There is no doubt that there is a growing interest in mindfulness these days. In fact, mindfulness is said to be one of the fastest growing trends in the world and the word [mindfulness] has witnessed a fivefold increase in Google searches over the past 10 years.
Many people are taking courses and retreats to learn mindfulness and gaining a new level of freedom and joy in their lives. It’s a wonderful revolution that’s happening!
Many of us taking part in this mindful revolution are starting our days with a formal practice of mindfulness – whether it be yoga or meditation or maybe even a mindful walking practice. This daily habit is a potent transformational tool.
The challenge many people report to me is that they do their morning practice but then lose touch with mindfulness throughout the day.
The great news is that there are lots of wonderful methods out there to help keep us anchored in awareness as we go about our day.
Here are three of my favourites…
The STOP Method
I first came across the ‘STOP method’ whilst watching a talk between Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle as they were talking about ways to introduce mini-meditations into daily life.
That’s essentially what the STOP method is – a mini meditation. It’s a way of ‘checking in’ with ourselves. It’s also particularly useful when we are dealing with a stressful or difficult moment.
The STOP method deliberately focuses on the breath, our body sensations and present moment experience and this interrupts us from being stuck in a cycle of thinking and emoting which can further ‘rev up’ our distress.
It’s a powerful tool for finding greater clarity and calm in a potentially stressful situation.
Here’s how you do it:
S stands for ‘stop’
Stop what you’re doing and open your attention wide, taking in everything that’s happening right now.
T stands for ‘take a deep breath’
Take a slow deep breath, and as you do so, tune into the sensations of breathing. Gather your attention and hone in on the exact sensations of breathing right now in this moment. Aim to be fully present with the full journey of the breath into and out of the body.
O stands for ‘observe’
Observe your body and emotions. What sensations can you feel in your feet, your legs, your head, arms and shoulders? Are there any emotions present?
Simply sensing into whatever is present in the body. Then widen your focus and open to the moment and what’s arising in the environment. What can you see, feel, smell, hear and taste?
You have now, quite literally, come to your senses!
P stands for ‘proceed’
Proceed with what you were doing with an attitude of gentleness and kindness and also with the intention of integrating this mindful awareness into your activity.
On retreat I often say to participants “If there was only one mindfulness practice that I could get you to adopt it would be mindful listening. Why? Well simply because we have so many opportunities every single day to do it!”
If you were to master this one method, it would radically transform your whole life from the inside out.
When listening to another person, we are often there in body but were are not fully present with them. We’re not truly listening. Instead, we are caught up in our own mind chatter.
We judge what they are saying, mentally agreeing or disagreeing, or we think about what we want to say next.
Next time you’re with a loved one or co-worker, use your time as an exercise in mindfulness. Don’t just hear their words; really listen to what they’re saying.
Focus all of your attention on the other person. Give them space to be heard. For instance, if it’s a customer, take the attitude of listening to their needs and desires rather than trying to just sell them something.
If it’s a friend, aim to compassionately listen with open-hearted awareness rather than trying to change them or prove your point.
You’ll be amazed at the power of listening; it’s an act of love and kindness. People appreciate it deeply when you truly listen to them. As an extra added perk you’ll also find that they’ll listen to you more fully when you speak.
One Daily Informal Mindfulness Practice
A formal practice of mindfulness is what’s commonly called meditation. This is where we take deliberate time out of our lives just for cultivating mindfulness; but mindfulness is not simply a practice. It’s a way of being. It’s a way of living our lives as if they really mattered.
Mindfulness is really about integrating awareness into everything we do in our lives. It can be a challenge in the beginning to ‘remember to be awake’ in the middle of it all, so a deliberate informal practice of mindfulness can be a great daily practice to help bridge the gap between formal practice and daily life.
Here’s what you do …
Choose one routine thing that you do everyday and to make the activity into your chosen mindfulness practice. It could be something as simple as brushing your teeth, taking a shower or making a cup of tea. It can be helpful to put a little sign, symbol or reminder at the site of your chosen activity so that you remember to move with mindfulness.
It won’t be long before you make the wonderful and life-changing discovery that there is no such thing as a mundane moment (only mundane states of mind).
I hope you find these helpful and please, if you have any comments or questions – don’t hesitate to put them in the comments section below. I’m always here to answer your questions. Also, if you have your own methods for mindful living why not share them with us!