For those of us who do yoga regularly, we (ideally) get the benefits of mindfulness from our practice; increased openness, wisdom, acceptance, focus and concentration, and a sense of calm, to name a few. However, mindfulness practice doesn’t have to stop when you leave the yoga room. Below are some ways to be more present in your daily life. As you incorporate these practices, try to use what Daniel Siegal describes as a “COAL” mind—Curious, Open, Accepting, and Loving.
Turn Off Your Phone. Yes, Off. Not just on silent. Power that puppy right off. A few weeks ago, I put to rest yet another phone—this time to a wet day at Whistler. I learned three things from the experience I would like to share with you:
“Checking in” at Symphony Bowl is really not worth purchasing a new phone. But more importantly, technology is killing our ability to be spontaneous and mindful. Let me expand on this one: Between my iPhone’s drowning and finding a replacement, I went about a week without. I found the experience frustrating, thrilling (yes, thrilling… guess I don’t get out much), liberating, and enlightening all in one. At times when I would have been bored or anxious and pulled out my phone to distract me, I couldn’t. Walking from one place to another became just walking, rather than walking and texting or walking and listening to music or a podcast. I didn’t have a constant urge to “check” my phone between clients or out with friends. I learned that I had to pay attention rather than distract. To stay in the moment rather than disappear into intermittent “conversation” or review my calendar. I learned to observe and experience rather than see what’s happening on Facebook or my News App. And so, instead of tuning out, I tuned into my own experience: my breath, the sensations in my body, my feet on the ground, my the leaves on the trees and clouds and sounds and smells—experiences I never would have paid attention to (or appreciated) if I had a phone on me. So, try practicing some phone-abstinence in your day. Leave it behind or turn it off. Give yourself permission to not respond, or check, or browse. Look up and see what you’ve been missing.
Make Uncomfortable Experiences Mindful Ones: There was a time in my life where I despised nothing more than wet socks. I now recognize how fortunate I am that it was my biggest concern, rather than, oh, I don’t know, constant hunger or chronic pain. Still, trekking across the GVRD via several buses and skytrains in poorly chosen footwear made for many evenings of temporary discomfort. I used to feel so angry and victimized when I became aware that my “waterproof” shoes weren’t doing their job. But, when mindfulness entered my life, I began to take these negative experiences (such as wet cold feet) as opportunities to feel the sensations without judgment, ultimately resulting in gratitude for being able to feel at all. Observing without judgment allowed for the experiences to be tolerable, informative, and sometimes even enjoyable (sometimes).
Similar to physical discomfort, emotional discomfort can bring about opportunities to be mindful as well. The other day I was at the DMV (don’t ask), and naturally I arrived there at the time when every other person in Vancouver decided to go to the DMV. For few seconds, I felt frustrated, and annoyed, and impatient. Then, as I do sometimes practice what I preach, I transformed it into a mindful experience. I scanned my body and brought attention to the sensations I was feeling. I observed the room décor and wall fixtures with curiosity and openness.
So, try taking experiences that might be met with frustration, impatience, discomfort, or judgment, and turning them into mindful experiences. Waiting in traffic? Feeling lonely? Stomach ache? Observe with the COAL state of mind.
“Un”multitask : I know, I know. This goes against everything we’re taught about efficiency and productivity. But, multitasking is the antithesis to mindfulness. It makes it nearly impossible to be present with ourselves and our experience. And I’m not just talking about obvious multitasking (e.g. taking a phone call while checking your email, listening to music, eating your lunch, and stretching out your hamstring all at the same time…yes, to be a fly on the wall in my office…). We multitask when we’re thinking about the future, or the past, while doing any of those individual tasks. So, consider doing one thing at a time and bringing your attention into the present. You don’t have to remove all multitasking from your life, but challenge yourself to do a couple of things in your day mindfully. For example, in the morning, take a mindful shower, brush your teeth mindfully, drive mindfully. Tune into your breath, the sensations in your body, the rich colours of the world around you. During breaks, drink your coffee mindfully, eat mindfully, walk from your office to the washroom mindfully. “Un”multitask, and you might notice you feel calmer, more recharged, and more a willing participant (rather than a powerless victim) of your world.
I hope you’ll be able to incorporate some of these strategies into your day and, as a result, get to be present for your beautiful life. I encourage you to comment and share your own strategies or ideas for being mindful off the mat.
Megan Bruneau (M.A, R.C.C.) is a Registered Clinical Counsellor, former Yoga Advisor, and avid yoga practitioner. She draws upon her personal and professional experience to inspire people towards healthy balanced living. See more posts by Megan athttps://www.oneshrinksperspective.com/.