Mindfulness 101: 6 Tips to Help You Thrive in the Face of Your Life

"I can't clear my mind / My head is too busy - so I can't meditate."

It's an excuse I hear all the time. I often smile and gently say, "you'd be surprised." The truth is - we all have busy minds. And the things we feel when we stop and sit still - those things are there anyway. The anxiety - it's already there. That sadness - it's already there. That distracted feeling - it's already there. Without a mindfulness practice we tend to do two things:

  1. Pretend it's not there and continue to distract ourselves
  2. Use other things to numb it out: alcohol, TV, sex, drugs, books, food, work ... yes - WORK!

The problem is, we can't manage what's beneath the surface until we learn to sit with it. And while it may feel overwhelming at first - it's actually very simple to create and sustain a 1-5 minute mindful practice in any given day of your life.

  • Can you simply try to be totally present and grateful at a meal?
  • Can you truly listen to someone who is talking to you?
  • Can you walk outside or watch a sunset and let it be just that - truly soak it in like you're bathing in it?

Well if you can do any of this then it turns out you already have a mindfulness practice - you just don't realize it. The goal of this practice is to be more aware of the things that compose the present moment - sounds, physical feelings, emotional feelings, what's happening around us - and just notice with curiosity, putting down the urge to judge or label the experience as good or bad. There are tons of ways to start:

  1. Download an app - Buddhify, Headspace, Insight Timer, Aura, Simply Being, The Mindfulness App, Calm, Smiling Mind, 10% Happier, Breethe
  2. Take a gentle yoga class or meditation class - Simply Google "meditation near me" or "gentle yoga near me" - get off your butt and start going :) If you don't jive with one location, instructor - try another. Yoga is a nice tool for people who have trouble sitting still because it uses the body as a sensory tool to help steady the mind - so if straight meditation is too hard - start with yoga :)
  3. Walking Meditation: Take a walk. Don't talk. Notice as many things as you can on the walk. Drink in the world around you. Notice when you see things that you might have missed otherwise. 
  4. Try a minute a day for 10 days. Set a time of day when you're most likely to be successful, put it on your calendar and set an alarm. Every day at that time take one simple minute and notice how you feel after. You may find that some days you turn of the timer and stay with the practice loner once you get started. 
  5. Eating Meditation: Try eating a grape or single piece of chocolate over the course of 5 minutes. Don't eat it right away. Notice the texture, feel it, touch it to your tongue, hold it in your mouth before chewing a bit - notice your bodies reaction to the stimulus. Do you start salivating? Does it taste more or less intense than usual? Where does the taste register on your tongue?
  6. Body Scan: Body scanning is a common technique in meditation. If you have time you can get really specific (search "Yoga Nidra / Yoga Sleep") and think about the space between each toe, you left ankle, the lower part of your calf, etc. - and then walk your way up the whole body. When you're pressed for time try walking your awareness down the stress "plumb line" of your body: relax your eyes in their sockets, soften your mouth / jaw, let go in your chest and shoulders, watch the ease flow into your belly (stay with the belly a bit - it's hard to soften completely) and then take that into your pelvis. Stay with each from 30 seconds to a minute, imagine your breath and awareness combing softness into these areas of your body. 

Below is a gallery from my Mindfulness 101 presentation that I gave for a group of corporate clients that I teach yoga for in Palo Alto. If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness in your workplace let's get in touch!

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