Meditation brings us home to a quiet place, allowing us to let go of the racing, analytical mind and find calm. Not only that, it offers a number of health benefits, from lowering blood pressure and stress, to improving memory and attention and even alleviating pain.
In order to reap these benefits, a regular practice of meditation (30 minutes each day) is a good goal. Carving out that much time each day may not always be possible, but that doesn’t mean meditation isn’t right for you. You can still make it a part of your day simply by becoming more mindful during regular activities.
What, exactly, is “mindfulness?" According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., author of Full Catastrophe Living and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester: “Mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness. It is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment’s thought to. It is a systematic approach to developing new kinds of control and wisdom in our lives.”
Pick one or more daily tasks. As you perform them, tune out the world around you and direct your attention to the fullness of the experience at hand, without judgment or words. What do you smell, taste, feel, hear and see? If an intrusive thought comes up, acknowledge that you will come back to it later but do your best to gently push it aside for the time being.
These ideas will help get you started. Choose your favorites or try one of your own, and make mindfulness meditation part of your day, every day.
While Brushing Your Teeth
Pick up your toothbrush and toothpaste. Feel the weight of each in your hand. Look at the bristles as you squeeze out a dollop of toothpaste; notice its consistency. Now lift the brush to your mouth and begin to gently scrub your teeth, as well as your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Savor the minty flavor. Notice the swishing of the bristles, the swirling of the bubbles and how your teeth go from feeling fuzzy to smooth and clean. Listen as you turn on the water to rinse your brush and mouth. Swish and gargle the water all around, feeling its temperature change from cold to warm in your mouth. Listen and watch as you spit into the sink and the water splashes, then drains.
While Taking a Shower
Feel the temperature of the water change after you turn it on. Watch as the stream splashes against your skin, creating droplets that roll down your body. Gently breathe in the steam and watch it as it fills the room. Listen to the squirting noise of the shampoo bottle. Feel the slipperiness of your bar of soap. Smell the scents of your products before you use each one. Soap up your hair and body and feel the bubbles rising and then popping against your skin. As you rinse yourself off, watch as the cleansers run down your body, making sudsy pools at your feet. Listen as the drain takes them away. When you exit the shower, feel the air against your wet skin and the texture of the towel as you dry off.
Listen for the crack of the refrigerator seal and the clanking of your pots as you select what you need. Notice juice roll onto the cutting board as you cut a fresh tomato, or the pungent scent of the garlic you are peeling. Listen to the chopping noise of your knife, the swirling of your whisk. Watch as water goes from a calm state to a rapid boil in your pasta pot. Feel the steam rise. Observe as ingredients mix together, perhaps melting or changing forms. Smell the aromas as your flavors build. Notice how liquids pour easily and how oils dance on a hot skillet. Listen to the sizzle of meat on the grill or in the oven. Savor the sample of sauce as you spoon some for taste-testing.
While Doing Laundry
As you sort your clothes, notice the softness of cottons and the texture of woven fabrics. Enjoy the brightness of yellows and oranges, and the coolness of blues and greens. Turn on the washer and listen as the water cascades into the basin. Watch as you pour detergent into a measuring cup, and take a moment to smell its fresh, clean scent. Observe as the liquid slowly enters and then mixes with the water, tinting it with every drop. Place each article of clothing in individually, listening to the glug-glug of the machine as it drowns the article and moves it about. When the load is washed and dried, revel in the smell and warmth of your clean laundry. Fold each article with care.