Mindfulness is the opposite of going in autopilot. Gulping a cup of coffee on the go from a take away container is not the same as sitting down, leaning back against the chair, and sipping your coffee bit by bit from a porcelain cup.
Apply that to life and you will see things differently, feel differently and think differently. You will likely realize that you don’t need more to be more content. You just need to go deeper.
Paying attention to the little things that surround us becomes very hard when we are rushing from one errand to another, from one to do list to another. It’s like trying to see the landscape from a bullet train.
We live in an overstimulating environment here in Singapore, and it does get to you eventually if you don’t consciously make an effort stop going with the motions.
Mindfulness practice is about taking some time to be in the here and the now. When you are doing something or when you are taking a break.
It’s putting your mind and focus on it. Here and Now. Not in the past (too much of this causes depression), not in the future (too much of this causes anxiety) and not in your imaginary thoughts (too much of this causes delusion).
The good news is that you don’t need to go to a course, download an app or read a book to do it, although it helps to start the habit. If taking time off to do nothing and meditate is impossible for you…
There are things we do every day that can become your mindful moment.
You don’t need a lot of time, just a few minutes will do.
MYTHBUSTER! Meditation is not putting out all thoughts, It’s to focus your attention into one thing for a longer period of time. The mind keeps jumping like a monkey from one thought to another in a matter of seconds, unless we give it something to entertain it for a while. Lack of thoughts (meditation) is the result of the effort, not the effort itself. Mindfulness is a mediation technique.
Here’s 5 things you can do to make every day more mindful
1- Do not do multitask when you eat.
Focus on your food. Not your phone, or your laptop or even the person you have in front of you. We eat minimum 3 times a day so there you have 3 possible mindful meditative moments.
I have an ability to go into ‘meditation mode’ at certain moments (read getting so absorbed into what I’m doing that I forget about everything around me) and one of them is when I’m eating.
Sometimes I’m so into my food I stop hearing what My Lovely Boyfriend the Troglodyte says. So instead of taking me out of my moment, he stares at me and the faces I do, the noises I make, and he says; ‘I can see you are really enjoying that’. Mindful moment for him, mindful moment for me. Double check!
The most valuable thing I learnt is that digestion starts in the senses.
I always thought the first step was chewing your food properly but when we smell the food, we look, we touch, we heard anything related to the food experience, our body starts preparing to receive the food. The brain sends signals to the digestive system to start producing the juices that help digestion.
Therefore eating without thinking about eating makes it more difficult for the body to digest food. There you go. Two benefits for the price of one! I just can’t resist a bargain. Try paying attention to all the details around your eating experience. It can be your daily mindful moment.
(SHORTCUT: I don’t want to read more about your life now, take me to number 2)
I have a student that has lots of digestive issues. I went to have lunch with her once and she literally hoovered what she had in front on her. It took me 3 times more to finish my soup than for her to eat her eggs ben. If you do the same try this.
Next time we go for lunch I will ask her her look at the food for 30 seconds after it arrives. I will try to make her smell and touch the food even, to tell me what she perceives. Then I will make her mentally plan how she’s going to eat it by asking her. Where to start, how to divide etc. Hopefully that will give her body enough time to prepare. If the Tea ceremonies in China and Japan take about 45 min. I think we can take a good 30 min. to eat our meals properly.
You can be social when mindful eating, just take be aware you can’t do two things at the same time, and slow down to take turns. My Lovely Boyfriend the Troglodyte and I make it a point to have a proper sit down home made dinner several times a week. That’s our mindful eating moment together and there’s 50% talk 50% silence. The rest of the days I’m guilty of rushing it often, but hey nobody is perfect.
One thing I don’t barge on is my tea or coffee moment. It’s my special moment. Add a nice biscuit to it and I’m a happy camper. If you love coffee or tea you van make it your mindful moment.
2- Acknowledge others
Do you pass by the same people every day and don’t ever say hi? Do you know your neighbors? To answer these questions you probably need to ask yourself first if you pay any attention to the people that surround you.
People watching in a cafe is a good option. The ones in the crossroad between Orchard and Scott’s road (Marriott Hotel, Prive, Starbucks, Overeasy) give you a view to a great deal of people, but I think this should be taken a step further.
It’s easy to use things for your mindful moment, but if you do it with people it has a double effect. On you and on them.
Just nodding, smiling or say hi to passer by makes the person do the same to you. It can be a bus driver, a neighbor you don’t know. A construction worker, gardener, cleaner. You can even venture to mention something you notice about a receptionist or a clerk. Something not related to the task in hands.
Here’s 3 recent occasions I saw myself doing that. Paying attention to the people around me, noticing the differences and mentioning those to them to give acknowledgement.
- Post office. I found in the Singpost office in ION a bubbly Malay lady that used to work in the Tanglin office, and wear braces. I commended about the change of office and the braces. You should have since her smile (post braces)
- Gardeners. To decorate my house warming party I picked scraps of leaves from the mountain the gardeners make in my condo. I went to them an explained my intentions. They were happy to help me. They are usually those invisible people making everything look tidy, so I took the time to talk to them, ask them about the job, hear them.
- Guards. Every other day I pass by the house of the Prime Minister on my bike. It’s a shortcut I take to work. There’s always guards at the door. The special Nepalese forces. They have different hats depending on the time of the day and weather. I tap on my imaginary hat as I pass by and give them a thumbs up or something. It must be really boring to stare at the same wall all day every day. The poor things.
It’s incredible how little attention we pay to strangers. I was recently in a Yoga Workshop by New Angle Yoga, Hands-on assists where we did very interesting exercises. It was about helping students feel the Yoga postures better, and to raise the awareness of the need of support and the role of a supporter. In Yoga and in life.
At some point we were asked to walk around the the room randomly and at the sound of the gong stop and look at what we had in front. For the first three rounds we all looked at objects in the room. Then the teacher asked us to look at the person you have in front instead. We all sadly noticed the objects before the people.
Then she made us stare at them for a full 30 seconds, felt like an eternity. It was intense but it did the job: Engraving the message in our brains. Kudos to Trish.
3- Take 5 min to rest outdoors.
Oh the great outdoors… There’s no such thing in Singapore but you can still find solace. Whether on your way somewhere or just coming back home, just pause, sit down and pay attention to what you have around you. Close the eyes if possible and listen to the sounds. If not just stare vaguely at a point far away.
This is another bargain. Mindful and a tried and tested creativity boost. When we de-focus we access the subconscious mind and ideas arise. It’s like switching of from the running commentary of the outside and inside our mind and boom! The magic happens.
When we are waking up or about to fall asleep is when we have more access to our hidden mind. That’s why power naps work so well to boost creativity. I learnt this from Carlos Pomeda in one his workshops.
You can find time to do this for example at the bus stop. Put your phone down and look at the surroundings. Notice the signboards the plants the floor the sky. Look up and down, left and right. Notice everything that you can see from where you stand. How many buses stop there, check where do they go. Notice the houses or buildings you can see from the bus stop etc. If you don’t know what they are ask yourself what could they be or imagine them inside.
Detailed observation is a great tool for mindfulness.
You could do this at your work space too or pretty much anywhere except when you are sitting on a plane, but it’s better to do it outdoors, just for a change and a breath of fresh air.
Noticing food, noticing people, noticing your surroundings and also why not also noticing your own body? Yoga Nidra, also known as Yoga sleep, awake rest, is also a very powerful way to induce a meditative state with a simple body scan sequence.
4- Journal before going to bed.
I recently started doing this, after reading an article in UK Glamour Magazine about list making its negative effects and bullet journalists.
It’s not writing your diary like when you were a kid. (Dear Diary: Today that cute guy in class looked at me. OMG! I think he likes me. I hope I didn’t blush) Bullet journaling is about keeping it short.
A good thought generates a good feeling, a food feeling triggers creation of serotonin hormone, that one makes our brain happy. Yoga’s Pancha Kosha theory (and in a nutshell the entire body mind connection hoo-ha) is this by the way. In a nutshell.
Just write one thing you are thankful for each day, before you go to bed.
Don’t over do it or you will end up like this…
Take a moment to notice that you are here in bed now, writing THE good moment of the day and being thankful for it. Recalling the day, looking for the good, choosing the moment, recreating that feeling, will all help you focus on something else that’s not what you need to do tomorrow but watch out!
Don’t get too caught up on the facts but stay with the feelings and the now.
This is something great to do with your partner too. Just ask him/her to tell you one good thing that happened today before going to bed.
I use the Thoughts and Reflections Journey from Typo that has one page for day with 3 sections, so you can fit 3 years there. If one day you forget you can always turn back the pages and write what you remember.
5- Observe nature.
Nature is amazing, really. The shape of a flower, the variety of plants, the leaves, how tall trees are, how incredible it is that water and air magically turn in to matter. Think of the space they take and how significant plants are. They are all around us and they are a feast for the eyes.
I’m a very visual person so this works wonders for me. Like mindful coloring. Any art and music can fall into this same category. Call it appreciation of beauty. Pets and kids are also fascinating. Like wild creatures (I wish I had done a boomerang video of this fella)
One of my students told me she likes the trees here so much that sometimes she even stops the car to admire them and take photos of them.
I love the lush vegetation in Singapore, it makes me awe every single time. The jungle is just amazing and intricate enough to keep your eyes entertained in every detail and switch off from the rest. Look at the colors the shapes the size of the trees and you got yourself a mindful moment.
I hope this helps! Pick your thing and stick to it for a while. Like the muscles, the brain requires training. Don’t be frustrated if you can’t lift a 10Kg dumbbell with one arm on the first day at the gym.
Until the next time! Xx