I read a social media post this week by a woman expressing an interest in mindfulness to cope with a serious illness. She wanted ideas because she wasn’t sure she was doing it right. This got me thinking about how mindfulness is often misinterpreted. There is no correct way practice being mindful. Mindfulness simply means focusing on the present without thoughts of the past or the future – hence the mind is grounded in the here and now.
When you start to integrate mindfulness into your everyday life, it becomes accessible to anyone at any moment. I personally love to integrate mindfulness into my photography practice, but you can bring awareness to the present moment when you are sitting in a chair, drinking a cup of coffee, cooking or even walking. Opportunities to be mindful are endless. I’ll guide you through a simple exercise that focuses on the five senses and explain how you can incorporate this technique into your everyday life.
The 5 Senses Exercise is a grounding activity and one of my favorite ways to calm my busy mind. The purpose of this activity is to bring your attention to the present by having you focus on the things you can see hear, smell, taste and feel in your current environment. Here’s how it works:
- Slowly bring your focus to one of your senses at a time, whichever comes to mind first. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your focus back to your senses. If your mind jumps to another sense, don’t worry about it. The goal of this practice is to notice what you are currently experiencing through your senses, not to follow any particular order of observation.
- Bring your awareness to:
- what you see – what colors do you see? Where is the light coming from? Are any shadows present? Do you see any patterns or textures, animals or people?
- what you hear – is the space totally quiet? Can you hear birds chirping, people talking, music playing or cars passing by? Pause with this awareness for a few moments before moving on to the next sense.
- what you smell – are there any odors in the air? Can you smell the fragrance of a flower? Car exhaust? Freshly cut grass? Fresh coffee or tea? Dog poop? (Pee-ew!).
- what you taste – this may be hard one unless you are chewing a piece of gum, sipping a drink, or eating. Notice whatever you can.
- what you feel – can you feel a breeze? Feel your feet touching the ground or the floor. Notice how your clothing feels against your body. See if you can feel your pulse. Hold your attention there for a moment.
With a calm mind and focused attention, get ready to see the world with fresh eyes.
Peace and zen,