Getting away from things gives one the space to be mindful. A recent trip to Switzerland with my husband, Steve, found us both amidst throngs of people in public spaces and alone together in very remote areas. A value of getting away is to leave it all behind (your worries, problems, stresses, threats and daily noise) and to explore something totally new. It is when I am away from my routine that I truly find myself able to be more mindful, or at least to practice being more mindful. As I’ve been back from vacation for a week and find myself reflecting on our trip, I think back to the moments of being mindful and want to dig deeper towards new understanding of mindfulness.
There is a way to learn how to be more mindful AND you don’t have to be a Buddhist to do so. I skimmed through The Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness: 8 Helpful Tips and thought it worth sharing, as much for me as for anyone who may be reading this blog. Here is the overview if you are short on time or read on and I’ll provide personal insights for each one.
Number 1: Mindful Breathing
Number 2: Mindful Eating
Number 3: Journal
Number 4: Appreciate Silence
Number 5: Appreciate Chores
Number 6: Exercise
Number 7: Immerse Yourself in Nature
Number 8: Make Time for Reflection
Number 1: Mindful Breathing.
I guess I find this most unnatural when breathing is the thing that we simply must do all the time without thinking about it. There is a reason this is part of our autonomic system, along with our heartbeat and blinking where it happens unconsciously. The term, “take a deep breath” does mean to get us to stop and focus on our breathing and to focus inwardly. I do focus on my breathing when I want to get my heart rate down and have been known to focus to my heartbeat while shooting archery or a rifle target practice as you want to squeeze the trigger or release the arrow in-between heartbeats and breaths. When I do focus on my breathing, it does help me relax. Yes, breathing is linked to your heart and well-being and deserves more attention.
Number 2: Mindful Eating.
Weight Watchers stresses being present for each bite of every meal for a reason – turning off the TV, putting down your fork in-between bites and really enjoying food instead of just shoveling it in to stop the hunger rumblies in your tummy. Or in my case, to feed the demon to prevent passing out (hypoglycemia). Upon reflection, I’m increasingly more mindful the more expensive the food. Fast food gets gobbled down in the car in a flash while attempting not to dribble on my outfit while fine dining is a more purposeful, lingering experience associated with entertainment – maybe the speed and mindfulness of my eating has to do more with how much I’m paying for it than the experience of eating? OK, I’ll add this to my list of what to work on. My bowl of cereal deserves some attention.
Number 3: Journal.
When I was about 8 I started keeping a diary and I still have it. From time to time I open that diary to revisit a much younger version of myself to see what my life was about then – so simple and innocent. Today’s journal is digital in the form of a blog, where I’m able to process things for me and for anyone else to read if they so chose. Not the same as pen and paper and not as intimate, but still a record of my thinking on a particular date. Instead of recording thought on paper that may get lost, become yellowed or tossed, this blog is archived for the future and unknown “Googlers” to discover.
I find that during my breast cancer treatment blogging happened more frequently, perhaps because I had lots on my mind and felt the urge to share as part of my personal therapy and recovery. As I’ve returned to life “more normal” I find it harder to make the time to blog. Perhaps the gaps between blogging is an indication and appreciation that life goes on.
Number 4: Appreciate silence.
To be honest, this one is perhaps most challenging. It is difficult for me to take time to “just be” and not to fill silence with words, music, TV or conversation. I somehow feel like I am wasting time instead of appreciating it. Some of my favorite moments in the mountains of Switzerland were when I just stood there and soaked it all in – the majesty that mere words could never describe. Sitting on a park bench with my traveling companion that someone purposefully build for enjoying the moment and just observing and reflecting has merit. Yes, I’ll add this to my list of things to continue working on.
P.S. I will have to work on this at home, as my employment involves bright teenagers who tend to be enthusiastically verbal and I rarely have silence during the 9 to 5 realm.
Number 5: Appreciate chores.
Perhaps the best way to appreciate chores is when you CANNOT do them. It sounds ironic, but when you are physically unable to do the chores you normally do, it becomes a goal to do them again – to mow the lawn, weed the garden, cook or do laundry. When you are incapacitated, all you want to do and be is to normal again. The short periods in my own life where I have experienced this, I was envious of those around me who went about their day without knowing what a gift that truly is. I think I have this one covered for the most part as I’ve had to learn the hard way, through being mindful, that chores are to be appreciated.
Number 6: Exercise.
OK, this one is in the bag. Walking, spinning, lifting weights and working outdoors. I have been an athlete and active all my life. Well, almost all my life – except during those few “gaps” of major illness where I remember craving my old routine and ability to exercise again. This just needs to be maintained each year in order to remain active and to enjoy everything still on our bucket list. And remember, it is never too late to start being active. Set a goal for yourself, start small and add just a bit everyday and before you know it, you’ll be setting new goals. Our next goal is set in Peru, to climb Machu Picchu and so the planning commences.
Number 7: Immerse Yourself in Nature.
And, I got this one too. From family camping to backyard gardens, from Boy Scout high adventure trips to walking el camino de Santiago. Nature has a way of helping me reset. Mother Natures really does take care of us. Get off your digital devices and electronics and step outside, visit a local, state or National park to see what visionaries set us aside for us to enjoy and share with our children. Find your own wanderweg (public footpath, trail, hiking path…) wherever it may be.
Number 8: Make Time for Reflection.
What does it all mean if we don’t take the time to reflect? Yes, I need to be more mindful about carving out time for myself to reset.
Thanks for reading along this far. It means you are working on your own personal improvement by considering what others have to say. So, what are you going to work on to be more mindful? For me, here are my top 3 (in order) to work on: 1) mindful eating, 2) silence and 3) making time for reflection (which could mean breathing, appreciating chores, journaling, immersing myself in nature or exercising). I guess mindfulness is an intertwined ecosystem…lots to work on, how about you?