In the present world, where every second counts and there are perpetual demands on our attention, the benefits of mindfulness are always going to stand out as a sanctuary. People have been practicing mindfulness for centuries, due to the respite it offers from the often relentless pace of the everyday. Although some might characterise it as an escape from reality, it’s quite the opposite. It’s embracing the realities of life one moment at a time.
Mindfulness is more than an airy concept. It’s more than an app we can download or a lamp we can buy. In fact, it is a choice we make to engage with the world around us in a meaningful way.
Weaving the concept into what we do and say on a daily basis, allows us to live with intent. To understand it on a more prosaic level, mindfulness is the difference between idly sipping a morning espresso and savouring its flavours.
Each action we take, however essential it is on the surface, presents an opportunity to connect with the world, to take a moment and appreciate things rather than being a passenger.
As we look deeper into the matter of mindful living, in various corners of our lives and at different times, we will understand the profound impact of being present in the moment. We will see that even among the chaos that often pervades life, there is beauty to be found, there are moments to be cherished and lessons learned.
The importance of morning rituals
The morning is perhaps the most uncompromising part of the day; it has its own momentum and we are all too often simply swept up in a whirlwind in the moments between the alarm blaring and logging in to work. Amid all the chaos, taking some time to meditate can make all the difference.
Be aware that meditation isn’t about clearing your head, which is what a lot of people find off-putting about it. Meditation is simply about observing your thoughts without judgment. As we sit in relative silence, we become more in tune with our inner selves, calming the mind and allowing us to find some mental fulfilment. This way, we can step into the day with clarity and grace.
Keeping a journal is a way of having a conversation with oneself. The journal acts as a space where we can express inner thoughts: hopes and dreams, fears and worries, without any filter. It lets us give form to our thoughts and unpack the often jumbled emotions that can cloud the mind.
There is no single perfect way to journal. You’ll hit on your own voice if you just sit there and let the thoughts flow out. It’s a way of capturing our thoughts and exploring them more profoundly. For many people, it works better if written down rather than typed, as this connects them more completely with their thoughts – but that isn’t necessarily the case for us all.
Waking up and literally smelling the coffee
For many of us, the morning coffee ritual is condensed into one word: caffeine. We’ve all seen the mugs emblazoned with “Don’t Talk To Me Until I’ve Had My Coffee”. In truth, your morning cup doesn’t need to be coffee or even caffeinated – simply the act of drinking something helps to wake us up more completely. But when approached with a mindful mindset, it takes on a more important role, as a sensory experience that helps us connect more completely with the world.
There are benefits to approaching this ritual with a freshly roasted coffee. The sounds and the smells, the process as the coffee is made, tell their own stories. It can be beneficial to think of the journey your coffee has made to the cup in front of you – from a hillside in Venezuela or a deep, rich, Ethiopian soil. Coffee is one of the best drinks in the world for this kind of mental journey, as the places that produce the beans we drink vary so greatly. It’s a chance to think more about the wide world that exists beyond our everyday experiences.
Mindfulness in the mundane
The phrase “daily routine” is a meaningful one in that for most of us, the every day is exactly that: routine. It’s hard not to go through it on autopilot when little changes from day to day – but it can lead to us looking at things down the line and wondering what happened to the time. If you try to imbue even the most basic tasks with an element of mindfulness, then you can gain some more meaning where you least expected it.
How often do you really taste what you are eating? Getting a bite to eat is about more than just downloading nutrients from a plate. Mindful eating means actually savouring each mouthful, appreciating how the different foods combine and enjoying the different flavours. Slowing down to eat with mindfulness is good from a point of view of gratitude, but it’s also good for you physically – just devouring what is in front of us is not beneficial for the digestive system.
It’s easier to see even on the surface of it how walking can be a mindful endeavour. Whether you go for a stroll in a nearby park, head to the wilderness for a hike, or even just walk as part of your daily commute, walking can be a hugely meditative process. We can feel the ground beneath our feet, take in our surroundings, and even learn to sync our breath with the steps we take. When you introduce mindfulness into your walk, you can start to appreciate the world around you more, and may even discover new places to check out like a small cafe or boutique.
Okay, so most of us, if there was a vote, would be happy to banish chores to another dimension, but they’ve got to be done, so we might as well take the chance to do them with meaning. While doing the dishes, we can feel the water on our hands; while polishing, we can see how the light hits the surfaces. Even hoovering can be about taking the repetitive back-and-forth and attaching it to a mantra. If you can make your chores meditative, then you gain a lot of meaning back in your life.
Mindfulness in travel
It’s fun to visit new places, but of course, travelling is about more than just adding locations to a list; ideally, it’s about immersing yourself in the new places you visit, and feeling a connection to the diverse cultures and landscapes that you arrive in. Conscious tourism is all about understanding and respecting the places you visit and making sure that the impression you leave is a positive one. Done properly, this kind of tourism is about enriching your own travel experience but, just as importantly, contributing to the well-being of the places you visit – funding local businesses, engaging with the locals and travelling with an open heart.
Our planet is incredible in so many ways, with natural wonders all over the globe. For this reason, as travellers, it is important to step lightly. Travelling eco-friendly means making the most sustainable choices, whether this be staying in green accommodation to reducing our footprint while we are in new surroundings. Shopping for local produce and using public transport allows you to minimise your impact on the environment. Better yet, it gives a more authentic connection with the place you are visiting.
It’s not necessary or really desirable to ditch your phone while abroad, but thinking about how you use it can be beneficial. Finding the correct word to allow you to order in another language is always a worthwhile reason. But instead of pulling your phone out to get recommendations on a restaurant to visit for your evening meal, why not put your mobile in your bag or your pocket, look up, and find somewhere using your eyes and instincts? As with the earlier point about walking mindfully, just navigating the town or the city with your instincts and your eyes is a more mindful way to live while abroad.
The idea of life as a rich tapestry is something of a cliche, but it has a point: There is variation, beauty and texture to be found wherever you look; but you do need to be looking. Mindfulness is not something that you try on from time to time, it is a way of living, a lens through which we all see life. From the simple joy of savoring a freshly-brewed coffee to randomly picking a restaurant while on holiday, every moment in life offers an opportunity to be present and engaged with the world around you. When you do that, you will be rewarded with new experiences, small delights and regular reminders of just how amazing the world can be.
Taking the choice to live mindfully doesn’t mean all of this will happen overnight, but the more you engage with the world, the more it will come naturally, and you’ll soon see the benefits of living life this way.