Are you working from home and the sound of silence finally creeped in a little too much? This is perfect territory for our minds to begin wandering and although innocent at the start, it may develop into something more sinister down the road.
To counter this, you dove headfirst into meditation and quickly learned that it’s more of a challenge than you expected. You probably started by seating yourself in the middle of your living room, legs crossed and hands resting on your knees. Ouch. This might look great and what many preach as being the position to truly find mindfulness, but several problems will present themselves.
First, unless you grew up in an Asian culture or just graduated from kindergarten, sitting crisscrossed is probably not too friendly to your butt or back. This unfamiliar position might prove that your back is likely too weak to sit upright unsupported for more than a few minutes and derriere unaccustomed to sitting on a hard surface! Yes, we all thought we had fat asses, but they are not as beneficial as one mught like.
Furthermore, your mind will be a mess worrying so much about your discomfort! This is the last thing you need after sitting in an uncomfortable chair all day. Click here for solutions on that but read on for some barrier breaking techniques to learn mindfulness.
First, engaging in meditation and mindfulness is a challenge and often to the point where many lose confidence or simply deny it is achievable. However, would you be interested if I told you there were ways around this and can be implemented on day one? Sure, why not! After all, mindfulness is popular these days because of the consequences of not maintaining it. Stress, tension, mood swings, anxiety, depression, weight fluctuations, sleeplessness, and so on. The list is endless and nearly everyone could use some help.
Below are methods that I have both self-taught myself and ones that I have tweaked to work best for me. I have referenced some in other articles so I apologize for any repetition. I highly encourage you to try one or all and then make adjustments that suit your style. How you get there is not as important as getting there and by “getting their”, I mean mindfulness or another way of saying, calming your wandering mind.
Doing the Dishes
I love doing the dishes! Seriously, I do and that is because of a Thai monk on YouTube that teaches this method to gain mindfulness. I fell in love with it. Now don’t get this confused with meditation. Mindfulness is calming your wandering mind and being present in the moment. Meditation is when you try to further release your mind from thought to the point where someday you are able to clear or control your thoughts. This method is closer to the former as your not trying to clear your thoughts but just be in the moment.
The task is easy. Get a dirty dish, wash cloth, soap and start cleaning. The key is to focus your senses on the task oat hand. Your eyes watch the bubbles clean, ears hear the foaming and trickling water, fingers sense the bubbles and water temperature and perhaps your nose can pick up the scent of the soap. Don’t try to do all at once but take turns rotating through your senses and feel the calmness as your mind thanks you for the rest. If you find your thoughts wander, return your focus to the bubbles, shine of the clean plate, etc. When your done, walk away or find another plate to clean! The goal is to train your mind to work on this level without effort.
One of my favorite ways to find mindfulness and even meditate is by providing more stimuli than a quiet room offers. For the walking method, the task is again, quite simple. Use your eyes and ears to pick up details you typically miss in your busy life. Have you ever tried to feel your foot sink into the sole of your shoe when walking? How much cushion is there? Can you feel your sock against your pinky toes? I doubt it and won’t hold it against you! It is a strange concept but can be helpful when starting out. Just focus on your right foot hitting the surface and then alternating onto the left. As this progress, try to feel the texture of the ground through touch and sound. Gravel and other sandy surfaces are great to engage multiple senses.
Another trick is to focus on a tree in the distant, pick out a leaf and watch it sway in the wind or change color in the sun, all while walking toward it. Move your attention to another tree, bush, squirrel or other object. Try to see the grains in the bark or texture of the hair.
There are tons of things you can do while walking. The great part is your are completely aware of your surroundings but focused on individual tasks. If you hear a car door slam shut, just acknowledge that your ears picked up the sound and return your focus. A short walk is great for many reasons, especially those who are planted at a laptop in their dining room for hours on end. Get up, move and be mindful.
I tend to wake up early, sometimes too early and often find myself meditating so as to not wake the rest of the family. One particular morning, I was finding it difficult to focus and was getting frustrated . As many times as I have tried this, I do sometimes find that my mind is more active first thing in the morning and difficult to slow. In many cases, I simply tiptoe to another room and begin my day. However, one morning, I decided to get an early workout in.
As I began my typical exercise routine with some stretches, my still active mind seemed to really cling to the sensation the stretched muscles provided. As I leaned into my calf stretches, hamstring, and so on, my mind began its own mindfulness. Investigating further, I found it nearly impossible to have my mind wander with the early morning tightness. I have since utilized this technique every time I stretch and also found it is a great way to improve the mind-muscle relationship. This is really helpful if your working on defining a particular muscle group and your progress while be much cleaner.
I have taken this a step further and focus on different muscles when I am on the elliptical. It blows my mind when I can narrow down my focus to a single muscle and feel it move. For this, I close my eyes and “look” into my lids, and yes, I do look ridiculous.
You can do this either floating in a pool or a hanging hammock chair. Obviously, a pool is a luxury and if you don’t have your own, performing this in your friends pool will be a little anti-social. However, you can easily accomplish it with option 2 which my family has come to love. This is the Y-STOP hanging hammock I bought for $80 and after 2 years, it is still perfect, hanging in my sun room.
In ether case, the idea is to get yourself to “float” where the subtle movement of the float or hammock is all you need to center your focus. Simply allow yourself to release all tension and focus on the movement. At times, when there is no movement, you can artificially create it by swing a leg or pushing gently off the floor or another stationary object. An ottoman or other elevated, cushioned surface will work great and provides a platform to gently push off of. In a pool there is nearly always some subtle wave action and current so your golden. Just do not forget the sunscreen!
Last but not least is the seated method I use. Usually on the couch or in an chair with a comfortable back, I position myself where my back gets support and my legs are comfortably positions. This prevents the crisscross pain I mentioned earlier. Now from here, you might want to find some accessories to assist.
There are so many variations that I use but my favorite is during the colder months where I will sit in my greenhouse and use an inexpensive infrared heater. The purpose of the heater is to provide the impression of warm sunshine on my body which becomes my center of focus. This is an awesome way to meditate, bird watch or to simply practice awareness.
Whether you have a fountain running, soft music or like me, a personal sun lamp (minus the harmful UV), this option can be done almost anywhere. Some prefer to close there eyes, but don’t be afraid to try it with your eyes open. Either way, just limit your thoughts and bring yourself back when your mind strays.
One last helpful hint which I will do my best to explain, is to look from within your eyes, not the outside. By this I mean to initiate your vision from deeper inside, a place where your are hyper focused on an object. For me, I like to do this when walking around the house. I pick an object, hyper focus, and then select the next. This was a random discovery for me and some have suggested this is the “minds eye” or “third eye” that certain practices teach. Regardless, I found it and it works for me! Do the same, which is to find what works and avoid relying solely on the textbook version. As I mentioned earlier, its not how you become mindful, its that you practice it that matters. For those working remotely, not having a co-worker to vent frustration is no longer an option, so try this out and find your calm.
Keep reading and learn more about your mindfulness with How and Why Meditation Works for Anxiety and Depression and Anxiety and Breathing-The Overlooked Connection