My Month With Mindfulness

Ok, I’ll be honest, it’s more than a month of a daily mindfulness practice. I have been experimenting A LOT with what works and what doesn’t work so well for me when it comes to mindfulness. Instead of posting after my few weeks, I figured I would give a host of different resources a try before I wrote about it.

What is Mindfulness or a Mindful Practice anyways? I went to a few books and some experts on what this means.

From A Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: 10 minutes can make all the Difference by Andy Puddicombe

  • Headspace launched in 201 with the simple idea to demystify meditation, to make it something accessible and relevant for modern-day living. Nothing kooky, nothing wacky, just straightforward tools that people use to get some headspace.
  • We don’t think twice about exercising our bodies and yet the wellbeing of the mind tends to take a back seat… our entire existence is experienced through the mind.
  • Meditation is simply a technique to provide you with the optimum conditions for practising the skill of mindfulness. Meditation is a direct experience of the present moment; it is not a fluffy concept or philosophical idea.
  • Mindfulness is to be present, in the moment, undistracted (mono-tasking). It is experiencing life directly as it unfolds, rather than being distracted, caught up and lost in thought. It is a form of resting the mind in its natural state (free from the usual chaos – i.e. a phone, tablet, computer, kids, etc.)

From I am Here Now: A Creative Guide and Journal by The Mindfulness Project

  • Mindfulness is the simple and very powerful practice of training our attention. It’s about paying attention to what’s happening here and now in a nonjudgmental way.
  • Mindfulness is powerful because it can interrupt the habit of getting lost in thoughts, mostly about the future or past, which can generate stress on top of the real pressures of everyday life.
  • There are two main ways to practice mindfulness: formally, through meditation, and informally, by bringing it into our everyday lives.

Here is what mindfulness means to me. Mindfulness is being cognitively engaged with what I am doing. Mindfulness is listening to my footfalls when running, noticing the trees and flowers, checking out cool engineering all around me. Mindfulness is drinking my coffee in the morning with Rol and listening to what he has to say, not looking at my computer, my tablet, or my phone. Mindfulness is having a catch up with a friend and just listening to what is going on in their life, no advice, no judgement, just my ears and mind listening to what they are really saying. Mindfulness is riding my mountain bike on the Don Trails as slow as I possibly can (yup, currently looking for a new bike!)

Here are some of the ways I tried to be mindful and my thoughts around it:

At a computer: Truthfully this was not my favourite, actually, this was my least favourite. Not only did my mind wander, but I felt the need to be productive, rush through whatever it was I was being mindful about so I could get to ‘more important’ (?) tasks. I usually wrote in ‘Notes’ on my mac, but even with all the notifications turned off, I never felt completely present at my computer.

Out for a walk: This was definitely one of my favourite ways to be mindful, especially when I was up at the cottage and I could walk on the beach. I cherished those simple mornings with steam rising off the lake and chasing after it with a cup of coffee or walking to watch the sunset over the point. It can be hard not to think about what you need to be doing, but I just took a breath and made myself look at something specific in my surroundings and tell myself why I thought it was beautiful.

In a blank journal: I love long-form writing, almost as much as I love lists! Depending on the day and the prompt I would write in paragraphs and other days I would write point form notes. My favourite writing prompts invoked feelings of love and gratitude. I wrote about why I love running, why I love Rol, all the things I love about my family, running, food, and travelling. I felt that I could be very present with the question if I had a pen (or pencil) in my hand.

In a ‘Guided’ Journal: I bought two journals one mentioned above in the definitions of mindfulness. I enjoyed the process of working through some of the activities, I really enjoyed Start Where You Are: A Journal of Self-Exploration by Meera Lee Patel. I did not work all the way through both books but skimmed each for the purposes of this blog. I intend to rotate these into my daily dose of mindfulness until they are complete. I do also want to purchase one that follows a calendar and I am open to recommendations.

Colouring: Yes, I have an adult colouring book thanks to my awesome friend Gilly-win. I received this wonderful gift for my birthday and I have often brought it on my many adventures. Not only is it a great way to let your mind escape but to be present in what you’re doing, I feel like I have my friend with me, even though I’m away. I have the Mandala Meditation Colouring Book and I always have a box of pencil crayons or markers with me too! I usually set a timer for 10-15 minutes; whenever my mind starts to wander, I bring it back to paying attention to the drawing in front of me.

Savasana (Lying in Corpse Pose): There is always a space of floor to lie on. After mixing my coffee in the AeroPress I would lie down on the floor while the coffee was brewing and check in with myself. I tried ‘asking’ all my different joints, muscles, and bones felt and I, also, tried moving and touching in with said body parts.

Suggestions for Mindfulness:

Who: I think a mindfulness practice is for everyone. Take your kid for a walk and just talk about all the pretty things you see in the surroundings. Sit down and colour with them (colouring in their books is just fine – well if they allow it!). Take a blank slate with your kids and paint, colour, do whatever with them. Grab your partner, a cup of coffee, and walk around a local garden

What: This is deeply personal. From my computer or notebook with and without writing prompts, to walking, to lying down and checking in with my body, to colouring, I am not sure I have a favourite method to be mindful. I will not be using a computer in my future, I just found I could not be present enough in what I was trying to do. I do think I will rotate through many of these techniques depending on my mood on a certain day. For you, find an activity that gets you to open up your heart, one that challenges you, but not one that you find intimidating. And don’t be afraid to try something and let go of it because it’s just not ‘you.’

When: At first I thought that I had to practice mindfulness first thing in the morning. If I had a morning run, workout, or meeting, I found that I could not give myself the ‘space’ to be completely present. I am still working on a routine. The mornings I do not have to rush I prefer to practice mindfulness before I start my day. Workout days, I create space later in the day to protect some time to be mindful.

Where: Really anywhere is good. Ok, well anywhere without any distractions. My favourite spaces were often outdoors; I love the feeling of connecting with nature, especially along the water. “If there is magic on this planet it’s in the water” thanks, Hannah Georgas, I couldn’t agree more.

How: As Rol would say, ‘very carefully!’ Start with 1-minute and work your way to however many minutes you can afford each day. Ideally, I think somewhere between 10- and 15-minutes is best. Back to ‘very carefully,’ when you first start your mindful practice it takes way more energy and diligence. Once you find your routine, it becomes second nature.

Why: Because once you start, you cannot stop because it just feels oh-so-good. With our multi-tasking, always-available-devices society we need a break. We need to just step back and check in to say ‘hey, I’m ok,’ and when you’re not to figure out how to take the corrective course to fix that.