Mindfulness is a hot topic right now. Celebrities have embraced its ability to calm and focus the mind, workplaces are implementing mindfulness classes for productivity and staff satisfaction, and even doctors are recommending it to their stressed patients.
But what does mindfulness actually mean? How does it relate to meditation? And how can you implement mindfulness meditation exercises into your daily life? Read on to find out and discover three easy-to-integrate mindfulness meditation exercises for peace and presence every day.
What is Mindfulness?
All humans have the ability to be mindful, and we all do it naturally from time to time. Mindfulness is being fully present and completely aware of your current experience, without analyzing or judging it at all.
Mindfulness has so many benefits that you can positively affect the quality of your life if you consciously choose to practice mindfulness on a regular basis. You can do this by implementing mindfulness meditation exercises into your daily routine.
There isn’t a specific end goal for mindfulness; the process and the practice are the purposes. Mindfulness is about simplifying life by focusing on one thing at a time; all you have to do is focus on the thing you are doing at this moment, i.e., reading this article. That’s it. If you can bring your total awareness to this task and this task only, without allowing your mind to judge or ruminate, you are practicing mindfulness.
How Does Mindfulness Relate to Meditation?
Mindfulness and meditation often get confused with each other. There are some similarities for sure but there are also big differences. By its very nature, meditation is a form of mindfulness because when you meditate, you concentrate your awareness on the object of your meditation (Dharana), whether that object is a broad awareness of your experience or simply your breath. When you meditate, your state of consciousness can change, and become ‘meditative.’
You can practice mindfulness without going into a meditative state or experiencing a shift in consciousness, but I would argue that any time you bring your awareness solely onto one thing, you are in the beginning stages of meditation. In Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga system, Dharana (concentration) is the state that precedes Dhyana (meditation). So, if you practice focused concentration on your present moment experience (mindfulness), you are in fact moving into the beginning stage of meditation.
“When we return to our breathing, we return to the present moment, our true home. There’s no need for us to struggle to arrive somewhere else. We know our final destination is the cemetery. Why are we in a hurry to get there? Why not step in the direction of life, which is in the present moment?”― Thích Nhất Hạnh, How to Walk
Mindfulness meditation exercises such as the ones I introduce in this article blend mindfulness and meditation but in a way that can easily be practiced during your everyday activities, thus providing the benefits of both.
What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation?
By bringing awareness to your thoughts, emotions, and actions, you become more in control of your life. You feel less overwhelmed and caught up in the current of life, and you’re able to choose your responses and make better decisions. Making wiser choices and having the ability to consciously respond rather than habitually react means that you get to consciously create your life, rather than simply having life ‘happen’ to you.
The benefits of mindfulness meditation exercises are being researched extensively, and there is already evidence to show that regular mindfulness training has the ability to physically remodel and restructure your brain.
Mindfulness practice helps us to see our experience of life more clearly, unclouded by judgment and comparison. People who regularly practice mindfulness meditation exercises tend to feel more in control of their mental health, and their life in general. Mindfulness can help the following issues:
- Personality disorder
- Chronic pain
- Grief and loss
- General stress
- Anger issues
Even if you do not suffer from any of the above conditions, mindfulness meditation exercises will benefit you psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. When you are able to bring total awareness to your everyday experience, life becomes a spiritual practice. You become more in tune with universal energy and divine cosmic consciousness, and your self-awareness increases.
Mindfulness Meditation Exercises
Hopefully after reading about the benefits of mindfulness meditation exercises you are excited to bring it into your daily life. If so, you will be pleased to hear that literally anything you do during your day can be turned into a mindful meditation, simply by bringing your complete awareness to your present experience. If you would like some more formal practices, here are our top three mindfulness meditation exercises that you can easily integrate into your daily routine to create more peace and presence in your life.
1: Mindful Listening
I love this one because not only are you getting all the benefits of mindfulness meditation exercises as outlined above, you are also improving your relationships and being a more supportive person in the process.
Giving someone your undivided attention and really listening to them instead of just waiting for your turn to speak is the best gift you can give. Try to think of the last time you felt truly heard. Many of us can’t recall when we felt we were really listened to, because sadly it rarely happens.
Modern life runs at 100 miles an hour and we have been conditioned to think and communicate at that speed too. The thing is, faster is not better when it comes to communication. Meaning is often lost, we misunderstand each other, and this leads to many relational and business issues.
If we just slow down and open our ears and our hearts, and RECEIVE what someone is telling us, we could avoid so many hurt feelings and missed opportunities. Mindful listening is a combination of attention and intention; being 100% present and becoming immensely interested in what the other person is saying.
When you bring intention and attention to your listening, questions will naturally arise because you will seek to clarify your understanding of what the person is trying to convey. That is when you know you are actively and mindfully listening to someone.
Here are some tips to help you listen mindfully:
- Ground yourself before you begin the conversation. This will help you to concentrate and stay focused.
- Set an intention to receive what they want to transmit. Words mean slightly different things to each of us. They are a human construct devised to share complex emotions and ideas; they are not infallible. Often you receive meaning from what is not said, plus the person’s tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.
- Acknowledge your reactions and judgments and let them go; they have no bearing on the speakers meaning and they will get in the way of your listening.
- Reflect their words back to them. Using their own phrasing and language helps them feel heard. Ask questions for clarification to ensure you have received their meaning correctly. If they seek to understand their thoughts or emotions, you can help them by asking open-ended questions to provoke deeper inquiry and reflection. This will also help you to understand them better.
2: Walking Meditation
Walking meditation is one of the mindfulness meditation exercises that you can easily integrate into your daily schedule because you walk every day! If you cannot walk, you can translate the exercise to how you personally move around.
Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh is a strong proponent of walking meditation. In his book ‘How to Walk,’ he tells us:
“When you walk, arrive with every step. That is walking meditation. There’s nothing else to it.”― Thích Nhất Hạnh, How to Walk
I love this quote because it sums up mindfulness so beautifully and succinctly. When we are mindful, we arrive. We arrive in the present moment, which is the only thing that’s real; the past and the future are merely projections of thought.
The metaphor of arriving also blends beautifully with walking meditation because when we walk, most of the time it is to get somewhere, but when we use walking as a mindfulness practice, we arrive with each step we take. The end destination is not significant, but each and every step can matter. That is the philosophy we should apply to life.
Here’s how to walk mindfully:
- Ensure that your posture is upright but not too stiff. Relax your shoulders and allow your arms to be loose and comfortable. Tilt your chin ever so slightly to extend the cervical spine. Ground into your feet and distribute your weight evenly over all four corners of each foot.
- Soften your gaze and drop it slightly. Obviously be careful if you are walking on a busy street. If you are walking somewhere there are no hazards, other people, or obstacles then you can gaze softly at the floor in front of you. If you are in a busy environment, you will need to be aware of people and hazards, but you can still walk mindfully.
- As you take your first step, feel the ground on each part of your foot – heel, ball, toes. Then, feel it peel off the ground as the other foot moves through the sequence.
- Keep your awareness focused on the sensations of your feet rolling over the ground. Feel the texture of the ground you walk on and feel the wind on your skin and in your hair. Notice the sounds you can hear and any aromas you can smell. Be totally present with your experience of walking in your environment.
Just like walking, most of us will eat every day. Eating mindfully brings all of the benefits of mindfulness mentioned above, plus it aids digestion and feeling satiated so that you don’t eat more than you need. Food can bring us so much pleasure, yet most of us are too busy to experience that pleasure and rush our food down without thinking about it much.
That’s why mindful eating is one of my favorite mindfulness meditation exercises. It helps me to experience joy every day from something I am going to do anyway. If I am going to eat regardless, why not gain maximum pleasure, and health benefits in the process?
Here’s how to bring mindfulness to your meals:
- Before you even pick up your knife and fork or put any food into your mouth, take a moment or two to feel gratitude for the food you have and the people who helped bring it to you (producers, growers, cooks, factory workers, drivers, shop staff, etc). If you have access to enough food to sustain you (or more) every day then you are fortunate; most of the world does not.
- Next, really look at your food. Try to pretend you are seeing it for the first time ever. View it with a sense of wonder and curiosity.
- Then, if you feel comfortable and the food is suitable, touch it. Feel the texture, temperature, and sensation of the food. Connect with it.
- Smell your food. Notice all the different layers of aroma present. Appreciate the scent of your food; smell is a big part of taste.
- Now it’s time to taste the food. Put it in your mouth and taste it properly, closing your eyes if it feels good. Feel the texture of the food in your mouth before you chew. Then, chew it slowly, savoring the flavor and feeling of the food. Like when you smelled it, see if you can notice the varying layers of flavor from the different ingredients. Chew it thoroughly before swallowing it.
Placing your eating utensils down while you chew your food helps you to eat more slowly and not stuff the next mouthful in before you have finished the previous one.
I hope you have enjoyed this guide to mindfulness meditation exercises that you can integrate into your daily routine. If you take the time to make these exercises daily habits, you will soon find yourself feeling happier and more peaceful and your relationships will also improve. We are available to help you on your spiritual journey so please join us in our Sacred Circle forum. This is the very best place to connect with the Femigod community of Goddesses, teachers, and experts.