Your meditation doesn't have to emulate the Buddha's 49-day retreat. Whether you think there's no time for a mindfulness meditation practice, or the concept of sitting in stillness is more daunting than restful, there are still ways to reap the benefits of the ancient art.
That's right -- you can manifest an informal practice within your daily habits. You don't have to change your routine all that much: All it takes is tweaking your intention.
Informal mindfulness practices are ones in which you pay attention to your moment-to-moment experience. These are "everyday actives of life that can support the cultivation of mindfulness," writes Karen Kissel Wegela, Ph.D. on Psychology Today. "When we engage in these activities, especially if we are willing to let go of distractions like listening to an iPod or playing the car radio, they give us the chance to tune into what is happening right now. We can pay attention to our sense perceptions, our emotions, and our thoughts."
Many successful people (like Oprah, Rupert Murdoch and even Arianna Huffington, to name a few) credit meditation for their razor-sharp focus, enviable level of productivity and bountiful amounts of creative juice. You, too can join this esteemed group of meditators without sitting cross-legged by candlelight. Here are a few ways to implement mindfulness into your everyday life.
Try Some Mindful Cleaning
Before you roll your eyes, think about the fact that you'll be killing two birds with one stone. Intrigued? Mindfulness coach and HuffPost blogger Patrick Groneman suggests a mindful dishwashing practice to do just this. "Yes, it's not very sexy," he writes, "but it can be a great chance to check in with our state of mind in the middle of our often-busy days."
If you're fortunate enough to have a dishwasher that does it all (except meditate, that is), consider turning your morning bed-making routine into a mindfulness practice. Your morning ritual probably already includes tucking in your sheets --next time, just add a genial dose of intention. Or, try a meditation while you vacuum (there's even a vacuum on the market that claims to help you find peace, but we think just an ordinary machine will do). Whatever chore you choose to transform into a head-clearing activity, just make sure you're doing it with purpose, and all of your attention on the task at hand.
[Be mindful] of the need to set the temperature before getting into the shower; mindful of the wave of pleasure as the warm water washes over you; mindful of the smell of the shower gel, soap or shampoo; mindful of the mind jumping forward, imagining conversations that have yet to happen; mindful of the amount of water you’re using; and mindful of the sound of the water coming to a stop.
Go For A Run -- Sans iPod
Sure, there's nothing like a kick-ass playlist to fuel your workout. But taking a break from your earbuds every now and again can help you keep a steady pace and become more aware of your body. You'll be more likely to engage all senses in what you're doing: You'll feel your feet against the ground and hear what's happening around you all the better without the distraction of any "Blurred Lines." Breathing in synch with the rhythm of your footsteps may also help you to regulate your breath, which could make you a stronger runner.
Take A Stroll Down Memory Lane
We mindlessly scan old albums on Facebook more often than we care to admit. Next time you decide to go down memory lane, click (or page through if you're holding an actual photo album) while accessing your conscious memory: Recall the person and moment in every photo, slowly. Savor your past: This practice will have you enjoying the memory a little bit more and appreciate your experiences.
Drink Your Morning Coffee -- Without Distraction Or Rush
Maybe your cup of joe is something you chug down while frantically searching for your keys for morning commute. It doesn't have to be this way: You can get more from your java than a jolt of caffeine if you choose to slow down. Life coach and Huff Post blogger Ora Nadrich describes a 14-step coffee meditation that will help you start your day with more presence. "Even if having your morning tea or coffee is at your local Starbucks or Coffee Bean, you can sit there -- although it may not be quiet -- using this meditation technique to transcend the noise or talking around you by focusing and concentrating on mindful drinking," she ensures.
Cook Something Using Heart And Attention
"As I make bread, I change. My thoughts go quiet. I come into the now," writes Amanda Cook, who has turned bread baking into a weekly meditation ritual. "Flour. Salt. Water. Yeast. As I push the warm, soft dough against my palm, I feel the cold stone countertop underneath. I feel my hips leaning up against the cabinets. I hear my breath inside my head."
Rather than whipping up something simply for the sake of filling a grumbling belly, use the experience to connect to what you are doing in the moment. The dish doesn't have to be complicated -- what's most important is that your choosing to be conscious of every step of the process. Click here to find a step-by-step practice for mindful cooking.
Write In Your Journal
With 24 hours in a day, it's not hard for the smaller, less catastrophic events to escape us. But it is exactly these little moments -- a nice smile exchanged with a stranger, finding a long, lost sock -- we might not save in our consciousness that can propel us forward and keep us optimistic. Whether you choose to record your whole day or scribble down a couple of things for which you're grateful, the act of writing in your journal can clear your head and make life feel more meaningful.
Our universe is a magical thing: Looking up -- whether at the stars or away from your phone -- is a perfect moment to be present. Take note of your surroundings: It might be the most simple way to practice meditation, all while appreciating beauty. What do you see, hear, feel, smell and taste? Go through all five of your senses individually, not judging, but just observing every sensation.
For more on meditation, click here.
Also on HuffPost:
Cook Yourself Up A Luxurious Brunch
You deserve a breakfast that doesn't come shrink-wrapped every now and again, and cooking it yourself will make it all the more scrumptious. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/05/egg-recipes-breakfast-brunch_n_987844.html">Get some <em>egg</em>cellent inspiration, here.</a>)
Write A Note Of Gratitude To Your Best Friend
...when it <em>isn't</em> her birthday. Make a list of all the reasons she earns the title of BFF: She'll feel appreciated and grateful to have <em>you</em> in her life, and writing it will remind you how lucky you are to have her, too.
Lace up your sneaks, leash up your love and GO. No matter how you decide to move, choose to leave your cell at home -- grant yourself this time to be present with <em>your own</em> thoughts, and not the thoughts of the Twittersphere.
Take A Nap
You'll wake up refreshed and ready to tackle any problem that seemed impossible pre-snooze. (Want to take a nap at work? We're all for it! <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/26/how-to-nap-at-work_n_1232352.html">Find some tips, here.</a>)
Get Lost In Your City
Google Maps has saved your life again and again, but it's dulled the wonders of wandering. Why not take a break from knowing where you're going and instead explore the undiscovered?
Ritualize Your Morning Cup Of Joe
For a lot of us, our A.M. cup of coffee blends into the frantic "routine" of getting to work on time. Consider setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier to enjoy every aspect of your delicious morning ritual. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ora-nadrich/meditation-practice_b_2114526.html">Some tips to turn your morning cup of coffee into a meditation -- it works for tea, too!</a>)
Sit Like This
Maybe you don't have time to unplug today. Fine. What about five minutes to sit? Good. Get yourself in this postion -- <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/22/stress-tips-yoga-poses_n_2736129.html?utm_hp_ref=gps-for-the-soul&ir=GPS%20for%20the%20Soul">Viparita Karani, or Legs Up the Wall</a> -- for just five minutes and feel the stress of the day evaporate.
Take An Art Class
Remember when Art was your favorite subject in school? Relive that release of creativity. (Sampling the Elmer's Glue is not encouraged.)
Take A Page From Your Grandmother's Recipe Book
Try crafting a meal from your roots, whether it's from a page of your Grandma's passed-down recipe book or the extravagant birthday dinner your dad used to cook you as a kid. One rule: No looking up the steps online!
Read A Book
Preferably one with pages that you turn, not tap.
Dig Through Some Childhood Memorabilia
Dust off those boxes of fourth grade genius: No one could compete with your report on Ulysses S. Grant (or so said your No. 1 fan: Mom). Revel in that fantastic feeling of nostalgia -- you are sure to find some gems!
Take A Bath
It won't be long until waterproof phones become the norm. For now, light a candle and take a nice, long tech-free soak -- you'll emerge <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/09/bath-bomb-recipe_n_2431955.html">relaxed</a> and peaceful.
Feed The Ducks
Talk about appreciating the present moment: Those ducks won't ignore you for their Instagram feed. You'll get their full attention in exchange for a little bread.
Pick a space in your home and get organized. Doing a bit of a home-cleanse will help you feel <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sophie-keller/declutter-home-cleanse_b_1166467.html">less chaotic on the inside</a>.
Write Stream Of Consciousness
Whip out a pen and start scribbling -- you might be surprised to see all that's on your mind, without the interruptions and distractions from your external gadgets.
Pick a crowded part of town and observe: People are always up to curious things that you won't notice unless your head's up!
Host A Phone-Free Potluck
Gather your gang for a night of culinary joy -- everyone should bring a dish, but leave their cells behind.
Spend some time doing something good for someone else -- you'll reap the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/terri-cole/volunteering-health_b_2189477.html">many benefits of altruism</a>, and maybe even dig up a new hobby.
Play A Board Game
Just because they recently <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/06/monopoly-cat-piece_n_2629561.html">swapped the iconic iron piece for a cat </a>doesn't mean your favorite classics aren't worth a revisit.
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