Mindfulness is top of mind for everyone from CEOs to app developers these days and with good reason. We live in a world that constantly demands our attention, making the pursuit of balance among work, life, and love all the more challenging. Developing a practice of mindfulness can be an effective way of bringing more focus and peace to day-to-day life.
In its simplest terms, being mindful means maintaining an open awareness of what’s happening right now, paying attention to the present moment, and not thinking about the future or past. Mindfulness can help bring out a sense of self that exists beyond our thoughts and daily habits, creating a wellspring of joy and energy we can tap into when we need it.
The beauty of beginning a practice of mindfulness is you don’t need any equipment, special training, or money to do it. You have all the tools you need right now.
Here are a few simple exercises to begin exploring mindfulness today.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Our minds function best when focusing on one thing at one time. This can be hard in a state of constant partial focus, but learning to focus our attention can create drastic shifts in how we experience life. Multitasking stops being a juggling act and becomes a series of moments that we nimbly move in and out of as we shift our focus. Becoming more aware of awareness and where we place our focus is the first step. You can start right now by asking yourself three simple questions throughout your day:
Where is my focus now?
What is the quality of my focus?
Where do I need to focus?
A simple breath-focused meditation is a great place to start exploring mindfulness. Breath is a vital part of life, something that is with us every moment of every day. By learning to meditate, we can quiet the mind and explore the parts of our self that exist beyond words, thoughts, and emotions.
Find a comfortable position. You could try lying down, sitting in a chair, or propped against a wall — whatever is most comfortable for you. Start with one minute, making a deal with yourself that no matter what happens, you will be still for your set amount of time.
Allow your eyes to close and focus your attention on your breath. If you don’t feel comfortable closing your eyes yet, keep them open with a soft focus. Notice your breath as it moves in and out of you. What is the shape of your breath, the texture, and quality? Your mind will inevitably wander away. It’s ok. Gently refocus your attention on your breath. Feel the air move in and out of your nostrils.
Our bodies allow us to experience and interpret reality. They’re not just vehicles for transporting our brains. In fact, much of our brain is in our body and by exploring the issues in our tissues, we can get a new perspective on our mind. Doing a body scan is a simple way of reconnecting the body with the mind.
Find a comfortable position lying on the ground or in a chair. Allow your eyes to close and focus your attention on your breath. Feel your belly rise and fall and turn your attention inwards.
With each breath, allow yourself to become a little more quiet and curious about the state of your internal landscape. Start to focus your attention on one part of your body at a time. Allow your breath and focus to be like a flashlight that illuminates parts of your body as you hold and shift focus. Start with your feet and then move your focus from shins to knees to thighs to hips to stomach, then ribs to arms to face and beyond.
Spend at least one full breath cycle in each area before you move on. Maintaining focus is one of the most challenging parts of this exercise. Don’t underestimate how challenging this is. Be gentle and stay at it. Bit by bit, your ability to focus will grow.
Get Out and Play!
There’s a very serious reason to get out there and play till you drop: play is both a psychological and physiological precursor to social and emotional maturity in adults. When you’re at the gym, bring a smile to your workout and take it a little less seriously. Go for a walk, a hike, dance, take a new class, do some jumping jacks, skip, or play on the jungle gym.
Continue to find new ways to move your body, laugh and explore with a childlike curiosity. Most importantly, get off the couch and move your body out in the world.