I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with mindfulness.
I started practicing some form of meditation in my early twenties and even took classes at University with my best friend, who was in in her first years of medical practice and would keep falling asleep as I stifled giggles at her snoring or we would mutually giggle for no apparent reason. I’m sure we were a delight for the meditation teacher!
Over the course of my life, I have dipped into learning about meditation and various different practices and found clear benefits in a daily practice.
If you’re interested in the benefits, Google ‘benefits of mindfulness’ and you’ll see there are about 23 million entries. While mindfulness is an ancient practice, nowadays there is a wealth of scientifically-validated evidence of the multiple benefits of mindfulness. Mindful practices are linked with greater well-being, increased resiliency, increased connection with others ie, relationship satisfaction, stress relief and cognitive flexibility, less emotional reactivity, boosted working memory, increased focus, lowered blood pressure, increased immune functioning, reduction in chronic pain, to mention a few.
Sometimes the practice slips out of my schedule.
I know that even 5 minutes of mindfulness can make a difference. And somehow even that is skipped.
Even 5 minutes.
And this is my field of work.
The pace of our lives and the endless interruptions, whether digital or actual, imposed (eg, calls or emails) or self imposed (eg, think Facebook, ‘shiny-object-to-squirrel’ internet surfing). It’s been shown that our length of focus is shorter than ever. And our 24/7 world continues at break-neck speed.
In those moments of presence.
In our practice.
Whether sitting, lying down, walking, stretching, we slow down. We notice our breathing. We become the observer of our thoughts, not hooked by them, just witnessing them without judgment as they come and go. We notice sensations in our body. We may offer ourselves kindness and compassion.
We allow some white space in our scheduled lives.
Even 5 minutes makes a difference.
I would love to say that I feel better after each session, and truly this can be the case for many sittings. However, I notice more when I have missed my practice for one or more days. The cadence of my day shifts, I am more distracted, more quick to be triggered or reactive, more hamster-wheel-ish. Ask my kids and husband.
And so I practice. Whether it’s breathing meditations, loving kindness meditation, body scan, or mindful walking in nature, washing of the dishes or folding laundry – noticing everything with all senses, without judgment, and being totally in the present, all provide such benefit and richness in my life. A waft of peace in the midst of what may sometimes be chaotic.
I slow down enough to enjoy my teenager’s lovely faces. I pause to feel the sun on my face as I walk my dog. I stop to listen, really listen, to my husband. I bring focus and attention to my work and clients, and lightness and compassion for myself. I bring peace with me versus wait for it to magically appear.
With that 5 or 20 minutes of mindful practice, I am more focused and productive. More creative and kind. More energized and grounded.
What might the present in presence be for you?