So you have read the books, got the app and even bought the gratitude journal, but your daily mindfulness practice still seems all-to-easy to skip over. How can you invite mindfulness into your life so this time, it really sticks?
Having been fascinated by mindfulness techniques for over twenty years, I think I have been through most of the challenges of trying to land a daily practice. I have had periods of distracted practice, times of intense (even overly intense) practice, the days/weeks/months of no practice (and the guilt that accompanies it), the periods of talking about it (but not doing it), and then the lovely stretches of regular, easeful practice.
So here are some of my favourite tips to keep you coming back to your meditation cushion for that daily serving of stillness.
Start Early and Show Up
You already have a morning routine: showering, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, eating and drinking. By bringing mindful attention to each of those tasks in turn and getting up just 5 or 10 minutes earlier, you can make space for a short meditation and can turn a hectic morning routine into a mindful morning practice.
When you are showering, feel the warmth of the water cascading down your skin and scan your body from head to toe, noticing the smallest sensations that are present today. When brushing your teeth, instead of turning on the mind’s autopilot, bring conscious attention to the sounds, sensations and tastes that accompany this experience. In choosing your clothes for the day, do so mindfully and creatively. Allow yourself to make bold choices and surprise yourself! As you look at yourself in the mirror, breathe consciously, and find something about the present moment that makes you smile. As you prepare and eat your breakfast, take your time to savour it, feeling waves of gratitude naturally arising in the body.
Within this routine make space for your morning meditation. If you are just starting out, try 5 minutes of stillness, if you are more familiar with the practice aim for 10-15 minutes. Be just as professional at showing up for your meditation as you are about brushing your teeth. In time, your practice will become a valuable resource in your life.
2. Swap Scrolling for Stillness
If there is one thing we need to be more mindful of, it is our use of digital technology. As many of us are realising, we have become addicted to our digital devices and to their dopamine-releasing ways. (Dopamine feels good and initiates seeking behaviour. It is released when you get a new notification and when your curiosity is engaged, for example by click-bait headlines). When you notice that you have been on your device for too long, or if you are unconsciously scrolling through inconsequential data, pause. Close your eyes and bring your attention to the breath. Count 10 full inhales and exhales. Now ask yourself the question: what do I consciously choose to do, create, or be in this moment?
Not only will you be offering yourself a mindful pause, you will be getting in touch with the body and your intention and so building vital skills of digital wellbeing.
Try also the ‘three scrolls and you’re out’ rule which I like to use when viewing social media feeds (which suck you in with a perpetual reel of updates) and which have been designed to set your dopamine levels raging!
Spice Things Up
You wouldn’t eat the same meal every night, so why do the same mindfulness practice every day? I am a big fan of variety. In fact, inspiration for my book 100 Mindfulness Meditations came when I was leafing through a beautiful recipe book. I thought: how cool would it be to have a recipe book of meditations, so you could browse through and find a relevant practice that suited how you were feeling that day!
Keeping your practice varied helps you to find novelty in your present moment experience (a key focus of mindfulness) and allows you to select meditations that are relevant to your life. In short, a varied practice will keep you interested and keep you learning.
After each practice I like to write a few notes or do a doodle. This starts out feeling like an extra chore but for most people becomes a really valuable and enjoyable addition to mindfulness practice. Not only will you be creating an additional layer to your meditation by reflecting on your experience, you will be creating a record of your daily ups and downs and the development of your awareness.
In order to create a long-term mindfulness practice, forgiveness is essential because there will be days, weeks and even months when you lose sight of your practice. Without forgiveness it may be impossible to find your way back. So, each time a practice is missed, forgive yourself as immediately and completely as you can and try not to let guilty feelings of missing practice to keep you away from the rich possibility of your next meditation.
Remember, your breath and the body are always available to lead you directly into present moment awareness. All you need to do is breathe.
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