We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that something deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit. e.e. cummings
Mindfulness—the act of being fully present in each moment with kindness and without judgment—takes practice. The more ways you incorporate mindfulness into your daily life, the more skilled you become, the more benefits you reap. Almost any point in the day can become an opportunity for mindfulness self-training.
1) Mindful listening
Being listened to is so much like being loved that most people don't know the difference. Anon. quoted at Tasting Mindfulness, University of Missouri
We all have a universal need to feel heard. How many times have you found yourself apologizing: "Oh, I'm sorry! What did you say? I wasn't listening." Or: "What? I didn’t hear you," because our distracted "monkey mind" had taken over.
Listening is clearly the most important part of any meaningful communication. It involves the person's heart and mind. When we are truly listening, our interest, attention, and concern for the person and what they are expressing shines through. We are able to hold space for them in the words they speak. Holding space for another is an important aspect of mindful listening. With that in mind, here are some tips for mindful listening:
Use the speaker's words as the "object of mindfulness." Can you listen beyond the words?
Listen without judgment, and with kindness
Be present and focused. Stay with the words that are spoken.
Listen without mentally composing an automatic reply or thinking about your next comment. It's obvious to the speaker when listening has stopped and the other's mind is wandering.
Ask at least one meaningful question during a conversation.
Acknowledge feelings. We all have a need to feel heard and understood during conversations.
Adapted from "What did you say?" -- The Practice of Mindful Listening.
2) Mindful reading
Depending on our reasons for doing it, reading is usually a stress-free activity. Here are some tips to begin practising mindful reading for pleasure, research, or learning:
Before you begin, take a few minutes, or do a five-minute mindful meditation, to quiet the "monkey mind" of automatic thoughts.
When reading stories or novels, enjoy single words and paragraphs; close your eyes for a moment and take time to imagine and enjoy a scene painted by the author's words. Notice what phrase or scene stands out for you. Take a moment to "breathe in" what you've read.
When studying, take time to really understand and assimilate what you are learning. Take it slow, and place your attention on the words you are reading. Reading mindfully—gently bringing our attention back to the text when thoughts intrude or our mind wanders—helps us to focus and remember what we've read.
3) Mindful driving
If you can, try not to judge anything that you're experiencing, but simply notice the moment as it is—not good, bad, or ugly—just there. For many, noticing is one thing. Accepting? Easier said than done. Psychology Today, "Driving Mindfully"
Meditation or mindful strategies can be used in our daily lives, not only in our home or out in nature. Finding the beauty of a mindful moment at any time is a gift to ourselves. Driving is an opportunity to take advantage of the minutes during our day that can be a gift to our soul.
- Before you start the car, take a moment for mindful breathing as you place the key in the ignition, and put your seat belt on. Perfect moments to do some deep breathing, which calms down the amygdala.
- Be aware of any feeling that you need to rush; if you are late, let the other(s) know when you will arrive, and then take your time.
- Feel your weight in the seat of your car, be aware of your body in relation to the controls and the seat, and make any adjustments for comfort and safety.
- Take your time: adjust heat or a/c, turn off the radio, allow for silence, put away the phone. Now there is space to be able to notice body sensations
- Intend to pay attention to passing sights and sounds as you drive, and pay non-judging attention to the traffic. As you find your mind turning to past events or future concerns, gently bring your focus back to the present moment.
- Send loving kindness to drivers in other cars; May you be happy, may you be well. Notice the feeling of compassion that washes over you as you repeat this phrase.
Mindfulness: a positive contagion of self-caring
The present moment is a gift that we are always receiving as we enter into the next "now." We each have a choice on whether to open and savor this gift of time or to rush through it, and feel that "time passes too quickly." Noticing and being aware of each moment is an opportunity to feel the beauty of our life, connections and relationships.
Mindfulness, at its core, is a type of self-care that also reverberates outwardly. Learning mindfulness and other self-caring techniques will not only help you, but will also help your family, friends, community, and the world you live in.
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