The term Mindfulness has become more prevalent in modern day conversation and life but what does it really mean? Although there are many variations and interpretations of the word, in my experience the key component of mindfulness is awareness and pure presence; to make a conscious transition from autopilot, distraction and multitasking to a purposeful focus; an exploration of the present moment free of judgement, free of reaction and full of curiosity.
The beauty of mindfulness is that it can be easily applied to our day to day life. We can access the same focus and awareness we cultivate on our yoga mat or in a meditation practice throughout our day to experience simple tasks and each moment with more clarity. Instead of compartmentalizing the action of a simple task like brushing our teeth while thinking about a dozen other things, we can consciously choose to bring all our attention to the subtle actions and sensations to transform the task itself into a meditative and mindful experience.
In a world that is full of distractions, overwhelm and a constant barrage of stimulation, having simple tools and practices to create space and bring more presence to our lives is extremely valuable. Think of these practices as an opportunity to take the deeper awareness we practice in yoga and weave it into moments throughout our day. I encourage you to incorporate these simple techniques for more purpose and focus into your daily routine and enjoy the benefits of mindfulness.
Stand up and plant your feet firmly on the ground. Feel your weight distributed evenly. Begin to walk slowly. Notice the unique qualities of each step, the sensation of each foot striking the earth, lifting off. Pay attention to any nuances in your gait, in your speed or walking pattern. Look with curiosity, without analyzing or criticizing in any way. Notice any other patterns in the body or in the flow of your breath as you continue to stroll. If distractions or thoughts cloud your focus, bring the awareness back to your next step. This wandering of the mind may happen countless times, embrace it as the essence of the practice and simple return to the sensation of each step.
Once you establish a pattern here, allow your awareness to expand to the world around you. Can you notice anything distinct in the subtle details of the world around you? Become aware of the beauty and complexity of your unique environment with all of your attention. Continue for the length of your walk.
Awareness of the Breath
This is one of the most universal techniques, present in many traditions, in many variations, and accessible to all. It is great as a seated meditation, in a reclined position but can also be a simple way to connect to mindfulness while standing in a long line or riding on a bus.
If you are at home or in a situation where you are comfortable closing the eyes please do so. If you are not able to close your eyes simply soften the gaze towards the floor or to an object that will remain steady for the length of the practice. Bring all your attention, focus all of your awareness on the subtle sensation of your breath. In this practice, do not shape the breath in any way but simply watch your body breathe. Notice the subtle sensation of air moving in and out the nostrils and the soft rise and fall in your abdomen and/or chest.
Observe the breath’s rhythm, quality, and texture and work to smooth out any inconsistencies you notice along the way. As any distractions arise, turn your attention back to the breath. Let your mind, body and breath steady. As your practice deepens, you will be able to gradually relax the technique and rest in a state of effortless awareness of oneness.
Gratitude and Radical Acceptance
Pause, rest in the present moment and connect with a state of gratitude. Notice the small things in the world that allow you to sense, feel and experience gratitude. Even if nothing comes to mind immediately just send an anonymous note of gratitude out into the world. Allow the body to soften with this simple yet profound expression. Feel reverence, boundless gratitude for each and every moment that has brought you here to this very moment today. Honor those moments filled with joy as well as the harrowing moments that have taught us lessons along the way. Acknowledge your triumphs, your struggles and your unique journey with radical acceptance.
Use this practice to connect with your authentic self and to lift the burdens that may weigh you down in a daily way. Experience the part of yourself that is steady, true and unchanging despite trials and tribulations of your day.
Apart from these select techniques, it is possible to bring heightened awareness to many tasks and I would encourage you to explore things like making tea, eating, journalling, coloring, washing the dishes or walking the dog with a new perspective and see how it works for you.
Leslie’s journey to yoga began as a professional snowboarder. Yoga brought clarity and presence to all parts of her life and provided an anchor of balance throughout her travels. These experiences shaped her journey, heartened her to strive towards the full potentiality of life, to follow her dreams, to revel in moments of everyday magic, to teach yoga. She strives to create a safe space for all to experience radical love and acceptance and is the co-founder of The Community Yoga Project. She teaches and leads trainings at Meta Yoga in Breckenridge, CO. (970) 547-9642 metayogastudios.com