Is your mind full or are you mindful?
Is your mind too full to be mindful? Let this question sink in a bit, let it work its way through the surface and land deeply in the depths of your being.
We so often run so very fast with our minds going a zillion miles a minute and in a variety of directions all at the same time. Sometimes our minds are like an inquisitive toddler, curious about everything, or caught on one topic insistently. Or maybe our minds have ADD and can’t finish any particular thought or project for the jumping around it does.
Another mind full condition is that of the loopy mind. This is when we get caught in a loop – usually a worry or anxious thought and it loops over and over again.
When our minds are full, it can make it difficult to be mindful.
What is mindful? Think quiet, on purpose, conscious. Think of a Buddhist or Zen master who is very deliberate in every action, word and thought.
Being mindful is minding our mind. Paying attention to that which you are thinking about and putting your energy on.
There are many ways to begin practicing mindfulness, but first, why is it important or beneficial?
- Calms the body, mind and spirit
- Brings clarity
- Allows for joy
- Creates spaciousness
- Brings the possibility of conscious choice to the moment
- Interrupts patterns of anger, fear or worry, to name a few.
So how do we begin to shift from minds that are full to mindful awareness?
The first step is in noticing when your mind is running. As soon as you notice it, take a moment to Stop, to become conscious of your breath. Take a few deep breaths down into your belly and feel the ground beneath your feet. Become conscious of your toes.
The way our minds work is when we focus on something consciously the running stops. Bring awareness to your breath, to your body or to a thought that you’d like to experience.
When I used to teach meditation at a community college, one of the favorite activities was to consciously eat a Hersey’s kiss, taking as long as possible. Feeling the texture, and how it changes. Tasting, smelling. Noticing how the kiss moves around your mouth and tongue as it dissolves.
Here are a few other ways to practice mindfulness:
- Breathe rhythmically, meaning count to 4 on each inhale and on each exhale. Do this for 12 breaths.
- Put your awareness on the palms of your hands. Look at them like you’ve never seen them before. Notice how each finger works independently from the others. Notice the lines on your palms and the wrinkles (if you have them) on the backs of your hands. Stretch your fingers out long and then back into a fist. Do this for at least 60 seconds.
- Go outside and notice what you notice in nature? What color is the sky? Are there clouds? Trees? Birds?
- Bring mindfulness to your eating. Take the time with each bite to savor the flavors and textures. Try chewing each bite 20 times. Look at the colors of food on your plate, notice how they blend together or complement each other.
- Stretch your body. Stand up and stretch. Doesn’t matter how you do it, but go to where you are tight and stretch, gently, just a little bit more.
- When you are listening to someone, truly listen. Focus on what they are saying, their body language, the pace and tone and texture of their words.
As you begin to bring mindfulness into your world, your mind will slow down and even begin to empty out. If the mind has nothing to focus on, it will run. Try it for a day or a week, then for a month. You will notice that life changes, that your experiences are richer. You may even notice that the message you are receiving from your heart and body are more easily heard and heeded.
In mindfulness, you find peace, joy and fulfillment. In mindfulness, you discover your connection with yourself, others and Spirit. In mindfulness, you become more conscious of life.