Welcome to part three of my four part series on managing stress using meditation, mindfulness and yoga.
Last week we tackled meditation; this week, we move on to mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is often used as a therapeutic technique.
In other words, we pay attention - to our thoughts, our feelings and our actions. Much like meditation, being mindful allows all of the background noise and distractions to fall away and it turns the focus inward, on one simple task or feeling.
You might remember the inspiration for this series was a workshop I recently conducted to several work groups on relieving stress and tension.
In one of my first sessions a woman raised her hand during our mindfulness discussion and admitted: “believe it or not, washing dishes is the most relaxing part of my day.” When I asked why, she answered: “because I only wash the dishes.”
She continued, “I pick up the glass, I was the glass, I rinse the glass, I set the glass in the drying rack. I pick up the bowl, I wash the bowl, I rinse the bowl, I set the bowl in the drying rack……”
It's really that simple. I tried it that night.
I had read the dish washing example before this, but this is the first time I had heard a real life example. Washing dishes, my friends, is mindfulness in its most perfect form. Other examples of mindful actions include:
- breathing in and focusing on the smell of your fresh coffee before you take the first sip in the morning,
- standing or sitting in the hot shower and feeling the warm water as it hits your skin,
- focusing your attention on a flower or insect that is nearby, visually examining the color, shape or unique characteristics,
- taking two mindful bites when eating,focusing on the scent, flavor and texture of your food,
- focusing on your breath as you inhale and exhale fully.
- A quiet environment. Choose a secluded place in your home, office, or outdoors where you can relax without distractions or interruptions.
- A comfortable position. Get comfortable: sit up with your spine straight, either in a chair or on the floor. You can also try a cross-legged or lotus position.
- A point of focus. You can practice mindfulness with your eyes closed or open. This point can be internal (a feeling or imaginary scene) or external (an object or meaningful word/phrase).
- A noncritical attitude. Don’t worry about any distracting thoughts that go through your mind or about how well you’re doing. If outside thoughts intrude gently turn your attention back to your point of focus.
- Patience. Remember, all of these things take practice and patience to master.