Moment by Moment: The Practice of Mindfulness
What are you doing right now? I imagine you are sitting down somewhere, reading this. But what else are you doing? Eating? Listening to music? Spending time with your family? Talking on the phone? Planning the rest of your day?
- Bring your attention to the way your body feels as you sit. Feel the support under you. Notice the feeling of your rear and legs. Feel your feet as they rest on the floor.
- Now, bring your attention to the sounds in your environment and notice as they come and go. Some arise from the silence and return to the silence. Notice if you can listen without any judgement.
- Now, move your awareness to the way your breath feels as you naturally exhale and inhale. Feel the temperature change and the sensations of your breath. Notice the movement and the stillness.
- When you lose track of any one focus, bring your focus back to what you are experiencing now.
- Can you be fully present as you simply sit, listen, and breathe? This is the simple practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is performing action and paying attention (with a gentle non-judgmental attention) and purposefully keeping your attention focused in the present moment. Mindfulness means you attend to what you are doing as you are doing it. Being mindful is just what it sounds like.
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s awareness back (from thoughts of the past or the future or distraction of any kind) into the present moment. It isn’t that you want to forget about the past or future, it’s more about bringing a balance to your awareness, so you allot most of your attention to the life you are living and this moment now.
Mindfulness can be practiced formally as a meditation, and can also be practiced while you are engaged in activity, at any time in almost any situation. You can be mindful of the sensations in your feet while walking or the feeling of warm soapy water on your hands while doing dishes. To be mindful you simply notice all sensations while witnessing the mind’s usual judgments and continual commentary. Mindfulness trains your mind to stay right here, and focus on the present moment.
Or, have you ever sat down to eat a meal and suddenly looked down and your food was gone, but you didn’t remember eating the whole thing? That is mindlessness. Mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness.
When you eat without awareness, you may, in theory, know you are eating, but your mind might be somewhere else. You might be thinking about other things or be watching TV, talking, or reading – or all of those. So a very small part of your awareness is absorbed with eating. Perhaps you are only barely aware of the physical sensations and you are even less aware of your thoughts and emotions. You can even miss the whole experience. And the same can be true for any activity you are engaged in.
Let’s look at the practice of eating mindfully
- When you are ready to practice. Sit down comfortably with the food in front of you. Deliberately notice the way your body is positioned, the sensations in your body, and the mind and body’s responses to those sensations. Relax your body and breathe normally, don’t hold your breath.
- Behold the food you will eat. If it is a piece of fruit, hold it in your hand. Before you take your first bite and notice all the sensations. It seems we eat with our eyes first.
- Look at the food, notice the texture, the shadow, the light, the shape, the reflection of light, its colors. If you are holding the snack, notice its temperature, texture, and weight. Resist the urge to label anything, simply pay attention to what you sense on rather than your ideas or judgments about it.
- As you mindfully bring the food up toward your mouth, be present for the aroma. What do you smell? Does it have an effect on your taste buds? Your saliva?
- When you feel ready, take a small bite of food. Chew, but resist the urge to swallow right away. Really taste the food. Experience the tastes rather than label them. Hear the food as you chew. Notice the texture in your mouth.
- If your mind wanders, purposefully and gently bring your attention back to the mindful eating practice. Do not judge yourself.
- Continue eating in this way until you are finished. Then sit quietly for a few minutes. Notice how you feel. Are you satisfied?
- What if you ate one bite of your meal like this, every meal? (Studies show that people tend to eat more when they are given larger portions and are distracted.)
Why would someone want to practice mindfulness?
- You become more self-aware,
- You trust yourself more and accept yourself more,
- Your appreciation of life is enhanced,
- You are able to be more serene in the face of difficulties
- Your stress decreases along with a variety of stress-related physical symptoms, including chronic pain
- There are significant decreases in anxiety and depression
- Your clarity, concentration, and creativity improves,
- Your immune system functioning is enhanced,
- You are more accepting attitude toward life and its challenges.
Now who wouldn’t want that?
Be guided into mindful eating and 20 other meditation and meditative practices in : Soul-Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks with Meditation.