I came across one of my positive psychology assignments recently on practising mindfulness. We hear a lot about mindfulness these days and being in the present moment but how do you do it? I thought I would share some of my experiences. You might like to give them a go yourself and see how it can benefit your life. In a nutshell, mindfulness is "the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment"1.
Mindful ‘eating’ reflections
Of the three mindful practices undertaken during the week, this one had the biggest impact on me. I chose five different meals over the course of the week but made sure that I had at least two of the same meal to see if there was any difference in the result. The time and the meal were identical. During the first attempt I was interrupted by a phone call so lost concentration half way through. This attempt was particularly pleasant as it was taken at home and I was in a relaxed state.
The second experience of this same meal was at work and it too was a very pleasant experience until someone walked into the lunchroom. I noticed that the smelling of the food was particularly enjoyable and enhanced the overall experience of eating. One of the dinners was freshly made with fresh farm eggs. The fact that I prepared the meal and knowing where the ingredients had come from contributed greatly to the overall experience. I noticed that closing my eyes when I was eating helped me to concentrate. I definitely ate slower when I was mindfully eating and was aware of being sated earlier whereas I normally do not notice this feeling until I finish my meal.
Mindful ‘watering of lawn’ reflections
This was an interesting exercise as there were different external circumstances each time that changed the experience. The first time was when the lawn was freshly laid (instant turf), another was in the dark, another was when a friend was present, another was in the early morning before leaving for work and another was on the weekend.
I was surprised to notice that the weekend practice was when my mind wandered the most. In the dark was one of the most pleasant as the darkness and stillness of evening enhanced the experience. When my friend was present, I struggled to give half of my awareness to the watering and half to what he was saying. I did notice less stress associated with this practice due to the fact that I was using water from tanks rather than mains water.
Mindful ‘commuting’ reflections
I have watched with interest my experience of commuting from Geelong to Melbourne since moving four months ago. It started with a child-like enthusiasm which gave way eventually to catching up on sleep and then using the time to study. This last week of mindful commuting took me back to when I first started.
I spent part of the journey practicing mindfulness of the movement of the train, my fellow passengers and what I noticed outside. I found myself feeling particularly grateful during this experience, more so than the eating or watering practices. I’m not sure why this was but perhaps it was viewing nature in all her glory. One morning I noticed the mist on the paddocks. Another, an orange sun rising up through the early morning clouds. I also practiced non-judgement with some of the suburbia views for example, trying to observe the petro-chemical plant without judgement and trying to see beauty in its ugliness.
Mindful ‘golf’ reflections
Saturday afternoon I practiced mindfulness during a game of golf. I had not been playing regularly and so was looking forward to it as well as the fact that I was playing at a new course. I wasn’t completely in a state of mindfulness for the whole game but for the four hours that it took to play, I managed to spend a good part of that time in a very aware state. Given I hadn’t played this course before, I took on ‘a beginners mind’2 of my surroundings, taking in each view as I walked the course and as I stood to take a shot. The actual process of taking a shot requires awareness of my internal and external environment and attention3.Even when a cold front came through with an onslaught of wind and rain, I still managed to stay in the present moment and enjoy the experience. I practiced ‘patience’ with myself, ‘acceptance’ of my inability to always hit the ball well and ‘non-striving’2. I noticed when I strived to do well, the result was usually poor but when I practiced ‘non-striving’ I seemed to do better.
- Wikipedia, 2015, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness.
- Kabat-Zinn J, 1990, Full Catastrophe Living, Random House, New York
- Brown KW & Ryan RM, 2003, The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and Its Role in Psychological Well-Being, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 84, No. 4, 822–848