If you are a Zen master, mindfulness is a state of being. You live your life in a state of supreme awareness, feeling each sensation as it happens and relishing every precious moment.
For those of us who haven’t quite reached enlightenment however, mindfulness can be elusive – and just like anything you want to do well at in life, it requires practice. Thankfully, practicing mindfulness requires no fancy equipment, huge blocks of time or special skills.
Like meditation, these mindfulness exercises can help you to focus your attention, appreciate your environment and be present in the moment.
1. Peel an Orange. But first – examine what the fruit looks like. Notice the color, shape, texture, and any unique markings. Smell the orange – take a deep breath in – and then feel the fruit against your hands. Roll it up and down your arms, face and neck (this exercise is probably best done at home). Can you make a sound by slapping or tapping the orange? Finally, peel the orange and notice all the different parts inside. Slowly eat each section individually.
2. Be a Leftie (or a Rightie). Try doing everyday tasks with your subordinate hand for 20 to 30 minutes, like brushing your teeth or hair, opening doors, eating and drinking, etc. You’ll quickly find yourself off of autopilot and more engaged with the world around you. Does this task make you frustrated? Amused? Patient? Make a note of how you feel when the time period is over.
3. Tour Your Five Senses. Stop what you are doing, close your eyes and go through each of your five senses. What are you hearing right now? What do you taste? Smelling? Start from your toes and go up – what are you feeling? Open your eyes and notice what you are seeing. This mindfulness exercise can be a great lead-in to your daily meditation session.
4. The Chocolate Challenge. Savor a piece of gourmet chocolate for as long as you possibly can. How many minutes can you spend enjoying a dark chocolate truffle, nut nougat or chocolate covered strawberry? Take tiny bites, let each piece melt in your mouth, and focus on the sensations that you taste, smell and feel.
5. Stretch It Out. Lie flat on the floor and close your eyes. Beginning with your toes and feet, stretch each body part slowly and without straining anything. Notice what feels good, what feels uncomfortable, and if you have any pain. Finish by stretching your jaw, face and scalp.
6. Sensual Cleaning. One way to make housework more enjoyable is to turn mundane tasks into mindfulness exercises. When doing the dishes, feel the warm water, watch the bubbles rise, and listen to the sound of glasses clinking in the sink. Take your time loading the laundry as well; feel your soft clothes, smell the soap, and hear the water rushing in.
7. Window Gazing. Look out the window. What do you see? If you are outside, perhaps you can look in a window. Describe to yourself the things you are looking at, without any judgment or storytelling. Simply acknowledge the things that you see.
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Photo by Moyan Brenn