Learning to practice mindfulness and live in the present moment can transform your life and increase your happiness. Find out how to master mindfulness with these 10 easy and practical steps | WORDS BY ELYSE SANTILLI
Have you ever wondered what it means to live in the present? Aren’t we all here, now, in the present? Well yes, beautiful soul, but for so many of us, we are only 10% here. We are really living in our minds. We exist from day-to-day in a dream-like state where we’re not really connected to the world around us, nor centered in our own body or being. Instead, we’re preoccupied with memories of the past, churning thoughts and worries about the future, and judgments and reactions to the few things we do see. Or perhaps we are lost in our smartphones and television sets.
We’re literally missing out on most our own lives, which leaves us feeling shallow, empty and deeply unsettled. The great news is, you can learn to be more present and mindful! And it is absolutely worth the effort, because mindful living is living fully. Once you get used to it, it feels like you’ve finally woken up from a dream that’s lasted your whole life up until now. You begin to feel alive and sparkling. You can sense the energy and spirit inside of your body.
You suddenly notice more beauty, simple joys and blessings all around you. It’s like someone has turned up the colour setting on the world to transform it from dull greys into an incredible vibrant rainbow. You rarely feel stressed out or overwhelmed, because you know you can slow down time and calm yourself down simply by becoming more present. You suddenly gain more control over your thoughts and emotions – you realise that you are the ruler of your mind, not the other way around. This realisation leads to a growing sense of centeredness, joy, love and inner peace. You can then anchor in this inner peace all throughout the day, even when your external life becomes rough and choppy like the surface of the ocean on a windy day. So how do you become more present?
- EAT MINDFULLY
When you scoff down your meal on autopilot while distracted by the television, computer or constant conversation, you miss out on the delicious taste and smell of your food. You’re also less likely to feel satisfied and nourished, as you ‘missed out’ on the fact that you ate. It can be helpful to remember this phrase: When you eat, eat. When you drink, drink. In other words, don’t attempt to do fifty other things when you sit down to a meal, coffee or green juice. Simply focus all of your attention on what is in front of you.
2. WALK MINDFULLY
Take a beautiful tip from spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh and ‘walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet’. In others words, when you are out and about, pay attention occasionally to the movement of your body and your surroundings. Notice as your feet connect with and leave the ground. Feel your muscles moving and supporting you. Observe what is going on around you – the sights, sounds and life unfolding. You may be amazed to find a whole new world you hadn’t even noticed before.
3. OBSERVE YOUR BREATHING
As Echkart Tolle once said, a single breath in and out is a meditation. Your breathing occurs naturally and rhythmically. When you pay attention to it, it takes you out of your mind and into your body. You momentarily free yourself from your churning thoughts, worries and fears, and you remind yourself of who you really are – your inner spirit, not your thoughts.
4. CONNECT WITH YOUR SENSES
Your senses – touch, smell, taste, sound and sight – are your gateway into the present moment. But when you are lost in thought, you don’t experience what your senses are picking up. Pause to soak up the beautiful aroma of your coffee. The salty ocean air. The beauty and diversity of flowers in your neighbourhood.
The mouth-watering waft of wood-fire pizza coming from your local Italian restaurant as you pass it. Notice how your clothing feels against your body. The soft clean bed sheets on your skin in the morning. The comforting warmth of your lover’s kiss. The grass under your feet. The sensation of water and suds on your hands as you do the washing up. Put love and attention into the simple tasks of your day, and you will be amazed how much joy and peace they can bring you.
5. LISTEN WHOLEHEARTEDLY
Most of us never truly listen to people when they are speaking to us, because we’re too busy planning what to say next, judging what they are saying, or getting lost in daydreams altogether. Next time you’re in a conversation, make it your goal to fully listen to what the other person is saying to you, without getting lost in your thoughts. Trust that you will intuitvely know the right thing to say next when it’s your turn to speak.
6. PAUSE BETWEEN ACTION
Pause and listen to the sound of the phone ringing before answering it. Pause and feel the weight of your body in your chair before beginning your work for the day. Pause and feel the door handle of your home before you open it at the end of the day. Putting mini pauses between actions in your day can ground you in your inner being, clear your mind, and provide you with fresh energy for the new task ahead. Think of it like putting energetic bookends at the start and end of each activity.
7. GET LOST IN THE FLOW OF DOING THINGS YOU LOVE
We all have certain activities we love doing – they connect us with our inner spirit and bring us fully alive. For you it could be cooking, dancing, singing, gardening, writing, painting, bushwalking, swimming or building Ikea furniture. We love doing these things so much that we often lose ourselves in them. That is, we lose our smaller self – our churning thoughts and worries – because we are pouring all of our love and attention into the present moment. Incorporate more flow activities in your weekly routine, and your happiness will skyrocket.
8. MEDITATE DAILY
There’s no getting around it – meditation has huge benefits and increases your levels of energy, happiness, inspiration and inner peace. It doesn’t have to take long. Even ten minutes a day can have a positive impact on your life. It will also strengthen your mindfulness muscles, so you’ll find it much easier to become present throughout the day.
9. TRAVEL OR MIX UP YOUR ROUTINE
There’s more than one reason you feel amazing on holidays. When you’re in a new place, you automatically become more present and mindful – simply because there are so many new sights, sounds and smells to soak up. Your senses take over for a short while and it frees you from your mind. No travel plans? That’s fine. Mix up your routine – it will have the same effect. Take a different route, stop at a new coffee shop, visit a new place locally or try something you’ve done done before like paddle boarding, cooking a new recipe or writing calligraphy.
10. OBSERVE YOUR THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS
You are not your thoughts – you are the observer of your thoughts. The fact that you can listen to them shows that they are not you. You are something higher and separate. By simply becoming aware of your thoughts and nonjudgmentally observing them as they come and go – like clouds passing in the sky – you are being more present. You are not getting caught up in your thoughts and forgetting that they are not you. As you observe, resist the temptation to get carried away by a particular thought down a tunnel into the past or future. Picture your thoughts like trains at the station – you’re on the platform watching them come and go, but you’re not going to jump on and go for a ride. I hope that helps, beautiful soul. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes about becoming more present and mindful: When did life become a race? If we can catch our breath, take a look around and begin to see our life with a renewed sense of appreciation, then the journey itself takes on rich colour and depth, we begin to take in the scenery and all the details. ~ The Gyalwang Drukpa.