Mindfulness is a fine practice for the monks.
The real question is how would it help a mama on a 90-degree summer day? I put it to the test.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention. The turn-off-the-phone-and-be-still kind of paying attention. It is not new to me. It has bailed me out many a time when I was feeling more reactive than responsive.
It eases stress, helps me find perspective and settles me down when I’m teetering near overwhelm. When I am mindful I am calmer, more creative, and more deliberate in my actions — even when squirt guns are dribbling water all over the house, I discovered.
So, when is comes to managing and actually enjoying summer break, mindfulness is a practical and easy-to-use strategy. It costs nothing and it can be done just about anywhere, always.
Scores of studies have shown its benefits. Mindfulness practice eases stress, enhances focus and concentration, improves immune function and even supports more satisfying relationships. What’s not to love?
How to Start a Practice of Mindfulness
Here’s a crash course in mindfulness.
1. Stop. Get still, get quiet. Settle down. This is a game-changer. Carving out a few minutes, or more, each day without Internet or phones or kids or conversation just to be quiet is restorative and illuminating and it’s essential to creating a practice of mindfulness.
2. Breathe and become present. Once you settle, take deep breaths from the belly and become aware and present to the sensations in your body, the things in your environment, sounds, smells, and any thoughts flying through. Just notice. Don’t judge, just become aware. The easiest way to start this process is to breath and engage with each of your five senses and your intuition. Don’t get hung up on any single idea or sentiment or sensation. Just notice.
3. Act deliberately. When you are ready to engage with the world again, do so mindfully and deliberately. Be aware of what you say and the words you choose. Notice how your body feels. Pay attention to the details within the environment.
In the beginning, you may feel flustered, and unfocused and decidedly unmindful during your sessions. You might even forget to do it. So put it in your calendar. Practice five minutes a day and make a commitment to the practice. Over time it will become easier to do.
Also, slow down and become mindful at various times in your day — while brushing your teeth, washing dishes, spreading peanut butter, cleaning your desk, even during the conference call.
Tune in to the moments of your life with all of your senses, notice your environment, and in time, mindfulness will become an easy-to-use habit that supports you in all the best ways, even when contemplating a turn on the Slip-n-Slide on a hot summer day.
**Portions of this post ran in this spot, earlier this year.