Sometimes it can be a challenge to fit a practice of mindfulness into your life.
You intend to put aside ten minutes in the morning or evening, for instance, to close your eyes, sit in silence, and focus on your breathing.
However, what often happens is that the alarm goes off at some unreasonably early hour, the dog starts barking, your child needs breakfast, you dash into the shower bleary-eyed, throw yourself in the car, and head to the office — and your mindfulness practice goes out the window.
But… not necessarily so.
While mindfulness practices conducted in a quiet place in solitude are immeasurably helpful, at any moment in your day you can practice mindfulness. In fact, right in the midst of your day, while sitting in traffic, facing a multitude of e-mail messages, or eating a meal, trying a mindfulness exercise can be extremely useful. After all, it’s when we’re right in the thick of things that we most need mindfulness.
And, let’s face it, closing your eyes in traffic for a moment of meditation is more likely to lead to a disaster than a sense of balance and serenity.
Try the following exercise at any time, to center yourself in the moment and build your emotional muscle of being in the present and alert to this moment.
Remember the acronym STOP and in a few minutes go through this process:
Stop. Pretty clear, right? Freeze the frame. Let go of your many thoughts about the past or the future and focus your attention on this moment.
Take a breath. It’s actually amazing how much of the time we breathe in a shallow manner, which only exacerbates anxiety. Deep belly breathing activates the relaxation response. In addition, breathing is a natural and rhythmic activity that can serve as a great anchor for your attention.
Observe. What is going on around and in you? No need to judge your present circumstances, feelings, or sensations — just notice them, as if you were a reporter. So often we miss the details of our lives, since we’re lost in worry, fantasy, or planning.
Proceed. After centering yourself, using the above steps, go on with your day. It’s quite likely that by stepping back from your life for a brief moment, you’ll gain a better perspective on your present circumstance or you’ll see more clearly what your next step in a particular situation might be. For instance, maybe your cluttered desk won’t disturb you as much, or perhaps you’ll see that by taking only five minutes you could tidy it up enough to provide you with increased peace of mind. Or maybe you’ll remember someone you meant to call but who you’d forgotten while preoccupied with other things.
Just remember that at any time, you can STOP — and while nobody else may know what you’re doing, you’ll reap the benefits of clarity, reduced stress, and living fully in the moment. After all, without becoming more mindful of the present moment, you could miss your entire life.