How can you find a sense of calm in these challenging times? We’re all a little (or a lot) unmoored amid this global pandemic.
And as we begin to move out into the world again into whatever the “new normal” will look like, it’ll be especially important to create simple, powerful practices to stay grounded and centered. One way to do that is to learn about the practice of “mindfulness.”
In his classic manual on meditation, “The Miracle of Mindfulness,” the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn offers an easy but profound message about the importance of bringing your attention to ordinary daily actions.
The idea is to create a state of mind that focuses your awareness on the present moment, while also calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
That may sound a little counter-intuitive in those times when you’re surrounded by fear, uncertainty, and chaos. Why would you want to be fully present to all of that?!
The answer lies in choosing your mindset and what you’re mindful of.
The first thing to do is to step back from all the external input that’s coming at you through TV news, emails, social media, and create an intention for a different kind of mindfulness, the kind that you dictate.
Here Are 5 Mindset Shift Tips to Help You Move into Mindfulness and Find Inner Peace:
Connect with the Earth
Work in your garden, sit under a tree in the park, or just go for a walk or run. Retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly shared how he connected with nature based on the year he spent in isolation in an international space station. He didn’t have the option of stepping outside, at least, not easily, so he focused on the plant he was tending, while some of his colleagues played recordings of nature sounds like birds and rustling leaves.
Even on the days when you can’t get outside, bring the outside in!
Schedule “Breath Breaks” for Yourself
Set your phone alarm to go off several times a day. I call it a “mindset check-in” and use tinkling bells as my alarm which, in itself, has a calming effect.
When you hear those bells, take a moment to check in with your body. What are you feeling right now? What mental state are you in?
If you’re in front of a screen and getting agitated, just close your eyes, be still, and breathe, while focusing on each inhale and exhale. Allow yourself to feel whatever comes up, then breathe it out.
When you can string a bunch of those moments together over a day, you’ll begin to feel more relaxed overall.
Do Something with Your Hands
No, endlessly typing on your keyboard or phone doesn’t count!
Have you always wanted to learn to knit? Or have you been waiting to try out your new paint set? Maybe you used to be into carpentry, or have been looking for the right time to experiment with gluten-free cooking.
The idea is to pick something that requires some concentration so you can focus your attention on a specific thing.
Remember, mindfulness requires you to be fully present, so whatever you choose, make it a full sensory experience. Savor the tastes and smells, feel the yarn, wood, or paints in your hands, put some great music on, and really get into your project.
I love to sing so this is one of my go-to mindset-shifters. Reciting mantras or singing chants are powerful vocal practices to help you calm your “monkey mind” during meditation and are an integral part of many spiritual traditions. You can even sing along with an experienced singer. Deva Premal, a singer known for introducing Sanskrit mantras into the mainstream, is a perfect place to start!
Or if singing isn’t your thing, simply sink into your body and ask yourself what word or quality you’d most like to embrace right now. Speak that word out loud before each breath, creating a physical vibration in your being, joy, love, peace, whatever you need at this moment to relax.
Full disclosure, yoga is probably my favorite way to practice mindfulness. The bottom line is that if you’re not fully present, you’ll hurt yourself doing a pose or just fall over.
And, of course, that quintessential element of mindfulness, focusing on your breath, is a key component of yoga, whether you practice hatha, vinyasa, bikram, or any other style.
When you sync your inhales and exhales with each movement, you come into full awareness of your body, and your thoughts are solely focused on maintaining that mind, body, or spiritual connection.
However you decide to practice mindfulness, the key is to start with the intention of being fully present. Pay attention to all the sensory input coming in from around you, as well as, the emotions and thoughts that bubble up from within.
Accept the presence of every aspect of your experience without judgment, then let it go. Even in the best of times, that can be hard to do.
But, in the midst of challenging times, it can be a real mindset-shifter and help you feel more peaceful, calm, and grounded.
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