How to find time for mindfulness?

Mindfulness seems to be our time’s panacea. Named after Panakeia, the Greek goddess of universal remedy, panacea is the synonym of a cure-all medicine. But does mindfulness really cure everything? Certainly not. But those who have given it a try almost invariably report about clearly noticeable changes in important aspects of their life caused by a heightened state of attention.

Finding the time

Many believe that practicing mindfulness requires a specially designated time and place, and they complain about being too busy to carve out extra time for just another „activity”.

The good news is that you can apply mindfulness almost anywhere and anytime, and in most cases no special actions are necessary to experience its long-term transformative power.

Whether you are aware of it or not, there are occasions in your life for sure when you have no difficulty focusing on the unfolding moment. Typically these are activities (or lack of activities) that demand your full attention such as driving around in an unknown city, cooking a meal for the first time, watching a movie, or solving a difficult math problem as part of your child’s homework.

Lowering the volume of noise

Besides the many formal mindfulness exercises and meditation practices which usually require a specially designated time and space (at the beginning for sure), there are countless opportunities throughout the day to engage in some kind of informal practice.

One cannot be mindful ALL THE TIME. It is another general misconception. However, with each and every minute of mindful action you take another step towards a general state of heightened awareness.

Probably the most wide-spread definition of mindfulness originates from the well-known mindfulness teacher and writer Jon Kabat Zinn who defines it as this:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

In other words, mindfulness involves consciously directing your attention onto what you’re doing, feeling, thinking, or experiencing in the present moment.

5 simple exercises to begin with

To begin with, pick a situation when and where thinking or conscious thoughts are not necessary. Later on, as you get more experienced in how to dive into the pure sensation of what is happening with or around you, you will realize that opportunities for practice multiply.

Walk mindfully: the next time you need to walk from A to B, regardless of your destination, spend some time noticing your steps.

Direct your full attention to the movement of your legs, how your sole touches against the floor, one leg after the other, one sole after the other. You might need to slow down to do this as best as you can.

As Thich Naht Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen monk says: “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

Eat mindfully: make at least some of the bites or swallows of any eating or drinking you do mindfully. Smell the food you are eating or the drink you are drinking, observe its appearance carefully, study its texture (in your hands or your mouth), take notice of its temperature and color. Describe to yourself what it feels like to chew that bite or swallow that sip. Notice what aftertaste you have.

Wait mindfully: while standing in line in a supermarket, waiting for your appointment to show up, or being held up in traffic, you have a choice to either get frustrated OR grab the opportunity to mindfully observe your surroundings. As if you were there for the first time (in fact you ARE there for the first time in that given moment).

Wake up to the moment and try to absorb as many details as possible. Study other people’s behavior, take a notice of sounds, smells, colors. Look for the subtle details which for most people would go unnoticed.

Listen mindfully: when someone is talking to you, aside from the message conveyed, pay special attention to their nonverbals.

Communication experts say that whenever a person is talking to us, we decode over 85 percent of the information from their non-verbal signs.

These are elements of speech such as the tone, pitch, speed and volume of the voice, and of body language such as gestured, facial expressions, eye movements and contact, body postures and stance, and even proximity of the speaker.

Mindful pause: pausing is probably the most precious tool in the mindfulness toolbox: it offers a chance for a quick recharge or rebooting.

Most of the time we rush through the day running on auto-pilot without being able to recall certain parts of the day upon looking back.

Make a decision in the morning to deliberately stop for a pause later that day. Any time will do when you can fit in a two-minutes break. You can set an alarm on your phone to be your reminder, or it can be right after your lunch or once you get home from work.

Then, tune in to your breath. Gently follow the path of each and every inhalation and exhalation. Notice as the air enters through your nostrils and as your stomach rises and falls again. Deliberately slow down your breathing and study the sensations in your body. Rest and relax into your breath.

This exercise can be used before, during or after a stressful encounter or event as well. Sometimes even five slow breaths can do wonders.

Space in-between

Holding your attention on the object of your observation may be difficult but do not get discouraged. It is quite normal for the mind to wander off. In fact mind-wandering is ubiquitous. Should this happen, gently divert your attention back without blaming yourself.

Seize the moment and realize the abundance of opportunity presented in the here and now.