Try These Mindfulness Practices
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Articulate three ways to develop your mindfulness practice.
- Explain how you can incorporate more mindfulness into your day.
It’s time to put mindfulness into action. That’s right, mindfulness isn’t a passive experience—you don’t even have to be sitting still! In fact, it requires you to be active, whether you’re just mindful of your breath or you’re mindful of your body while actively working. Let’s focus on three ways to develop mindfulness in your day to day life.
- Sitting meditation
- Walking meditation
- Mindful eating
These exercises (courtesy of Plum Village) are a great place to start, because they incorporate mindfulness into activities we already do.
The beauty of sitting meditation is that you can practice it virtually anytime and anywhere you can find a comfortable seat—at work, home, or on the bus, for example.
The next time you find yourself seated (right now, perhaps?), take 12 minutes to give sitting meditation a try with this guided session from Brother Phap Dung.
Step-by-Step Sitting Meditation Exercise
- Find a comfortable seated position on the floor or in a chair. Make sure you’re sitting with your back upright, your chest open, and your shoulders relaxed. Check in with your posture. Is there any discomfort? Perhaps at the shoulders, back, hips, or knees? Make adjustments as needed so that your body is at ease.
- Then, gently begin to bring your awareness to your breathing taking note of the air as it flows in and out of your nose and abdomen. Get in touch with the freedom of sitting still and doing nothing.
- Breathing in, bring your awareness to how the air is refreshing your body, and on an out-breath, intentionally relax further into your seat.
- Becoming aware of your body and breath in this way, you are bringing your full attention to what is happening within and around you. You can simply enjoy being alive and breathing.
- When your body is calm and at ease, this is an optimal time to take a few moments to practice gratitude, identifying one or two things that are bringing you joy right now. On a stressful day, rekindling your awareness of what is going well can be very refreshing and can reset your perspective.
“When you practice mindful walking on the way to work, your destination is not the office or the workplace. Your destination is the here and the now. Every breath, every step, brings you home to the here and the now so that you can be truly alive […].” —Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh
Like in sitting meditation, walking meditation helps you bring more mindfulness to your daily routine. Whether you are walking down a hallway, street, or from your front door to the car, it’s the perfect time to connect with your breath and become present to your surroundings.
Try these practices during your next walking meditation.
- Bring all your attention to the contact your feet make with the ground. Let the steps become the object of your meditation. Notice how many steps you take with the in-breath, and how many steps you take with the out-breath.
- Walk naturally, your whole body relaxed, your steps gentle as if they were kissing the earth.
- Notice what is going on within and around you. What sights, sounds, and sensations do you notice? If you are outside, notice the trees, or the sound of birds, or even the sky.
- As you walk, take two or three steps for each in-breath, and three or four steps for each out-breath, perhaps silently repeating “arrived, arrived, arrived” with each in-breath step, and “at home, at home, at home” with each out-breath step. This way, you practice arriving at home in the here and the now with each step.
That’s right, eating a meal can be a meditative practice. By giving your full presence to every mouthful and savoring the full range of flavors and textures, you are practicing mindfulness. And get this—mindful eating also promotes healthy eating habits. When you eat with mindfulness, you are more likely to eat only what you need and consume foods that make your body feel good. Pretty awesome, right?
Mindful eating has some amazing benefits, but when starting out, it can seem daunting. So, begin small, focusing on snacks and shorter mealtimes. Just 5–10 minutes of mindful eating each day is a good place to start.
Grab a tangerine or any healthy snack you have on hand and give it a try with this 4-minute Tangerine Meditation led by Brother Spirit.
Step-by-Step Mindful Eating Exercise
- Begin by sitting down. It’s important to eat meals or snacks seated. From this position, we can relax more, focusing on the sensations of taste and smell.
- Once seated, make sure your environment is free from distractions. If you’re in your office, power down your laptop or phone, close the door, or find a quiet space where you can eat in peace.
- Place your meal in front of you. The food and the act of eating are now the objects of your meditation. Notice what is on your plate: it might be salad, tofu, beans, or carrots. With each morsel you become aware of your hand bringing the food to your mouth. Notice the morsel as you place it in your mouth: the smell, the color, the taste, the texture.
- Now become aware of the action of chewing the food. Chew each mouthful slowly—at least 30 times, or until the food is fully broken down. This aids the digestive process.
- Reflect on where this food has come from, and what contributed to it being here for you to eat: the energy that was used to produce it, the resources, and the people.
- After you’ve finished eating, take a few moments to notice how you feel. Are you satisfied? What flavor or texture did you enjoy the most? Practice gratitude for the nourishing meal you’ve just completed. Notice how enjoyable it is to take the time to eat without rushing.
Now that you’ve had some hands-on practice with adding mindfulness to your daily activities, let’s dig deeper into the ways that you can create mindful habits for yourself and your team.
- Gatha Poems: Short Verses to Help You Practice Daily Mindfulness
- Watch the full version of Breathe as a Free Person, Walk as a Free Person, a Dharma Talk by Thich Nhat Hanh