A Few Ways to Practice Mindfulness...
In this week's Web Wednesday blog post and Facebook Live video, I took a look at what it means to be mindful and present in the here-and-now, and why it's so important. As a follow-up, I'd like to present a few different ways how we can accomplish this:
Probably the most likely place your mind went to when considering the concepts of mindfulness and presence, meditation has existed throughout our history. The methods of practicing it are as numerous and varied as the people who make it a part of their daily lives; there's no 'right' or 'wrong' way to do it -- simply find what works best for you. Some prefer silent contemplation, whilst others enjoy calming music; still others find that guided meditation -- a pleasing or calming voice that leads you through the exercise -- works very well. At its core, meditation is about centering yourself -- finding peace/calm/tranquility/quiet amidst the whirlwind of thoughts, beliefs, sounds, people, and noises we are bombarded with on a daily basis. There are a myriad of sources available that assist with meditation: books, classes, websites, apps; try a number of different methods to find what suits you best!
Breathing and Priming
Breathing and priming exercises have great similarity to meditation. They seek to center and balance your inner self, and can be done alone or with a guide. Where they can differ from meditation is the subject of focus. Many forms of meditation challenge you to clear your mind and not focus on anything in particular; as thoughts flow through your mind, you acknowledge them, and let them pass -- you remain malleable and fluid, and try not to fixate. Breathing exercises, however, encourage you to focus on your breath and use it to calm and center yourself. Again, there are numerous sources to assist you in exploring breathing and priming exercises; a really wonderful one I've had the pleasure of experiencing in person is one conducted by Tony Robbins -- check it out!
Another exercise that overlaps with meditation, visualization is a wonderful technique to not only center yourself -- it's a really great method to prime your brain for success. If focusing on nothing is difficult for you (I struggle with this, personally), visualization can be of assistance. Similar to the focus on breath during breathing exercises, focusing on an image in your mind can help quiet an otherwise very noisy space. During visualization, our focus narrows, and we set our mind to work on manifesting the feeling associated with the image (for example, we seek calm, and picture a calm blue ocean). Athletes will commonly use visualization to see themselves scoring a goal or throwing a touchdown; similarly, visualization can be used by any of us to see ourselves accomplishing a goal, or succeeding at the steps which get us there.
Pause and Listen
Too often, we get wrapped up with making sure we're heard that we forget we can hear. The notion seems so simple -- just pause and listen. Listen to your inner voice. What does it say to you? What does it tell you is significant? How does it talk to you? We travel through our lives interacting with so many people, having nigh-innumerable conversations. Ironically, the longest and most important conversation we'll have in our lives is the ongoing one with ourselves. Taking the time to pause and really listen to what our inner voice is telling us is so very important. Consciously, we tend to tune out our inner monologue; yet, more often than not, it is the culprit that pulls us down a depressing spiral into the past, or riddles us with anxiety about the 'what if?' future. If we can maintain an awareness of our inner voice -- our ongoing conversation -- we are able to engage with it, and actively decide what is important. Not to say that deciding on how best to make deviled eggs for Aunt Sarah's BBQ in two weeks isn't worth thinking about -- but is it really important right now? Sometimes we need to change the context of our inner conversation to present concerns; other times, we just need to tell our inner voice to be quiet, sit back, and enjoy the view. Regardless, when we become aware of this ongoing conversation, we're able to much more easily stay present and focus on the here-and-now.
These are only a few ways to experience mindfulness and being present in the moment. I encourage all of you to explore what works best for you and really try it. You'll be amazed by the difference it makes!