One of the wonderful benefits of a vacation, a weekend away, or simply a day off, is the ability to tune into what is happening around you. Maybe it's at the beach, where you attentively listen to the rolling waves as you wiggle your toes in the sand. Or in the mountains, where you find yourself taking in the stunning view for an undetermined period of time while you breathe in the fresh clean air and feel the cool breeze on your skin. Perhaps its simply sitting on your front step, listening to birds sing and children play while you enjoy the sweet flavors of your morning tea. Whatever it is for you, all worries, to-do lists, stressful thoughts, and the like just melt away. We often contribute this to the permission to "do nothing" and simply relax.
Whether you know it or not, these moments when time drops away and you are truly present in your experience of life, that's mindfulness. It's to become aware of all with-in and with-out you. Sensations and experiences can draw us into the present moment.
I like to take these techniques into yoga practice. Drawing awareness to sensations in the body, breath, and mind. For some people, this is the one moment in the day or week when they truly turn inward, quieting the mind of judgments, work stress, family life, and just be. The key is to soften judgments when you become aware of a sensation. For example, as you draw awareness to your body and the sensations of the body, if you find stiffness, simple be aware of how stiffness feels. There is no need to analyze why you are stiff or shift to negative thoughts about the stiffness. This can be challenging but that's why its called a practice.
Let's bring this to our yoga practice. So take your favorite yoga posture (Child's pose and Warrior II are great starting points). As you slowly move into the pose, become aware of the sensations in the body. The skin, muscles, joints, bones, what are the sensations here? Don't try to change anything, just be present and aware. Breathe, and begin to draw your awareness to the breath. How does the breath feel as it enters and exits the body? Where is the breath moving in the body? Now, the mind. What sensations are here? Thought cycles constantly coming and going. Draw your awareness to the thoughts. Once you're aware of them, you can let them go. Always returning to the breath.
With practice, you can draw mindfulness into any activity, any moment, maybe eventually every moment. Try this in yoga, running, washing dishes, eating, listening, parenting (oh boy!), walking, anything.
When has mindfulness helped you in your life or practice?
What practice do you look forward to bringing into mindfulness?