“Forget about enlightenment. Sit down wherever you are and listen to the wind singing in your veins.” ~ John Welwood
The moment our feet hit the floor in the morning, we’re running through our day’s to-do list before we even begin making our coffee. Indeed, busyness is our modern day epidemic, creating stress, anxiety and plain unhappiness. Clients and students often come to me with idealistic views of what it means to become “more mindful.” Fantasies of attaining that blissful sense of enlightenment often include jumping into a 10-day silent retreat, sitting for hours in meditation or moving to Bhutan. But how realistic is this?
The reality is that we must learn to journey through the challenges of daily life with moment-to-moment skillfulness. Envision a thick bamboo forest. As storms ripple through the forest, the bamboo branches bend but don’t break, remaining grounded with flexibility. Imagine what it would be like to respond to each moment of stress with wholehearted adaptability and acceptance – failing to break in the midst of the emotional storm.
Practicing mindful awareness of life’s constant ebb and flow can liberate you from daily stress and anxiety. Forget aspirations of enlightenment, levitation and nirvana. But rather – Be. Here. Now. Sense the blood coursing through you and breathe deeply in this very moment. We’re not monks living in a monastery, we’re humans trying our best to live happy, healthy, fulfilling lives in modern day society where achievement and doing-more-with-less is revered.
Here are 3 easy ways to practice mindfulness throughout your day that I often teach in retreats, workshops and in individual work. The Three P’s can bring more peace, acceptance and presence into your day-to-day existence:
How often do we go into autopilot during the day without truly experiencing our lives fully? The answer: Everyday. The truth is, our brains are wired to bounce from the past to the future, back to the present, while simultaneously scanning the environment for threat. We can’t just simply decide we’re going to become more mindful. Make the sacred pause a daily practice. Whether you’re taking a shower, driving to work or waiting in line at the grocery store…PAUSE. As you stop to witness whatever movie reel is streaming through your mind, you’re creating mental space. Check-in with your thoughts, feelings and body sensations without judgment. Pausing is the magic moment of mindfulness, the first step in reconnecting with the inherent beauty of this world.
Okay, so you’ve paused. Now what? After checking-in with the mind and body, creating mental space, this is where skillfulness comes in. Each and every time you choose to implement a mindfulness practice, you’re changing your brain, creating new neural pathways to support your parasympathetic nervous system of rest and relaxation. After pausing, choose a mindfulness skill from your arsenal. This could be 2 minutes of belly breathing, feeling the sensation of your steering wheel or eating a mint with awareness. To practice mindfulness throughout the day is to honor your life, truly cultivating a default mode of peaceful existence. If you don’t have 30 minutes to sit on that meditation cushion before you leave your house in the morning, consider the powerful effects of pausing to practice mindfulness informally throughout the day.
True presence is what happens when you pause to come back to this very moment with gentle awareness. Mindfulness is not some elusive, transcendent state that only living in a monastery can bring. Rather, it’s a way of walking through this life with more peace and ease.
While in Vietnam last fall, I remember watching my great uncle take his 2-hour walk, with a bamboo walking stick as tall as he, down the rural dirt road in the Mekong Delta each morning. As he methodically journeyed down the path, he’d stop to check the mango crop, feed the fish in the lotus pond and observe the men fixing bikes at a roadside shop. As the rhythms of his world buzzed around him, it was as if he surrendered to this ever-shifting melody of life’s symphony. From my vantage point, it felt like the ultimate example of living mindfulness. I asked my aunt in Vietnamese, “Why does Uncle walk each morning?” She grinned and calmly replied, “Sweet child, this is life. For Uncle to touch the mangoes, to feed the fish, to walk quietly, is living.” And there it was…the ultimate example of pure presence. Pausing, practicing and embracing presence as a true and organic way of embracing human existence.
For more on how to practice the power of presence through mindfulness, I invite you to follow me on Twitter (@Mindful_Healer) and subscribe to my blog. I also extend a loving invite for you to join me on my next Mindfulness Retreat here.