Mindfulness is a beautiful quality to cultivate if you can do it, and everybody can if they set an intention to do so. Mindfulness is like anything: the more you practice the qualities of mindfulness, the more they come naturally. Mindfulness is essentially paying attention to the present moment, with attention and without judgment. It’s being totally open and present to every feeling and emotion that arises, and every situation or conversation that takes place. When you give your non-judgmental and undivided attention to the present moment as it comes, your life becomes so much richer and even more joyful. (Learn 6 Techniques to Staying Present.)
Cultivating mindfulness is an art, and there are many, many ways you can do it. First of all, you can get very intimate with your breath. This is one way to practice present moment awareness. The breath is always happening in the present moment, so each time we bring our attention to the breath, we’re essentially practicing mindfulness. This is a technique that mindfulness teachers often use with their beginning students, and it’s often done in the realm of sitting meditation.
Through Body Sensations
Another effective way to tune your mind and body to being mindful is by bringing your awareness to the sensations in your body. Like the breath, the sensations in your body are also showing you the present moment; and, because non-judging presence is at the heart of mindfulness, noticing your bodily sensations without judgment is another way to be more mindful.
You’ve heard the term, non-judgment, quite a bit already, and that’s the other aspect of being mindful that needs to be practiced. It’s human nature to label things as good or bad, but the truth is, nothing is actually good or bad – it’s just our thinking that makes them so. It’s all about perception, and the more we practice the art of non-judgment, the less we label things as good or bad and the more we roll with the punches. Surrendering to the intelligent flow of life becomes much easier. (Learn more about The Freedom in Letting Go.)
The more you listen to your fellow loved ones, the more mindful you become. So often when we’re in conversation with someone – whether it’s a heated conversation or just a casual one – we’re thinking of what we’re going to say next rather than simply listening. Like everything else, listening is an art, and it needs to be practiced and cultivated. The more you listen to others, the more space you’ll bring to the table, along with your total presence and mindful attention.
We also meditate daily to cultivate mindfulness. Most people are forgetful. They’re lost in their thoughts. They’re lost in the past or future. This is the opposite of being mindful. But the meditation practice helps us reside within the spaces between our thoughts, which helps us be present to whatever is arising and falling, and this is key for mindfulness in our lives. If you want to be more mindful, you’ll definitely want to commit to a regular sitting (or even walking) meditation practice every single day. It doesn’t have to be a long practice, just make sure it’s something you can commit to doing on a daily basis. (Learn about Trusting the Practice of Meditation.)
Next you can practice the art of silence. This may sound funny, but just stop talking. This is yet another way to be more mindful. You don’t have to think as much when you just stop talking. You can spend minutes, hours or even days in silence, and when you do this – wow! Your mindfulness muscle gets a day (or week) at the spa. Silence is key in cultivating mindful attention. (Read more about Taking Silence Breaks Throughout Your Day.)
Through Focused Concentration
Concentrating on something beautiful – like a flower, a sunset, or the eyes of your puppy dog – is yet another effective practice in becoming more mindful. Because focused attention is at the heart of mindfulness, disciplining your mind to concentrate on something is really important. Insights arise when you’re fully immersed in what’s before you. Concentration brings many, many, gifts – mindfulness being just one of them.
Last but not least, let go of stress and tension. It’s really hard to be more mindful when your body. as well as your mind, is in fight or flight mode. If you’re worried and anxious, your thoughts will be running willy-nilly and you’ll be less likely to be present for what’s happening in the present moment. If your body is tense, you’ll be focused on the tension in your body and less likely to be aware of what’s going on before you. Relaxing and releasing tension in both your body and mind is key to cultivating present moment awareness. So, do whatever you need to do to relax. Spend time in nature. Meditate. Do your yoga practice. Exercise daily. Eat well. Spend time with good friends. All of these things will help you become a more mindful person, and you’ll be so happy when you do! (Read more in The Art of Mindfulness.)