Image by PublicDomainArchive from Pixabay

“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” 

– Sylvia Boorstein

Are you the type of person who lives in the present moment? Are you fully aware, with all your senses, of the moment that you are experiencing, right now? Or do you, like so many people, ruminate about the past or fret about the future, while the present moment seems to pass you by?

Your life may have been hectic and overwhelming before this crazy coronavirus became our new normal. But now, with even more stress, pressure, and uncertainty to deal with, “mindfulness” may feel counterintuitive or simply unattainable.

Research shows that practicing mindfulness helps reduce stress, boost immunity, improve mood, and enhance empathy and compassion.  It also helps us to see things more clearly, provides a sense of calm, and contributes to an improved sense of well-being.

Thing is, it’s times like these when we need mindfulness – that practice of living in the present moment – more than ever.

You don’t need to climb a mountain in Tibet or join a monastery to practice mindfulness. Neither do you need specific equipment, a certain app, or any special skill.

All you need is a quiet space and 5 minutes (or less)  to get started.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit comfortably with your back straight. Close your eyes. 
  • Inhale and hold for 3-4 seconds then exhale fully. Notice if your breathing is shallow or deep.
  • Inhale again, more deeply this time. Hold for 3-4 seconds, then exhale slowly and fully.
  • Continue breathing in this manner. Notice the sensation of your lungs as they fill with life-giving oxygen. Notice the slight difference between the inhale and the exhale.
  • Don’t be surprised if your brain kicks into overdrive with random thoughts. That’s natural. Don’t fight it. It’s part of the process. Just notice the thoughts, (without judging yourself or your thoughts), and let them go.
  • Bring your attention back to your breathing.
  • Continue the 4-step sequence: 
    1. Breath deeply – hold – exhale completely; 
    2. Notice the physical sensations of breathing – how it feels in your body. 
    3. Notice any thoughts that come up. Let them go.
    4. Refocus on your breathing.
  • Repeat the above 4-step sequence.
  • When you’re ready, open your eyes. 

That’s it! It may not seem like much is happening at first, but once you get into the habit you’ll start to feel the benefits – calm yet energized. 

There may be times, though, when you feel that taking a few moments to sit and breathe is the last thing you have time for. No worries! You can practice being mindful as you go through your day as well. Because in the end, mindfulness is about being conscious of what your mind is full of. It’s the opposite of autopilot – doing things with no conscious thought or consideration.

Here are two ways to be mindful as you go through your day:

Do one thing at a time. If you’re driving, drive. If you’re eating, eat. If you’re brushing your teeth, … well, you get the idea. Multitasking scatters your attention and causes your brain more stress. Practice being mentally present with what your physical body is doing.

Check-in with your self. Use those “in-between times” like washing your hands, brushing your hair, when you’re stuck on hold on the phone, waiting in line, or anywhere anytime you have a few moments to yourself. 

First, check-in with your five senses. Notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in your body. Don’t label, just notice. 

Then, notice how you feel emotionally. Again, no need to judge good or bad. Just acknowledge them and any accompanying thoughts. Take a deep breath and allow them to be what they are. 

Life can be worrisome, chaotic, and uncertain. Establishing a habit of mindfulness enables you to deal with all life throws your way with a more resilient, peaceful state of mind.

You practice mindfulness, on the one hand, to be calm and peaceful. On the other hand, as you practice mindfulness and live a life of peace, you inspire hope for a future of peace.

– Thich Nhat Hanh