When I recommend meditation to my stressed-out clients, they often open their eyes wide and scrunch up their nose.
“You mean, sit for an hour and think about nothing? I don’t think I can.”
I understand. When you think of meditation, the first image that comes to mind is probably a yogi, sitting with a straight spine in front of a peaceful lake, fingertips touching.
But in reality, meditation can be a much broader practice.
For beginners, and even for folks who are used to having a spiritual practice, I always recommend meditations of simple mindfulness rather than a classic seated meditation.
When you begin to add more mindfulness into your life—when you stop and smell the roses, so to speak—you'll find that the stress of the future and the regrets of the past simply melt away. It’s a practice, to be sure. But it can be simple, and automatic, and oh-so beautiful.
The trick is to do one thing a day with absolute mindfulness. Dwell completely in that moment. Feel everything, every physical sensation, and every subtle emotion that swells up inside. Breathe slowly, and smile at the stillness. And once you’ve mastered one thing, add another, and another ...
Here are 11 of my favorite things to do mindfully:
1. Listen to music.
Try to hear every instrument in the band. Separate the lyrics from the melody—listen to something instrumental, if you can. Sing along, and feel your body vibrate with the hum of sound.
2. Drink tea. Or coffee. Or hot water. Or whatever.
I imagine that, like me, you drink something every morning. Instead of just tossing it down like a shot at the bar, drink it slowly. Dedicate 5 minutes every morning to this act alone. Close your eyes, and feel the warm liquid roll over your tongue. Enjoy it – right now, this tea is all that matters!
3. Do yoga.
The practice alone will bring about a beautiful sense of presence in your life. Even one class or hour of home-practice a week is great!
4. Drive to work.
Your morning commute can be spent in absolute mindfulness. Turn off the loud music, tone down your road rage, and enjoy the quiet time to yourself.
5. Take a walk.
A slow one. Like, really slow. Inhale and lift your foot, exhale and plant it. Repeat.
6. Create art.
The practice of painting, or drawing, or sewing, or gluing magazine strips to paper is incredibly meditative. Set aside a bit of time for art, and as you work, make sure that you’re truly there with your project.
Each morning, spill out a page of junk that’s been on your mind. Notice the pressure of the pen on the paper. The sound of the tip scraping along the page. The way the ink bleeds. After writing for a bit about your day, and your shopping lists, and the cute boy in yoga class, you’ll find that you don’t have anything left to write. This is when you take a deep breath, and allow mindfulness to permeate. Go deeper. Soon, you’ll be writing with complete presence, as if another voice is writing through you.
This is one of my favorites. Cooking can be an incredibly powerful act of meditation. Grind your own spices, chop vegetables with a smile, and put love into your pot.
Not only is eating mindfully a simple and delightful act, but it’s much healthier than shoveling food down while you’re running to your next meeting. Take time to feel the temperature of your food with your fingers, feel the texture, smell all of the ingredients. Be there with your food before you eat.
10. Give a massage.
Touch is a powerful thing. For a moment, give all of yourself to someone in the act of massage. Be there with them: receptive, open, and loving.
The easiest of all! Breathing truly is the difference between feeling anxious and feeling relaxed. Try adding a few rounds of 4, 4, 8 count breath into your daily routine. Inhale for 4 counts, retain for 4 counts, and exhale for 8. Close your eyes. Be slow. Repeat.