Taking the Mystery Out of Mindfulness with 3 Easy Steps


There is an excitement all about us. One cannot live in our modern, technologically-advanced age and not take notice of the constant stream of information and the unending list of tasks we must accomplish to ensure our work and personal lives remain on track. It can be overwhelming and is often exhausting.

In the midst of this whirlwind of activity and distraction, we seldom take the time to care for ourselves or take notice of how we feel in the moment; being both conscious of our mind and body. On life’s super-highway of information and constant stimulation, one of the healthiest and kindest things we can do for ourselves—every so often— is to pump the breaks and simply be mindful.
In recent years mindfulness as a concept and a practice has become ubiquitous within our society. There are yoga studios, books and magazines, websites and podcasts dedicated to it. We hear mindfulness mentioned on talk shows and by mental health professionals and yet, so many people who could benefit from the practice are unsure what mindfulness is and are unaware of its untold benefits.

Taking the Mystery out of Mindfulness

It is easy to believe that the practice of being mindful requires a healthy dose of training and years of study to be beneficial. It is not a stretch to conclude that one must work up the skill and patience of a Zen monk sitting in full-lotus mediation pose in some remote monastery to become mindful; to turn off the noise, sweep away the mind’s clutter, to be in the moment.

If you believe—like I most certainly used to—that mindfulness is a mysterious, esoteric practice beyond your current capabilities, I have some great news for you: it is not and, more importantly, you already know how to be mindful and engage in the practice every day without knowing it!
As our thoughts run wild and take flight, being mindful is simply taking the time to slow things down and take notice, but for a moment, of how we feel. It is to get in touch with our breathing and our bodies.

One doesn't need to be a monk, trained in the art of mindfulness, to engage in the practice.

To become aware of the path we are on and to be fully present. To put it another way, mindfulness is like steering a car. If you took your hands of the wheel while driving—even if your car is perfectly aligned—the surface and bend of the road would cause you to drive out of your lane and ultimately off the road.
Mindfulness is taking hold of the steering wheel and slightly adjusting your path; straighten out and correcting it to ensure you remain on track.
When we are focusing on work, a family project, or a hobby, it is easy for us to drift out of our lanes by focusing on distractions or becoming anxious while thinking about some task or issue we must attend to in the future. When we take a mindful approach, we become aware of our thoughts and the impact they have on us. We can acknowledge them and put them away while we focus back on the task at hand.
Some readers of the above might scoff and feel that while the simple explanation seems straightforward enough, how can anyone become mindful in the heat of the moment, when we are busy living our lives?  Certainly not everyone has the time to stop what they are doing and to sequester themselves in a dark room to sit and meditate. Fortunately, there are a number of simple practices we can do on-the-fly and in the moment that will alleviate our stress, center us, and allow to truly be mindful.

Three simple, easy and enjoyable exercises that help you understand mindfulness

  • Appreciative Mindfulness: Take a moment from the task you are doing and simply focus your mind on those things in your life you are appreciative of. You can be standing or sitting and you can either close your eyes or focus on an object on the wall. Simply breathe in slowly and exhale and recount in your mind something you truly appreciate.  An example would be ***Deep Breath***My family***Deep Breath***My Health***Deep Breathe***My Best Friend***Deep Breath*** – You can be appreciative for as many things or take a much time as you need. Just engaging in this practice for a mere 30-seconds will help refocus your mind.
  • Mindful Listening: Take a moment to either sit or stand and focus on absolutely nothing but what you hear. Listen for any sound you can pick up. You needn’t analyze the sounds, but simply observe them. It could be the ticking of a clock, the chirping of birds, the neighbors’ barking poodle; anything and everything your ears can pick up, just listen. Take a moment—a minute or two—and allow yourself to focus on nothing but what you hear. When you are done, return back to the task you were previously engaged in. You may be surprised how something so simple allows you to refocus.
  • Head to Toe: Take a brief time out and, while sitting, take notice of how your body feels. Starting from the top of your head and working your way down your neck to your torso, all the way down to your toes. Take as much time as you need and just be mindful how each part of your body feels. Try your best to focus on each section of your body as you work your way down to your feet; carefully considering how each part feels. Ultimately, you want to be “checking in” on each part of your body. When you reach your toes, it is quite likely that you will find yourself in a more calm and peaceful state.

Mindfulness Resources

For those interested in other techniques and further writing on the mindfulness practice, I highly recommend Mindful magazine’s website.  If you prefer longer more in-depth reading, you cannot go wrong with Bhante Gunaratana’s Mindfulness in Plain English.
Lastly, if you are interested in reading my thoughts on how to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life, please have a look at my MaxxMethod mindfulness exercise.
Any of the above practices or reading is sure to take the mystery out of mindfulness and may well allow you to feel more in the moment and self-aware.

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