Mindfulness is a return to paying attention to life. When we pay attention to our daily lives---really pay attention---we begin to slow down our personal story. We allow all five senses to speak to us and to be allowed in. We begin to notice and say “thank you” to all the previously unobserved gifts that punctuate our lives. We peacefully allow acceptance and gratitude.
Many will find mindfulness to be an unusually passive exercise that requires some guided focus on your part in the beginning. With acceptance of yourself and your world, mindfulness becomes part of you, within you.
The breath is the most obvious evidence of your living; it is the perpetual activity of you interacting with the world outside of yourself. With each in-breath, you bring that outside world within. With each out breath, you send part of your self out to the universe. Each minute. Each moment. The breath goes on.
Awakening to the breath is a wonderful first step in cultivating a mindful life.
Do this breath exercise any time you wish to quiet your mind and awaken to the present.
1. Breathe a few breaths naturally, bringing your attention to all aspects of the process. 2. Relax with the breath. Enjoy the breath. 3. Breathe in and think to yourself, "I am breathing in." 4. Notice how the in-breath slows and then stops. Allow it to happen naturally, but notice it. 5. Breathe out and count, "one." 6. Notice how the out-breath slows and then stops. 7. Breathe in and think, "I am breathing in." 8. Breathe out and count "two." 9. Continue these breath cycles until you count to ten. Keep your mind on the breath as much as you can. If your mind wanders, simply bring it back to the breath and continue.
In your lifetime, you will take countless life-giving and life sustaining breathes. Mindfulness allows you to enjoy at least a few of them.
Breathing and Noticing
Another mindfulness breathing exercise involves slowing your breathing in a purposeful and focused way.
1. Breathe in through your nose if you can (breathe through your mouth if needed) as you silently count to four. 2. Hold the breath as you count to four. 3. Breathe slowly out through your mouth a purposeful exhalation as you count to eight. 4. Rest between breaths as you count to four. 5. Throughout your breaths, notice the sensations in your body. The feel of your breath going purposefully in and out of your body. The weight of your body on your feet, your hips, in your arms. The weight of your head on your neck. Tensions in your muscles, relaxing with each breathe. The sound and feel of each beat of your heart. Peacefulness of breathing.
Count faster or slower to accommodate your breathing style. Keep your mind on your breath and your counting.
Repeat the exercise 10 times.
Mindfulness at the Supermarket (Adapted from Frederick Burggraf, from "The CAMP System: Learning to Live in Harmony and Balance with Food," DayOne Publishing.)
It may seem strange to bring mindfulness to the supermarket, but what better place to be fully aware of all the usually unnoticed gifts we have presented to us?
Try this exercise the next time you shop. Honor the food you purchase by realizing how much effort, indeed how much human toil and even sadness, is involved in creating our great food markets.
1. Arrive at the store by pausing for just a moment. Look around through fresh eyes. See the spectacle before you: aisles and aisles of foods, packages, colors, smells and textures. What a great banquet here. What great gifts of energy and life gathered in one spot.
2. Begin your shopping by keeping your mind in the present. Feel the cart in your hands. See your kids in the cart and sense their presence. Notice the hardness of the floor that you can sense through your shoes. Pay attention to any odors that waft your way. If your cart has a squeaky wheel, make it part of the experience by noticing it.
3. As you look for each item, notice the tremendous variety of choices. Take in all the colors and packages and words and pictures.
4. At the produce section, consider the large sacrifice of the plants, the energy they stored, their efforts to grow. Reflect on what kind of effort it would take if you were to try to grow all those plants.
5. At the meat counter, offer your own thanks to all the animals that died and left behind a legacy of energy and nutrition. Again, reflect on the effort it would take if you tried to raise, slaughter and produce all this food. Contemplate all the other individuals responsible for getting these animal products to you.
6. At the diary counter, imagine the chickens and cows that produced the eggs and milk products. See the dairies. Follow in your mind the farmer who collected the eggs each day or who milked the cows.
7. As you shop, feel your muscles as you reach for objects, hold them and then place them in your cart. Sense the weight, temperature and textures of the objects. Be fully in the moment.
8. Keep up your mindfulness practice as you get to the register. Be aware of each item as you lift it from the cart and place it on the belt. Tune in to the sounds of the moment as items are gathered, lifted, scanned and bagged. Stay in the present. What an amazing thing that you are here at all to experience this! The market is truly a place of infinite richness!
By shopping, you are performing a service to food equivalent to tribal hunting or gathering. This is a crucially important role you play in your life and others. Don’t minimize it.
Mindfulness can be added to your life in any number of ways. Breathing and focusing inward, shopping and appreciating outward are just two ways. Use your creativity to allow mindfulness into nearly anything you do. Allow yourself to experience your life in the moment you live it.
Exercises compiled by Angela M. Pfeiffer, Ph.D. Spring 2009