As health practitioners, we are aware of the benefits of mindfulness and meditation not only for the mind but for the body and relationships. The numerous studies conducted over the past 40 years clearly show the benefits. So why is it then, that most of us don’t do it? Or at least not consistently?
Too often its because we think it requires a lot of additional time and when life gets busy, often practices like mindfulness which are a type of self care practice are the first to go. Traditionally a 20-minute meditation session at least once a day is what is prescribed to develop these skills of mindfulness. This may be ideal but can often be challenging. Not only for our clients, but for ourselves to implement in today’s busy life. It can at times be unworkable.
One way to think about workable mindfulness…that is mindfulness that helps us move towards our values, is to think about implementing the skills or qualities of mindfulness into everyday tasks. Like, Thich Nhat Hanh’s instructions on washing the dishes mindfully. This daily incorporation of mindfulness into everyday tasks really is the key to continual practice and honing of ones skills of mindfulness. Further, incorporating mindfulness into different activities helps to generalise the skill and assist us in bringing this quality into different contexts.
Here are some less well known mindfulness techniques to try or perhaps prescribe to those you work with to help them hone their skills.
- Set an app, timer, or phone bleep to sound at random intervals throughout the day. When the chime sounds, pause for the duration of that sound to reflect on your current inner experience. What are your senses telling you? What is your emotional state right now? The next step would be honoring and accepting what you find.
- Similarly, take what Buddhist Psychotherapist, Tara Brach calls a ’Sacred Pause’. Stop doing, fixing, or chasing and just be…without any intention except to notice your experience moment after moment. The pause may be seconds in your day through to days or months in a retreat. Either way it is intended to stop us from hiding from our experiences and our lives.
- Let the ripples subside in the pond before throwing in another rock. In other words, when you finish one activity, before starting another, take a micro second to wait for the ripples from the first to subside. Then, move on and turn your attention wholeheartedly (and mindfully!) to the next thing to be done.
- Take the Vietnamese Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice. At red lights, take your hands off the steering wheel and rest them comfortably in your lap. Turn your attention mindfully to your body and loosen your muscles. Follow your breath (with your eyes open!) until it’s your turn to start ‘doing’ again. Enjoy that ‘being’ moment that you were just gifted!
- When you awaken in the morning, instead of springing straight out of bed, take a moment to follow your breath, be in your body, and set your intention for the day. Aim to leave the people and places you visit today in a better condition than you found them.
- Have the courage and self-compassion to allow yourself some mini-breaks. The moment that you feel your energy dip, take a five minute time out. Breathe deeply. Get some sunshine or fresh air if you can.
- Listen to your inner wisdom. Take a few stabilizing breaths to calm your mind. Allow the silt to settle to the bottom of the dam so to speak. Now ask yourself, your wise self within, the question and listen patiently (and non-judgmentally) for the answer.
- Move. Dance wildly to a song. Do some slow Tai Chi moves. Lie on a yoga mat and do some stretches. Attempt some pushups or squats. Stand up, throw your arms wide and inhale. Exhale forcibly as you bend towards your toes. Be connected with your body and the sensations of movement.
As can be seen we really can apply the skills of mindfulness to almost any behaviour we are doing. Its really about paying attention in an open curious non-judgmental way and watching the unfolding of our experience moment to moment.