More and more people are practicing mindfulness in one way or another, proving that far from being just another buzzword it’s here to stay. The Little Pocket Book of Meditation explains how to get started.
ON THE MOVE
Wherever you happen to live, exploring the places we know and love can be an interesting way of turning our attention to what is already around us. Taking a leisurely walk around your local area is the perfect opportunity to integrate a mindfulness practice.
If you have difficulty walking, this exercise can be done just as well by finding a spot outside where you can sit and take in your surroundings in greater detail. Becoming more mindful awakens the senses and helps us to notice more around us. How many times, for example, have you stopped in your tracks to answer your mobile phone and, as you look around, your gaze lands on something you hadn’t noticed before, even though you might have passed by that spot every day. You can, however, make time for yourself, so you don’t miss what is right in front of you.
- Start the exercise mindfully by preparing for your walk; bring your focus to the preliminary activity of pulling on your boots or zipping up a jacket to help set yourself in the right frame of mind.
- As you leave your home, bring your attention to the activity in hand. It is likely you will be carrying your cellphone, and I realise that this is a necessity for most people, but if you can turn it off temporarily, all the better. You could always let your loved ones know that you won’t be available for the next 30 minutes, or however long you plan to be, so that they have peace of mind. Alternatively, just switch your mobile phone to silent so that you can check in if you need to.
- As you set off on your walk, keep your pace even and steady
- As you walk, think about how your body feels and the impact of each step: Are you balanced and in control? What terrain are you walking on? Are you on a flat surface, stones, grass? Think about what you are experiencing underfoot, not just your location.
- Halfway through your walk, sit down and take in a more stationary perspective; this will give you the opportunity not only to refuel, but to take stock of your surroundings.
- As you continue on the move you will also find yourself having to interact with other people, such as minding your step or stopping and starting to allow people to pass. Although we may be taking our time to walk with consideration, many others will not, so don’t let them be a distraction. These need not be obstacles to your mindful walking, but can be integrated into the experience.
- When you arrive home and have come to the end of your mindful walking, take a moment to think about what you experienced. You will likely be surprised to find that you remember your walk with much more clarity and in more detail than usual.
- To conclude: Walking with a greater sense of presence can help us to enjoy something as simple as getting out of the house; it becomes a richer, more rewarding activity. To add variety to this exercise, walk in various different locations to keep yourself interested.
If there wasn’t already enough evidence to convince you of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, this next meditation is doubly convincing, providing a mental and physical workout. The beauty of the gym is that it provides a structured setting where we are less likely to slack off, so it can be the ideal place to carry out a mindfulness practice. This exercise works particularly well on the treadmill, but could equally be used on an exercise bike or other stationary exercise equipment.
This meditation can be carried out for the duration of your workout session. For example, if you usually use the treadmill for 15 minutes, this could be your time frame.
1 Set about your walk or run as you normally would, but rather than paying attention to the music in the background or the television on the wall ahead, keep your focus on your breathing and be aware of any changes as you increase your pace on the treadmill.
2 Bring your mindfulness practice to the fore and become more aware of your body as you work it; think about the effort that is required as you adjust the incline or pace. Starting with your feet, working up through the legs, torso, your shoulders and neck, until you reach the top of your crown, become closely aware of what you are experiencing in your body as you exercise. When we notice this level of detail we can cultivate more of an appreciation for how hard our body works and the level of effort required to carry out an activity. This can also bring a sense of satisfaction in what we have achieved, which can often be taken for granted.
3 If you find at any time that your attention has wandered, or you feel you are drifting off into your own thoughts, bring yourself back to the exercise with your breath as the focus.
4 Once you have finished the exercise, take a moment to ground yourself and feel how your body responds as you begin the cool down.
To conclude: By incorporating mindfulness into your gym session, you will develop a greater appreciation for your workout and you will also have a new, more thoughtful perspective on your fitness routine.
The Little Pocket Book of Meditation by Stephanie Brookes, published by CICO Books (£9.99), is out now