Like all good habits, mindfulness is a practice. The other day, a man who had never done yoga asked me, “How does yoga work?” I paused, because there were many ways to answer this question, and finally I landed on my response: At the heart of it, yoga makes me you more aware.
You first start developing an awareness of your breathing, which automatically happens all day and yet we aren’t present to it. When you’re able to define the breath, you then become more mindful of your body and how it moves in space. As you become more aware of your body and how it’s feeling on the outside, you become more interested in what’s happening inside. You start to become more aware of your emotions and your feelings and eventually, you create a space between the thoughts—which is also called a sacred pause. You start caring about what you’re putting into your body, choosing organic and green over processed and packaged. You start paying attention to how you’re treating others and your relationships. You walk more, drive less; you recycle more. Over the course of time, often without even intending to do it, you become more mindful.
So how do you get on board the mindfulness train more quickly? Here are some tips for cultivating March mindfulness instead of March madness this season.
Take a moment and consider how you’re going through your life. How are you sitting? How are you eating? How are you walking? Is there an intention behind your movement? Observe your behaviors, as if you were an outsider watching your body. Do you like how you are moving? If not, slow it down. Take a moment and close your eyes to go within and become more conscious of your actions.
Whatever you are doing—whether it’s a conversation, an email, or taking your dog for a walk—give it your full attention. We miss many things in life when we are distracted by our smart phones or by our smart thoughts. During your next conversation, give this a try: Listen to the other person as if their words are the most important in the world, and repeat everything they say back to you in your head. See how it makes you (and the speaker) feel and how much more engaged you are in the conversation.
We often get caught up in feelings of comparison, and going to that place takes us out of our unique and important personal experiences. When you can take a moment to have gratitude for your life and what you already have, then you can eliminate feelings of comparison and bring more mindfulness and compassion into your life.
Being mindful is a series of gradual changes in awareness. It is a shift in perspective that happens over time. Try these tips, observe more, breathe more, and see how life opens up for you.