BRINGING MINDFULNESS INTO DAILY LIFE
Mindfulness isn’t just about sitting in meditation. The ultimate aim is to bring awareness into different activities
Yoga and mindfulness teacher Dainei Tracy (greatpeace.co.uk) teaches this technique…
If you can, walk barefoot. Your spine should be straight but not ram-rod stiff.
Make a loose fist with your left hand and place your right hand gently over the left. Place your hands just in front of your navel area.
Drop your gaze slightly, focusing gently on a spot just ahead of you.
Slowly lift your left foot. Mindfully and slowly place it on the ground. Feel your heel hit the ground, then the ball of the foot, and finally the toes. Pause, feeling the shift in your weight.
Slowly lift your right foot and repeat.
The idea is to become mindful about how you choose and prepare your food. Go to shops or markets where you can pick up food and smell it. Choose a basket or shopping bag that is pleasing and notice its weight as you carry it.
Prepare your food with love and attention, taking time to notice the textures, scents and feel of the food. As you chop, stir, mix and blend, think about the people you’re cooking for (including yourself) and put your hopes and wishes for them into the food.
This raisin meditation is a mindfulness exercise taught at the Body Retreat (thebodyretreat.co.uk).
Look at your raisin. What colour is it? How big is it? Notice any imperfections. Is it dull or shiny? Explore its texture Feel any edges. Is your raisin soft or hard? Sniff the raisin Does it smell sweet or dusty? Does it make your mouth water? Now place it in your mouth Don’t chew yet. Notice how it feels on your tongue. Bite into it: does it taste different now that it’s in small pieces? What sounds do you make as you chew? When you’re ready, notice your intention to swallow. Imagine the raisin moving down towards your stomach.
Turn your daily shower or bath into a thoughtful ritual of deep self-care and love. Name each item of clothing as you take it off. As you step into the water, become aware of how it meets your body. Bring awareness to all your senses by noting how the water looks, how it smells, how it feels and how it sounds.
You may wish to add some beautiful bathroom potions to help you focus on the senses. Choose natural products with clear scents, such as Moa’s Dreamy Mineral Soak (moa.london).
Notice the difference when you add a scent. Does it overwhelm the rest of your senses? Towel yourself with attention – naming and appreciating each part of your body as you dry off.
Yoga was originally intended to prepare mind and body for meditation. Look for yoga teachers who bring this spirit to their classes. Slower practices such as yin yoga are ideal, but you can make any practice mindful simply by bringing your total attention to the breath and the body. Notice how your body feels; be curious about its boundaries and limits. Explore what feels good and what doesn’t. Above all, be kind to your body.
Use savasana, the corpse pose, at the end of your session, as a form of lying down mindfulness. Feel where your body touches the floor, notice sensations, follow your breath.
Shinrin-yoku was developed during the 1980s in Japan. It means ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’ or ‘forest bathing’. Simply walking and relaxing among trees has huge health benefits. Just 15 minutes spent among trees can reduce blood pressure and stress, improve mood and sleep and boost the immune system, researchers have found. Leave behind all distractions (phones firmly switched off). Drop all goals and expectations, and just wander. You can find beautiful woodlands all over the UK – whether majestic forests or a small gentle copse in your local park. Or try a forest bathing holiday with Forest Holidays (forestholidays.co.uk).
“It’s our natural urge to jump when the phone rings, racing to pick it up,” says Thich Nhat Hanh. “Try resisting the urge. Whenever your phone rings, just sit and breathe in and out for around three breaths. If the call is important, the person will wait until at least the third ring. Thich Nhat Hanh also suggests using mindfulness before you pick up the phone to call someone. Make a vow to yourself to use words that inspire happiness and confidence.
Kim Bennett, who teaches at Serenity Retreat (serenityretreat.co.uk), suggests bringing mindfulness to tiny moments in your day. “Think about how you move a chair, how you vacuum, how you sit at your desk,” she says. Become mindful when you’re brushing your teeth – feeling the brush against your gums, the taste of the toothpaste, how you’re standing. Or maybe make your cup of tea a mindful experience. “Notice how you feel in the supermarket queue,” says Kim. “Become aware of yourself as you’re stuck in traffic. You can always anchor yourself with your breath.”