Moments of Mindfulness
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By Suzanne Smith, MSN, NP, CMT-P
Mindfulness is a quality of attention that is open, nonjudgmental, curious, and kind. Meditation is a way to practice mindfulness and cultivate these qualities creating possibilities for more ease, insight, and a kinder relationship to experience. However, we can bring the quality of mindfulness to any moment. We often think we do not have time to take a moment away from the activities we need to do. Mindfulness does not take you away from experience, it increases presence and allows us to expand our awareness to experience the fullness of the moment and engage in life in a more informed and skillful way. For example, as you are reading these words, notice where your body contacts a surface, now shift your attention to the breath moving in and out of the body. Where does the breath enter the body? Where does the breath leave the body? Now notice how you are feeling in this moment, calm, restless, tired, etc. Can you receive this experience with a kind attention without judgment? If you are still reading this, and followed along with the prompts, then you just practiced mindfulness while you were engaged in the activity of reading.
Below are 3 mindfulness practices to bring more awareness, presence, and connection to your day.
1) Bring awareness to daily activities
Choose any activity you do every day such as walking to or from your mode of transportation, taking a shower or eating a meal. Open to your senses as you engage with the activity. For example, before you eat, look at the food, the colors, and imagine all that went into getting this food here in front of you, how it was prepared by someone with care, and that you are nourishing your body with this food. Then as you begin to eat, enjoy the aromas, the flavors, and textures of the food as you nourish yourself. This simple practice of engaging fully with the activity of eating can help decrease overeating and increase your sense of nourishment.
2) Practice presence
How often are we really present for one another?
The next time you are with a friend or family member, practice presence by putting down the phone or a project that is competing for your attention and give that person your full presence. Listen to the person with the intention of connecting and understanding. Bring an attitude of non-judgement and let go of the need to fix, give advice, make a point or think about what you are going to say next. When it is time for you to share, respond from an awareness of what is arising in the moment. Stay aligned to what matters based on your values. Respond in a way that promotes or builds connection instead of reacting to what you heard. Mindful communication is a practice and presence is needed. Notice how it feels to be fully present with another. Mindful communication fosters trust and a deepening of relationship.
3) Practice pausing
When challenges arise, we often feel stress and are more likely to be reactive and judgmental. With awareness of what is arising for us in the moment we can choose how to respond in an effective manner. This STOP practice can help us remember to pause.
S– Stop what you are doing, pause for a moment.
T– Take a few slow breaths, feeling the rise and fall of the belly and the contact of the floor or chair providing support for the body.
O– Observe your present moment experience. What sensations do you notice in the body, what emotions and thoughts are present? Can you observe without judgment and allow yourself to be as you are. How can you best respond to the moment?
P– Proceed with awareness instead of reactivity. Act with intention.
Suzanne Smith, MSN, NP, CMT-P is nurse practitioner at UCLA where she heads the Integrative Digestive Health and Wellness Program, teaching mind-body based skills and promoting healthy living for gastrointestinal conditions. She is a regular contributor to the MGC Blog.