Updated: Apr 2
Mindfulness doesn't need to be a long formal practice. Whilst there's certainly benefits to mindful meditations there are other ways to incorporate mindfulness into your day that can feel less demanding yet can have big impact.
Someone once said I was doing mindless tasks when I spoke of some of the ways I practice mindfulness. It got me thinking about how often I do act mindlessly and how I could turn those moments, those tasks into mind-full moments.
For example, brushing my teeth. We all do it, hopefully twice a day. However, because we all do it and we do it so frequently we can fall into auto pilot mode. It's a task we do that takes little thought. Perhaps it's time where our mind wanders to other things like what to cook for dinner or how to respond to that work email. Or, like me you have done it on occasion whilst doing other tasks such as getting the kids ready? Either way I knew I had brushed my teeth without really thinking about it, without being truly present in the act of brushing my teeth. Dentist say the average time people actually brush their teeth is closer to 30 seconds than the full 2 minutes which is recommended. So I set myself the 2 minute challenge to brush my teeth mindfully.
Here's how I did it.
First off I took a few breaths to collect myself. I ran my tongue over my teeth noticed the shape of my teeth, the texture. I noticed the taste in my mouth. I took a moment to look in the mirror and really see my smile. See it and feel it from all angles. Then I felt my toothbrush, the full length of the handle, to the bristles. I wet them under the tap. I gently squeezed on the tooth paste paying attention to exactly how much used and the placement on the brush head. I took a moment to smell it. I noticed the weight of the brush in my hand. Then I set my two minute timer and began brushing my teeth. I started in the lower right corner paying attention to my technique, the motion of brushing my teeth. I notice the taste, smells and the feel of the brush in my mouth. How the paste foamed up and when I needed to spit. I did this procedure for each tooth, front side, back side and the biting surface. I got about 3/4 of the way around and the alarm went off. I continued until I finished. I took a moment to feel my teeth noting how the felt in comparison to before. Then I noted how I felt in myself. I was feeling calm. my teeth looked and felt fantastically clean. My breathing was more regulated and I felt composed. All from taking 3 minutes to focus on the task in front of me. Simply bringing complete awareness to the here and now. I took a mindless task and made it mindful. I practiced mindfulness.
So my message to those reading this is you can do it too. Mindfulness isn't about clearing your mind of every single thought, it's not about meditating with perfect posture and a specific breathing routine. It's about bringing acute awareness to the here and now and accepting it without judgement. When you can learn to do this you can expand upon it and apply it to other areas of your life. Perhaps in the heat of a moment where you would react, you can learn to stop, bring awareness and choose to respond.
Like any skill it takes practice and mindfulness is no different. It's also important to note that life needs balance. Mindfulness and being present in the here and now doesn't mean you should never look to the past or plan for the future. Rather it is learning to balance all three to live in harmony with your mind, body and spirit.