something pops in your head you can jot it down for later. The reminders app on my iPhone and my calendar app are super helpful for me. You can even set reminders to yourself to be mindful 🙂
If you have time, watch this!
“Look past your thoughts so you may drink the pure nectar of this moment.” Rumi
I wish you luck on your own mindfulness journey!
In love and gratitude,