5 things you can do every day to practice mindfulness

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.

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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!

I had this article half written when I went to a mindful eating workshop by Tansy Boggon at Balanced Living in Singapore.

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.

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Coffee here and coffee there #ootd

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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.

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Trish and Julie from New Angle Yoga

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.

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Image credit : Katie Te

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.

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This is the view from my balcony. It makes it easier!

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

Namaste.

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Letting go of Miss Independent

It’s Monday morning, 9am. I’m sitting on my balcony having breakfast and listening to the soft sound the rain makes when it falls on the canopy of trees that surrounds me.

Last night my morning class was cancelled and I rushed to book a slot in my Yoga studio for a morning workout. I went to bed thinking: Great! I can finally get some time for my practice! and it’s with one of my favorite teachers! Then the rain happened this morning… and it hypnotized me and convinced me to stay at home and enjoy the moment. I happily cancelled my plan of rushing and I’m set to spend the morning listening to her soundtrack.

Her, yes, because I think the rain is a She.
The rain nourishes life,  and so do women.

I’m staying home (and probably order Uber Eats for lunch) because I deserve it and becase I can. Like my Lovely boyfriend The Troglodyte says, I’m not a fan of self praise, but the truth is that I worked my ass out last week, and didn’t get much rest over the weekend so this morning I’m staying home, to nourish my soul and to get nourished by the rain. I deserve it.

And I can. Yes, I can. I can I can I can. I have to repeat that to myself several times to shake off any possible the sense of guilt for doing nothing. I can because he provides. I can because while I was happily wrapped in my pillows and duvets he was silently getting ready to go to work. Very early. I actually must.

I must because what woke me up today was not the sound of the door as he left the house but the smell of the cigarette he had for breakfast.

Those little things he does to “calm me nerves” like he says, tell me he’s stressed, but he will hardly ever complain. He’s going through hell at work. I know. He’s doing all of that so that We, so that I, can have this life we have. So I let go of Miss productive, of Miss Independent and I stay home to enjoy, for him, for us.

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I don’t really need to drag myself out to fulfill a series of tasks I had planned myself, for myself . I do it a lot and It’s completely self inflicted. I do because time is a terrible thing to waste and because there’s always a million things to do in the house. But in reality It’s to make myself feel useful because that’s something that gives me a kick since I do not work the in the corporate game anymore. Call it withdrawal symptoms.

It’s really me just finding fulfillment in the task achieved, not in the moment enjoyed.

The woman that has been working since 16 just to have my own income and not have to ask pocket money from my parents. She’s quite dominante in my brain, Earning it, and being able to spend it without justification, without second thoughts, has been part of my nature since that first job in the gift shop. I was actually brought up like that, to be Miss Independent. I guess part of my mother didn’t want me ending up stuck with my father like her.

For a very long time I dismissed the importance of her nourishment role. I was very masculine in my approach to life. Nevertheless, enough time as Miss Independent has showed me too many women role models that ‘made it’ in my environment, that also had serious guilt and failure issues on the nourishment side. Call me old fashion but I did get the call of human nature that told me there was a conflict, and going against it has a price to pay.  God knows if the business drive will come back. I just couldn’t do it any more, It was time to tune into my nourishing side.

It’s very hard to let Miss Independent go. It takes trust in your partner and to make deaf ears to your Miss Independent girlfriend’s warnings. Including the one in your head. It’s also hard to find balance.

My corporate life payed me well to put up with a lot of crap, but I didn’t have to think of money ever. My new sponsored status means thinking if I’m going to get this or that with my boyfriend’s money or eat on my savings. I can’t think of it as OUR money yet. That’s a part of me that’s still holding on to Miss Independent. I’m always concerned about abusing his kindness.  I do not make a lot of money teaching Yoga part time, even if it’s really fulfilling, and It’s hard to monetize the value of my home making versus his job.

The fact is that I keep striving to be even with him, when I know it’s never going to be even in that way. It has to be whole as the sum of both our efforts.

It’s getting chilly here. I grab my mustard cardigan and a cup of tea. This is a rare moment in Singapore and I’m going to allow myself to soak it all it, because I can now. I listen to the rain again. I hear the gardener sweeping the floor with a straw broom. He’s deaf, he can’t hear the rain, and yet he seems to be singing to some tune in his head. He talks to the trees, he talks to the birds. I’m not even going to stand up to make the bed.

It’s generally hard not succumb to the temptation of over planning to maximize my day.  I have time now, and I want to make the most of it and be useful, but today nature made a conspiracy that’s too hard to resist.

I still have not decided how long this break from corporate life will be but it’s clear it will not be forever. I will not be able to slow down to enjoy Me time as much soon enough. I will not be able to do all those things that keep me busy and fulfilled either.

A friend of mine always says that she doesn’t know how I stretch time. I can give 3 classes, run several errands, be social, bake a tray of muffins and make dinner all in one day. The answer is that I’m a planner. I have the skills, dedication, hard work and commitment of a corporate soldier. I’m known to make things happen. It’s so programmed in my brain that here I am writing about how hard it is sometimes to let it go and enjoy Slow Living.

How much we try to justify it when the world around you is on the hamster wheel and you just came out of it. I stare at them with a mix of ‘should I be going back’ and ‘look at them the poor things running all day rushing to no where’.

Regardless of what I do professionally, the Slow Life has the days counted. When children come this will be over, for a VERY long time. Better enjoy it now.

 

I want to teach yoga, but I also want to contemplate and write, and I want to weave! I finally found something artistic to express my creativity that I can actually execute myself and not just design and order. It feels fantastic. Maybe a new business opportunity!

I don’t want t go back to to corporate but I do not have a solid plan ahead either! That’s what makes it very hard to truly relax and let go, permanently. 

Until then I shall stay home more, at least times like this when I just can’t resist it. I will stay home to enjoy what he can’t, and nourish myself so I can nourish him.

Together we can be even. It’s not me versus him. It’s US.
There goes Miss Independent.