Do something mindful every day.
For many of us, clever ideas come at times when the mind is uncluttered. On a run. In the shower. Sitting on the couch with the dog. Those are times when one is focused exclusively on one thing. Or nothing.
I’ve resolved to make mindfulness a priority. That basically means paying attention to what I am doing at the time. As Matthew Broderick says in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
How to accomplish this? Here’s my checklist. You might do some of these, or devise your own ways to become more mindful (and more curious and clever, of course.)
Go for a walk. That’s without my phone, and without music or a podcast. I always have music or talk radio on in the background in my office. But going outside forces me to pay attention to my border collie, as he bobs and weaves and smells and wags his tail at the dog across the street. I become a better neighbor, greeting passers-by and chatting with people walking their dogs. I observe the yards on my block and listen to the birds.
Time spent walking, according to Alexandra Horowitz, in her book On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation, “...is forgotten because we failed to pay attention to the journey to begin with. On the phone, worrying over dinner, listening to others or to the to-do lists replaying in our heads, we miss the world making itself available to be observed. And we miss the possibility of being surprised by what is hidden in plain sight right in front of us.”
Draw something, anything. Just a pencil and a scrap of paper will do. Start in the morning by drawing your breakfast. You don’t have to be an artist, or even know how to draw. Simply observe the nooks and crannies in your toast, or the shapes nestled in your cereal bowl, and sketch them. No one else needs to see. It’s a uniquely meditative experience.
Go to bed without a screen. What’s that? You say you must have your phone on the nightstand in case there is an emergency? There are apps that enable you to set your phone to “do not disturb” while allowing calls from family members or the boss to get through. Mindfulness requires sufficient, good quality sleep.
Buy a fragrant bouquet of flowers or a pot of fresh herbs. In our Febreezed world, we forget what nature smells like. Dish detergent, shampoo, soap, deodorant, fabric softener and cleaning products are all infused with varying, often fake, scents. But there’s nothing like the smell of a fresh orange, or coffee brewing, or a bunch of spring flowers.
Send a postcard to a friend or family member. No lengthy missive necessary, but when a friend receives a special honor, or a family member has an illness, why not dash off a few lines on a postcard and drop it in the mail?
How do YOU practice mindfulness? Comment below. We'd love to know.