There are moments in life that snap you back to awareness of the present moment faster than any technique or meditation ever can. The other day, I was walking into my daughter's school with my iPhone in hand, looking down, and thumbs tapping way. I looked up for a minute to make sure I wasn’t running into anything and a man with his daughter coming out of the school. He also had his head looking down, and thumbs tapping away. The only difference between us was that his daughter was patiently looking at his face, talking about her day and waiting for a response. I could see that he was completely engaged with his phone, but she was still waiting on him to respond to her. Now, to be fair, he could have been texting his wife that he had picked up their little one and would soon turn his attention back to her. Truth is, I didn’t watch long enough to find out what happened next.
But I did suddenly become aware of the weight of the iPhone in my hand and stuffed it in my purse immediately. I have designed a freedom business to enable me to spend time with my daughter, so that I can take her to school each day and pick her up and that we can have uninterrupted time together. But sometimes it takes an awareness of someone else not being present with their child, to make me aware of my own actions. Had I not seen that man and his daughter, it’s possible that it could have been me and my daughter five minutes later.
I want so badly to make my time with my daughter a priority and want to commit to phone free time with her. Can it be done in today’s world, where people want immediate responses to everything: emails, calls, text, Social media messaging? We live in a world where we can be connected and present to almost anything. We can video chat, live stream and be with someone in another country anytime we want. But what about the moments that are happening right in front of us?
I think it can be done. And it all starts with awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment. But how do you practice mindfulness?
There is more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to deliberately pay attention to your breathe or thoughts and sensations without judgment. Does it sound a little bit like mediation? You’re right! All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation. Here are a few you can try:
A basic mindfulness meditation involves sitting quietly and focusing on your natural breathing. Sometimes it helps to say a word or a mantra to help keep your mind focused on the task. If you become aware that a thought has snapped you out of the moment and you are no longer focusing on your breath, allow it to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on the breath.
A body scan mindfulness meditation starts with the basic awareness of the earth and then sees you focusing on each part of your body from head to toe in succession. You may feel each part tingle or getting warm as you focus your attention on it. That’s perfectly natural. If you do notice body sensations, let them pass without judgement and continued your focused progression from head to toe.
A sensory mindfulness mediation involves noticing sights, sounds, smells, taste or touch. Most commonly practiced with food in a technique called mindful eating, it involves bringing focused attention to each bite of food and savouring the look of eat bit, the flavour and even being focused on the act of chewing.
Why Practice Mindfulness
Professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, helped to bring the practice of mindfulness to the mainstream by demonstrating that practicing mindfulness can improve your well being. Among the benefits of mindfulness are:
- Being mindful make it easier to saver the pleasures in life
- Mindfulness helps you become fully engaged in activities
- By practicing mindfulness daily, if creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse effects
- By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past
If improving your well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered that mindfulness can improve your physical health by:
- Helping to relieve stress
- Lowering blood pressure
- Can reduce chronic pain
- Improves sleeps
- When practiced as mindful eating, can alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties
In recent years, therapists have turned to mindfulness to treat:
- Eating disorders
- Relationship conflicts
- Anxiety disorders
An Exercise To Try On Your Own: Deep Breathing Mindfulness Mediation
- Sit in a comfortable straight-backed chair with your feet on the floor or sit cross legged directly on the floor.
- Breathe through your nose, accepting the air into your belly. Let your abdomen expand fully. If it helps, do a slow count to four.
- At the top of the breath, pause for a count of three.
- Begin to breathe out slowly through your mouth. Again, if it’s helpful you can do a slow count to five.
- Repeat each inhalation and exhalation slowly and with purpose.
- If you notice any thoughts or body sensations, let them pass and continue your practice.