Once a month, I conduct my very own mini-mindfulness retreat at home with a day of mindful activities, in total silence.
A day of at-home mindfulness offers the opportunity to be with ourselves and our emotions, in a place that feels safe. It retrains the mind to be present and gives the body time to unwind.
The benefit to having a retreat at home is that it's free and you can repeat it as often as you like. The only downside is that you will be surrounded by the regular distractions of your home, so you will need to exercise a certain degree of willpower.
I like to begin my retreat once the children have left for school. I switch off my phone and tablet, and unplug the television and stereo. I look upon my home with fresh eyes — as if seeing it for the first time — and that way, I don’t get sucked into unhealthy thought patterns. For example: The lounge is shabby and could do with a makeover (judgement) or, I wish my husband would decorate (wanting things to be different) or, He promised he would decorate (past thinking) and, I wonder what color we should paint (future thinking).
Next I spend the rest of the morning meditating — sometimes spending periods of time looking out of the window and noticing the color of the flowers, the sounds of the birds, the shape of the clouds.
For lunchtime I always prepare something that will nourish my body. I sit at the table to eat mindfully, and stop eating when I am full.
After lunch, I might do some journaling, play my piano or do some gardening. I don’t read much, so this can easily lead to too much thinking. So to counteract that I'll do a session of mindful yoga, focusing on my breath.
By the time the children arrive home, I feel completely present and refreshed. I leave the technology turned off for the duration of the day.
Want to have your own mini-mindfulness retreat in your own home? Here are seven tips for a day of mindfulness:
1. Wake and stretch.
When you wake, stretch your body and when you get up really feel your feet connecting with the earth, the temperature of the carpet against the soles of your feet.
2. Shower mindfully.
When you shower, notice the sound of the water, the temperature, the scent of your soap, the feel of your hands on your skin, the texture of the towel as you dry yourself.
3. Dress with awareness.
When you dress, notice the colors you choose, the feel of the fabric against your skin, the movement of your limbs as you pull your clothes on.
4. Cook with love.
Preparing food should be a pleasurable experience. Notice the temperature of the water as you wash your salad, hear the sound of the knife as it slices through peppers, feel the texture of the lettuce as you shake it dry.
5. Savor every bite.
When you eat, take the time to sit at a table. Look at your food as if seeing it for the very first time. How does it smell? Chew slowly, maybe using a different side of the mouth or teeth than what is habitual. And of course, stop eating when you are full.
During a silent mindfulness day you should try to avoid speaking. When you take time for meditation, you can use a recorded, guided meditation if you need to. Otherwise, meditate in silence for as long as you like.
7. Move with mindfulness.
You could practice yoga or go for a walk in nature. Try using a faster or slower pace than what is usual for you to help heighten your awareness of the present moment.
Begin your retreat without expectations or goals. There is nothing to achieve. See what happens for you without casting judgement. If you feel tired afterward, don’t worry, this is normal after a period of time spent sitting with your emotions and allowing your mind and body to rest.