What does it mean to be mindful? To be mindful means you are aware of the present moment. You notice what is going on around you; other peoples’ feelings, body language, your own thoughts and how you are acting and speaking.
Many feel that mindfulness is something that happens solely when one is practicing yoga, but mindfulness doesn’t have to only happen on your yoga mat. There are many ways in which you can create more awareness in your daily routine, for example when you brush your teeth, are you in the present moment? Or is your mind scattered worrying about what email you need to respond to or how much traffic there will be on your way to work? Are you on auto-pilot? One way to counteract this auto-pilot mode is to bring your awareness to your breath. It’s like when you’re in a yoga class and the instructor tells you to focus on your breathing, because it’s a simple way to bring you into the current moment. So next time when you brush your teeth, can you notice how it feels? How the minty sensation of the toothpaste leaves your mouth glistening, or how the toothbrush bristles against your teeth and tongue leave an overall feeling of cleanliness and purity.
Another way to practice mindfulness beyond the yoga studio is to notice how you are standing. Notice your posture, are you hunched and closed off, with your shoulders up by your ears? Or can you take a deep breath, roll your shoulders back, stand a little taller and become more aware of the present moment? In these moments, you’ll begin to notice a shift in your breath, mind and focus. A calmness will come over you and perhaps your stress and anxiety from the day will slip away.
Mindfulness means to purposely pay close attention to what you are doing in the present moment, and sometimes we forget to practice it even in the most obvious of places. When you arrive at your yoga studio and roll out your mat do you run in, throw everything down and toss a block next to your belongings? Be mindful of how you place your mat down, how carefully you unroll your mat to not disturb other yogis in the room and how peacefully you place your props next to your mat, in a way that is calming to you and others around you. During your yoga practice are you mindful of how softly and quietly you step up to the top edge of your mat, or do you abruptly slam your feet down? Mindfulness can be incorporated in almost every moment of our lives, and the results from making this shift can be life-changing.
This is your challenge to bring more awareness into what you do. Every action, every thought, every word. What are your intentions? If your intention is to not hurt those around you, then can you think about responding with compassion instead of reacting with blame or hurt? Can you respond with empathy or kindness when waiting in line at the grocery store instead of trying to push everyone along for your own benefit? When starting to incorporate a mindful way of being in your conversations with loved ones and with strangers, the level in which you are able to authentically communicate shifts dramatically.
To sum things up, begin to slow down, bring your focus into the “right here” and “right now.” Be aware of what you are doing and how you are doing it. Be mindful. Be present. You can start right now.