“Mindfulness” is the practice of paying attention to the present moment. The best teachers of mindfulness are toddlers: they do not agonize over past events or worry about upcoming plans and possibilities; instead, they lose themselves in whatever captures their attention right now. Whether watching an insect scurry along the sidewalk, pouring sand from their shovel to their pail, or struggling to pull on their rain boots, toddlers fully engage themselves in their present moment. How much more joy and satisfaction might be ours if we learned from these tiny gurus!
Our happiest moments are snapshots frozen in a moment of time when we were wholly, thoroughly present. Think of a time when you felt pure joy. Most likely, the setting and the situation were actually complex and chaotic, flooded with a plethora of imperfections. But just for a moment, none of that mattered. Instead, you honed in on a physical sensation—the way the musty sunlight highlighted the twinkling dust motes floating through the air, the sound of the waves sloshing rhythmically on the shore, or the comforting pressure of an embrace—and time stood still. Just for a moment, you forgot to worry about everything that is wrong in the world. Just for a moment, you simply were.
Paying attention to physical sensations diverts us from the merry-go-round of worry; this is why physical exercise is a powerful combatant to stress. Even just 10 seconds of focused attention on a physical sensation can diffuse feelings of stress, frustration, and overwhelm (see Positive Intelligence, by Shirzad Chamine). For medical research about the benefits of mindfulness, see https://rebrand.ly/mindfulness-research.
Whether you feel relaxed or anxious, here are just a few ideas for turning daily activities into mindful moments:
Feel the water pelting your body while you’re taking a shower; name each area as the water touches it. How deeply into your muscles can you feel the water probing?
Notice the changing patterns of the soap bubbles while you’re washing your hands. How many different sizes of bubbles do you see? What themes do you notice about their location?
Feel the sensation of your hands rubbing together and sliding among the lather while you’re washing your hands. What textures do you feel? How does each part of your hands and fingers feel against the fingertips of your other hand?
Take mindful mouthfuls: notice the sensation of the food in your mouth. What textures can you feel against your cheeks? What textures can you feel against your tongue? What flavors can you distinguish? What is the smallest amount of food in your mouth that you can still chew? What happens when you swallow that morsel?
Wiggle your toes; try to feel each toe individually. What do you notice about the spaces between your toes? What do you notice about your toenails? What else do you notice?
What do you need to let go of to practice mindfulness? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.