My fore into mindfulness did not start with seated meditation. Yoga was really the bridge for me. I was a total fitness fanatic, and because I was interested in being physically active, I could more easily “swallow” trying yoga than meditation, which was far too intimidating and uninteresting to me at the time.
Connecting with the physical body in a mindful way, through yoga, taught me to open and settle my mind and slowly introduced me to mindfulness. And what I quickly realized is that you don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor, or even sit at all, to practice being mindful. All you have to do to practice mindfulness is to, in some way, practice being “aware of the present moment without judgment.”
The concept of movement while practicing mindfulness really appeals to me. I’m a mover and a doer by nature and when I first started on this mindful journey, I found it incredibly tough to sit still. As difficult as it was to slow down, I knew it was helping me. The practice of mindfulness has the power to take us beyond our internal struggles, self-doubt, anxiety and judgment to a place that supports creativity, inner peace, joy and balance. Who wouldn’t want some of that?!
So let’s take a look at the many ways you can practice mindfulness in your life that don’t involve total stillness. And remember, this is just a sample, know that you can practice doing anything with 100 percent of your attention to get yourself into the mindful mode.
The body is always present, so it’s a great place to begin your journey with mindfulness. In yoga, we start with the body—allowing the body and breath to lead, and the mind to follow, since the mind is the difficult piece to tame.
Many people find their way to meditation and mindfulness through yoga because it’s easier to focus on the physical body first. For me, it was the door that introduced me to meditation, and was a great entry point to the entire world of mindfulness.
Plus, it can be a great way to get some exercise, stretch your body, and break a sweat.
Try a more creative anchor for your mindfulness practice. Painting, drawing, playing the piano, decorating a cake … and you don’t have to be talented to practice mindfulness while getting creative. You just have to tune the external world out and focus completely on the activity.
Active Movement and Exercise
Choose your own exercise here to anchor your mind. Run, hike, surf, play a sport … anything that gets you in the zone is a great activity to practice mindfulness. Surfers often note that everything else in the world disappears when they’re riding a wave; runners catch the runner’s high when they’re on their way; those who practice tai chi do so with such grace and attention; any activity that puts you in that heightened state of awareness will do.
Bring your focused attention and your equipment, if needed.
I’m not going to recommend that you head down the highway, kick it into high gear, and slip into meditation. That would be a really bad idea.
But you can practice being mindful while you drive. The act of driving can be incredibly stressful, and practicing mindfulness is a way to cut the edge off the commute and arrive to your destination with more focused attention.
The idea with mindful driving is that you really have to tune in and focus on—driving. That’s it. But it’s not as easy or common as it might sound to pay complete attention while you’re behind the wheel. How many times have you arrived at a destination, but didn’t really remember the drive there? We get lost in thought, in music, in phone conversations (over blue tooth, I hope,) and all of a sudden, we are there! Or we are lost. Either way, we realize our mind was not present while we were driving.
Next time you head out on your morning commute or take off on a road trip, follow the instructions in this post to tune into all the details from behind the wheel.
Listening requires 100 percent focus on the person who is talking. It’s being with them in what they are saying, and taking in their words and emotions through all of your senses.
Listening is hearing with every part of you. Think of a time you were talking with a friend, spouse, or therapist about an important situation in your life, and when the conversation was over you felt lighter, loved, and cared for. This is likely because they were with you fully. True listening is not as easy as it sounds. Follow the instructions in this post to learn more about mindful listening and turn the act into a mindful practice.
Kissing mindfully is different than kissing with a motive. A mindful smooch can’t have any other purpose other than to smooch. It can’t be a peck to communicate goodbye as you’re headed out the door, and it can’t be attached to any expectation of where it will go next. If you want to bring mindfulness into a kiss, just dive in and explore the kiss with all of your senses tuned in and remove your awareness from anything else. Except the experience of the kiss.
While not as fun as mindful kissing, doing chores is a great time to practice being mindful. This will work with just about anything, you can try doing laundry, sweeping, or doing dishes mindfully.
Simply slow down and tune into the entire experience of being with your chore. If you’re doing dishes, feel the hot water on your hands, smell the soapy bubbles, notice the process of the dishes transitioning from cruddy to clean. If you’re sweeping, discover the different spaces and spots to clear with curiosity.
Michael Stone, a Buddhist teacher and social activist, told a story on his podcast once where he referenced advice he gave to a student of his who was a high school teacher. To connect with the high school students more, and start class with a relaxed feeling, Michael suggested that she sweep the floor before class, as her students were walking into the classroom. It didn’t matter that the floor did not need to be swept, he told her to think as she swept, “I sweep the floor with attentiveness, and I sweep my mind.” This indeed helped her to settle and connect before she taught her class.
Walking meditation is a great way to anchor your attention into your physical body and slow down your mind and movements.
We spend too much of our time rushing from point A to point B. Walking meditation is an opportunity to do just the opposite—think of walking meditation as a slow stroll without any other purpose or destination except to stroll—and be with any experiences that come up while putting one foot in front of the other. Follow the instructions and advice in this post to get started with mindful walking.
Cooking can be an incredibly mindful activity, or it can be a messy, loveless endeavor. When you cook mindfully, you are hyper-focused on the details of the meal you’re about to create. You think about what to make and where it came from, so you can feel more connected to the food you’re eating. You also consider how it will affect your body. When you chop, you move with awareness and focus. Cooking can be stressful if you allow distraction and that overwhelmed feeling into the kitchen. Or it can be an opportunity to be creative and present.
Really, you can practice mindfulness in almost anything you do. Just set the intention of being mindful, hone your attention to the activity … and voila! You’re on your mindful way.
*This post was adapted from the book, The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People.