The Benefits Of Practicing Mindfulness
Meditation is one of those buzzwords that keeps popping up everywhere. There are many types of meditation but none as popular as mindfulness. Mindfulness has been incorporated into schools, workplaces, and therapy sessions across the country since the late 70s. And for good reason. The benefits of practicing mindfulness seem to be limitless with new research emerging every year.
What Is It
Mindfulness is the practice of training the mind to return to the present moment over and over again. It sounds simple but, when you consider that most of us spend the present ruminating over the past or planning for the future without even intending to, returning to the present starts to sound a little more complicated. Mindfulness is about coming home to our lived experience. In all of your planning and analyzing, what little pleasures are you missing in the here and now?
Why Try It
Researchers at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley have found that practicing mindfulness can reduce stress, lead to more frequent positive emotions, and give you a greater sense of control over your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. But mindfulness isn’t just about feeling good. Practicing mindfulness can increase your confidence and your productivity, helping you to operate more effectively in your workplace. Research shows that people who practice mindfulness are able to sustain their attention to a task for longer periods of time and, overall, are more resilient in the workplace.
How To Do It
Getting started is easy. One of the first exercises that any mindfulness teacher will task you to do is mindfully eat a raisin. All you need is 5 minutes and a raisin. If you don’t have a raisin or can’t stand the taste of them, any single piece of food will do. Here’s how you do it: Try to go through this exercise without any judgments. There is no good or bad, there’s just observation. Being non-judgmental is key. If you find yourself distracted or judging the practice, just bring yourself back to your awareness of the raisin.
Step 1. To begin, hold the raisin in the palm of your hand and investigate it. Look at the object as though it is brand new, as though you’ve never seen it before. What color is it? How does the light hit it? Where are the shadows?
Step 2. Now touch the raisin. Roll it between your fingers. How does it feel?
Step 3. Bring the raisin to your nose. How does it smell? What happens to your body as your smell it?
Step 4. Raise your hand to your ear and move the raisin around between your fingers. How does it sound?
Step 5. Bring the raisin to your mouth. Does your mouth water? What does it feel like? Now place the raisin on your tongue. Don’t bite into it, just notice how it feels in your mouth.
Step 6. Now bite into it once. Notice how it tastes, what it feels like in your mouth. Slowly begin to chew it.
Step 7. Now swallow it. Feel it make its way down your throat. Be present to the feeling. Be conscious of the fact that this practice, this feeling and tuning in to your own body, is an act of self-love.
In Coming to Our Senses, meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “When we taste with attention, even the simplest foods provide a universe of sensory experience, awakening us to them.” When you choose to practice this kind of attention, you are also awakening to your body and your experience of living in it. This kind of awareness is the basis of living a happy and productive life.
Take on the challenge of eating breakfast mindfully every day for a week. Follow the same steps for the exercise above and give yourself the gift of your presence. Slowing down and checking in could change your life.
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