“If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not ‘washing the dishes to wash the dishes.’ What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future—and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”
The famous quote above belongs to a well-known monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh. The beauty of this paragraph is that it’s so simple almost everyone can relate and apply it to any part of their lives. Mindfulness is not only a state which occurs during meditation, but rather it’s a broader perspective of life.
You’ll see a list of mindful activities below. But, listing mindfulness activities doesn’t necessarily imply that all the moments apart from those moments are not mindful. On the contrary, the regular and constant state of observing yourself and noticing the outer world without judgement will spread mindfulness into every part of your life.
We often don’t pay attention to our food or the action of eating during our meals. We may chat with people we’re eating with or choose to watch something if we’re eating alone. When you think of it, eating is full of taste and possibilities for joy and it’s definitely worth our attention.
Try these steps during your next meal:
- Try to bring your attention to the place you are eating, whether you’re in a room, on a balcony, or in your kitchen.
- Find a comfortable seat and visualize your position and your food in front of you.
- What’s on your plate? Look at your food, smell it before you taste it.
- Repeat these for your drink if you have something to drink next to your food.
- Now, bring your attention to yourself. Are you hungry or thirsty? Are there other feelings appearing? Focus on your sensations.
- Now, mindfully taste the food. Chew each bite slowly with joy. Bring your attention to your sensations. How does it taste? Enjoy your meal while you are eating. Check your satiety every now and then by gently asking yourself how you feel. Is it enough or do you need more?
- Show your gratitude about tasting a delicious piece of food as you finish eating.
Increased mindfulness about how you communicate can create a safe, secure, and nourishing relationship with others where your needs and wishes are both seen and heard.
Try these to engage in a mindful communication:
- Join the conversation with full focus on the communication.
- Listen to the other person with full attention, really digesting what they’re saying and the message they’re trying to convey.
- Identify your feelings and reactions during the conversation.
- Realize where you are, the position you’re sitting or standing in, the weather, the tone of the conversation, or the emotions that the other person evokes within you.
Many people enjoy cooking as it is a period of time where we’re focused only on the action of cooking itself. We know the steps to follow. We chop or slice the ingredients. We wait for them to boil or fry. Sometimes we follow a recipe and sometimes we improvise by following our gut. We move on as the smell or taste guides us.
But sometimes, it can feel automatic as we repeat it everyday without noticing what we’re doing at that moment. We think of what we’ll do afterward or what happened earlier. If you ever feel like you’re also in the past or the future when you’re cooking, mindful cooking might be just for you:
- Decide what you want to cook. Notice your desires, plans, and the needs of both your body and mind. What do you want to eat?
- Prepare the ingredients calmly. Try not to rush. Lay everything out and make sure you’ve identified how each piece will contribute to the meal you’re about to cook.
- Observe yourself closely while you’re cooking. Cooking contains different sensations within itself: the colors, the smell, the taste, the texture…
- Notice the transition of the ingredients from raw materials into other sliced or cooked forms. Be mindful of all your actions.
- If you realize your attention is not on cooking, gently invite your mind to the here and now. You can always try to follow your sensations and your breath.
When we exercise, we tend to distract ourselves from our heightened heartbeat and sore muscles in order to get it over with, to move past the more difficult parts. But just as in life, the more we escape from the uncomfortable feelings, the more we carry their stress within ourselves. Moving mindfully is a nice reflection of our mindset in our daily lives.
Follow these steps to include mindfulness in your movement:
- Visualize yourself. Try to imagine how you would look if you are able to watch yourself from afar.
- Push through the ground with your feet, standing tall and still.
- Open your chest up to the sky.
- Roll your shoulders back.
- Take a few very slow steps, monitoring each component of those steps as if you just learned how to walk, as if you were describing it to someone who does not or has not walked yet.
- Ask these questions of yourself with the curiosity of a child:
Are you comfortable moving?
How does your body tend to move?
How does it feel to move?
- Explore the constant change. Notice how your body adapts to those changes and how it fluctuates within a movement.
- Notice if the movement in your body coincides with the shifts in your mind. The posture of your body might help you to get a stronger and more confident perspective. Opening your chest up to the sky might give you an open heart to accept the world as it is and yourself as you are.
Being mindful about your body will enable you to realize what it needs in that moment and to treat yourself with compassion and patience during movement. Practice moving mindfully during the day, not just during exercise, and try to see if there’s any difference.
Technology offers us a lot during this period.
Check out these options:
- Play online games with your family and friends via online game platforms. (Keep in mind the mindful communication tips above.)
- Exercise together with others on a video call. Motivate each other through the workout. (Keep in mind the mindful movement tips above.)
- Participate in a yoga class or a live meditation session.
- Listen to lectures or seminars. Your options are limitless now that everything's online.
- Join online book clubs or discussion groups.
Connection is mindful in its essence. You are fully in that moment with all your attention when you feel genuinely connected to someone. Although we may feel tired from looking at screens now and then, they can be the tools that enable us to connect with other people, letting us access a lot of content in our home.
We cannot limit mindfulness to a certain period or activity. It’s embedded within all aspects of our lives. You’ll see how mindfulness blossoms in every piece of your life as you continue to practice it regularly.
Try these if you’re wondering how to apply mindfulness to your life:
- Think of a memory from your life: a view, a sound, a smell that you enjoy...
- Stay there and let yourself experience this memory.
- Explore all of its components as you notice your body, mind, the flow of your breath.
- Think of what you’re doing and how you’re feeling.
- Step by step, carry this approach into other aspects and moments of your life.