Last week I was so caught up in my thinking that I missed my exit while I was driving to work. The scary part is that I realized this three exists down the highway on a drive I do almost on a daily basis. I realized I was so worried and consumed by current events in my life that I wasn’t really being present. I questioned myself: “What else did I miss?” I realized I didn’t have much recollection of the conversation I had with my husband and children during breakfast that morning or saying good bye to my son at drop off. A sense of sadness washed over me. I was disconnected. I was away, trapped in my head and operating in automatic pilot. You probably can relate to that experience because most of us get caught up in the motions of life and concerns. The problem is that we are not really present when we are distracted by our worries.
To give our minds a break and become more connected we need to practice mindfulness which is paying attention to the present moment, being fully connected to the reality around us through our five senses and embracing it as it is, without judging it and wanting to change it. The idea is to notice what’s happening without evaluating it or wanting it to be different. In order to do this you can:
Take a mindful breath. To do this you establish a good posture and rest your hands comfortably on your lap or knees. You can close your eyes or keep them open. Bring your attention to your breath and feel the temperature and pressure of the oxygen entering and leaving your body. As you breathe in, notice that you are breathing in. As you breathe out, notice that you’re breathing out. Attend to the rhythm of your breath and refocus if thoughts distract you. You breathe in the NOW. This is a practice you can do at anytime, anywhere to disconnect from your mind and reconnect o the present moment.
Readjust your posture. When you’re overwhelmed and distracted by your thoughts and feelings bring your attention to your posture and change it. If you’re sitting, stand up. If you’re standing kneel down. By bringing your attention back to your body sensations and posture you can reconnect to what’s happening in the here and now.
Become aware of your thoughts. The mind thinks that’s what it does but you don’t have to believe everything you think or feed every thought with more thoughts. When you’re in your head you are not in the present moment. By becoming aware of your thoughts, you will be able to let them pass!
Connect with your senses. Your 5 senses provide information about what’s happening in the present moment. One of the simplest ways to practice mindfulness and calm your mind is to connect with your senses. You can become aware of your sight by naming 5 objects you see, then connect to your sense of touch by naming 4 objects you can touch, continue by naming 3 things you can hear and 2 things you can smell. If you have water, a mint or a raisin, use it to connect to your sense of taste. This practice helps to disconnect from your mind and become more aware of your experience.
A loving and friendly attitude of acceptance allows you to relax and accept the present moment as it is, making your experience more enjoyable and open. In order to accept the present you need to notice what’s happening without judging it and allowing the experience to unfold.
A regular practice of mindfulness provides the opportunity of fully engaging with others and your surroundings, embracing life as a whole and not experiencing just a fraction of it!