This isn’t a post about meditation because, frankly I don’t have time to meditate. I really don’t. I don’t have time to sit in a room cross-legged in silence. I also don’t have time to repeat a mantra for even five minutes because the kids, the work, the life…you know. And even worse, I realize that I repeat lots of “mantras” to myself all day long but they are not positive. I keep telling myself I’ve messed up or I am not doing enough, or I will never be enough. Those are the thoughts that I let invade my quiet and they color my heart, my soul and my mental well-being. And as you know, these are not the thoughts one wants to foster a healthy wellbeing. I long for peace, wholeness, release, calm. Therefore, I’ve been working on what I call a practice of mindfulness and 6 simple mindfulness practices that uplift rather than discourage my soul.
What is Mindfulness?
Being mindful is part of the meditation process but less formal. For me, mindfulness is intentional. It is breathing, thinking and awareness. Instead of going through my day on autopilot, I’ve actually found that I can use this concept to take back ownership of my thought life. I may not have complete silence, but I’ve been trying to figure out how to discipline my mind to incorporate wholehearted thinking in stolen moments in my everyday and ordinary life.
Related: A Beginner’s Guide To Meditation
The “Stop” technique:
I believe we can train our minds to stop the flow of negativity and instead practice directing our mind toward what is good. We can accept that we are practicing at this life. Practicing getting things right, learning as we go. We can be willing to learn. We can stop the focus on our failures and replace it with a focus on gratefulness for life’s lessons. Whatever it is, I attempt to say “Stop” to the thoughts that march through my brain uninvited and welcome instead a discipline of peace into my life. I feel it is the least I can do for myself.
Practice this kind of mindfulness in stolen moments throughout your day.
Practical ways to cultivate mindfulness:
- In the kitchen: Washing dishes, cleaning your counters or chopping vegetables are sometimes when the kitchen magically clears of people and that is fine. It can be an opportunity to inhabit the moment with mindfulness by practicing thinking about people you love for whom you are making a meal. You can mentally list the things you are grateful for in spite of a task you may not love. This makes those moments precious and peaceful. As you wash the dishes, you can think of washing away worries. Stop the incessant roll of low burning panic and breathe in, breathe out and cleanse your mind while doing practical kitchen-y things.
- Around the block or through the parking lot. Going on a walk or a run can refresh your mind. Look around you, listen to the birds, the wind, notice beauty in hidden places as a way to experience slowing down even if you are going fast. Your only walk may be from the parking lot to the building where you work, but why not use those few moments to invite some reflection on what is good and what is beautiful?
- In the car. Turn off everything. The radio, your phone, your crazy racing around thoughts and invite the silence in even if it is only for the two minutes until the kids get their shoes on and grab their backpacks and get into the car. Or, if caught in traffic, and you are just creeping along, welcome the unexpected slow down and just sit in the quietness, even if it is unbidden. Just be. Why not? It beats anger and frustration any day.
- In the middle of the night. Can’t sleep? Slow down your anxious thoughts over the things you cannot control anyway by replacing them with calming reassurances. Tell yourself, “this too shall soon pass,” “one step at a time,” or breathe prayers for the things you need to release. Breathe in peace and breathe out worry. Repeat.
- With your spouse, your child, a friend. Concentrate, really concentrate on listening when you are with someone for a change instead of thinking about what you will say next or how much you need to do later in the day. Practice hearing as a form of mindfulness and as you digest what is being said, you are caring for others and calming down your mind at the same time.
- When everything is going wrong. Stop, just stop, the mental beat down. So many things we have no control over. Panic and fear are not your partners in solving problems. Take a break. In the moment when you feel the knot threatening to close around your soul because nothing is going right, stop and close your eyes if you can, and focus on what you do have control over. Count your blessings, one by one. Cry some tears if necessary, but let your tears cleanse your soul. Sit in the pain and feel it, but do not let it overwhelm you. Tell yourself the truth. You are loved. You are enough. You are doing your best.
Because, instead of the usual litany of self-condemnation and fear, we can learn to tell ourselves another story and tell it enough until we believe it.
So, I don’t meditate in the traditional way. But, I do practice mindfulness. I believe whole-heartedly in a kind of practice that engages your mind in your present moment and invites peace into the chaos. This I can do, without a room, without a class, without an instructor.