Can’t meditate? Try daily mindfulness instead

January 19, 2019 virginia 2 Comments

Can’t meditate? Try daily mindfulness instead

January 19, 2019 Virginia 2 Comments

Creative minds can be busy minds – so how do we quiet them? How do we not get carried away by our thoughts and to-do lists, and stay centred and focused?

Sure, there’s meditation and relaxation techniques. But sometimes life gets in the way and we don’t have a minute to spare, let alone the average 5 minutes recommended to slow down, ‘om’ and empty the mind. The pressure itself to make time to meditate can add to our stress, which kinda defeats the purpose, right?

Sometimes our busy minds are the birthplace of our best ideas. But sometimes they’re full of unhelpful, anxious or self-sabotaging thoughts, which stifle our genius.

So how can we master our minds in next to no time?

You’ve probably heard of mindfulness and mindful meditation. There are plenty of apps for that. But if you don’t have the time to listen to one, there are ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. 

But first, just what is mindfulness?

It’s a concept borrowed from various religious contemplative practices (mostly Hindu and Buddhist), and brought into the mainstream via psychology. 

Essentially, mindfulness involves being fully present and aware of whatever is happening around you, and detaching from any accompanying thoughts, ‘stories’ and judgements. With practice, you can learn to pay less attention to your mental chatter and focus more on your experience of the present. 

I don’t know about you, but I live in my head. And it’s not always a fun, friendly place. So, learning and practising mindfulness techniques every day helps keep me focused, calm and grateful.

Mindful mornings

Do you start the day on auto-pilot? How about a more mindful approach? 

If you’re a coffee lover, you know the near euphoria of your first cup of the day. Take it to another level with mindfulness: from appreciating the sound of the beans in the grinder, then when the aroma of those fresh grounds first teases your nostrils, and the sheer bliss of that first sip as the flavour hits your taste buds. 

Turn showering into a sensual, meditative practice: notice the sensation of the water on your skin and follow its path down your back, legs and feet. Indulge in the fragrance of the soap, and feel the fibres and friction of the towel as you dry off. 

Getting dressed, notice the texture of the fabrics, and the sound of doing up buttons, zippers and laces.

You may need to get up earlier to allow yourself time to appreciate all these things, but it helps set you up for a calmer, happier day.

Savour the flavour

Eating is an ideal mindful opportunity. If you usually eat in front of a computer screen, phone or TV, try a different setting with no distractions so you can be fully present with your meal. Like the coffee exercise, really notice every element of your meal: colours, temperature, aroma, taste, mouth feel. Chew slowly and appreciate each bite.

Now, that all sounds delightful and doable so far, yes? 

But what about the dull stuff? 

The chores, obligations and obstacles – how do you practise mindfulness then?

It comes down to acceptance. We can’t outsource all the yucky stuff, but we can come at it from a different angle. This, I am still learning! 

Household chores

I tend to rail against routine, and chores are a part of that. Washing and folding the laundry, cooking every night and emptying the dishwasher are among my pet peeves. I’d sooner clean the bathroom! (Seriously, I get a perverse pleasure from that…)

But embracing mindful approaches helps me tackle those thankless tasks. 

Instead of thinking how much I hate emptying the dishwasher, or what I’d rather be doing, I’m learning to focus on each item as I lift it out and put it in the cupboard. Doing this the other day, I felt a sense of space open up in my mind – into which some ideas for this blog popped. The grumbling thoughts were replaced by some creative ideas. It was an epiphany! In front of the dishwasher. Who’da thunk it? 

Traffic jams

These are another opportunity to open up to acceptance, observation and creativity. Breathing is your buddy here. If you feel some road rage bubbling up, breathe slow and deep and just focus on each breath. To help me focus better, I say the words “in” on the inhale and “out” on the exhale. Simple, but effective. Stay aware of what’s going on around you (like when a traffic light turns green!) but detached enough to not let the situation get on your nerves. Use the time to observe and appreciate your surroundings – and be open to any creative ideas that pop in to your calmer, roomier headspace! 

Above all, go easy on yourself. 

I’m still a beginner at all this daily mindfulness stuff. I still sometimes feel myself zoning out, feeling overwhelmed, or getting lost in a maelstrom of monkey-mind chatter. That’s when I repeat a mantra: “Stay present”. 

It gets me out of my head and into the now in no time. 

I hope daily mindfulness works for you, too! 

2 Comments

  • Rochelle January 23, 2019 at 1:12 am

    Love this post, Virginia. I’ve often struggled with the idea of meditating, and I began practising mindfulness a few years ago. Reminding myself to be present in the moment and with the task at hand (washing dishes, driving, eating, having a conversation with someone) always makes a difference – though I’m still not consistent! It’s easy to be pulled away from the present moment.

    I’ve been listening to Zen Buddhism podcasts for the last couple of years and in the last week began practising Zazen (sitting meditation). Five minutes at a time, in silence, eyes slightly open and focused on a point on the floor on front of me, and being present with my breath. I must have been ready for it because I’ve noticed that I’ve begun to be able to let my thoughts come and go without becoming attached to them, and that creates a peaceful sense of everything and nothing all at once. It isn’t stillness, really, but a spaciousness I haven’t felt before. It encourages me to continue. (I also notice that, after meditating, I find it easier to write.)

    For me, beginning with mindfulness was the key – and you have presented it beautifully. xx

    • Virginia Muzik January 23, 2019 at 1:37 am

      Thank you SO much, Rochelle! I’m glad you could relate to it. I love the sound of Zazen – I’ll look into it. You’re so right about how easy it is to be pulled away from the present. I’m still aiming for consistency with mindfulness too. And yes, it’s that spaciousness that mindfulness (and meditation) creates. I was gobsmacked at how noticeable the mental space was, and how quickly it opened up, while emptying the dishwasher. Turning the mundane into magnificent! I do still have to make an effort to not get attached to my thoughts. So ingrained and persistent, they are. But it will happen with practise!

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