Not into an hour sitting in the lotus position watching your thoughts float by? Here’s help!
Mindfulness has profound and positive impacts on the quality of your thoughts, feelings and actions.
In recovery, in particular, mindfulness helps train your brain to “pause when agitated,” creating space and awareness in the gray matter that runs the show of your life.
But you may have a persistent resistance to sitting in the lotus position for extended periods of time, trying NOT to think.
Can you achieve serene states of mindfulness without the arduous practice of traditional meditation?
Actually, yes, you can. Here are 3 mindfulness “hacks” that won’t cramp your style … or your knees.
1. The 5-4-3-2-1 of Your Senses
You have five senses (at least) and if you take a few moments to use them all, intentionally, you’ll reach delightful moments of calmness and serenity. The more you practice this, the more your brain will learn the ability to reach these same states, no matter what is swirling around you in the outer world.
Here’s how the 5-4-3-2-1 of Your Senses practice works: Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, check in with each of your five senses.
What five things to you see right now? Name them. For me right now, I see a refreshing blue sky out my window, the cat making a huge indent on the couch cushion, golden remnants of the dead blooms on the hydrangea shrubs, a blue car driving by, and the fraying edge of my laptop charger.
Next, name four things you can hear. This is harder, but doable. The quiet hum of the furnace, my fingers on the keyboard, another car driving by, the sound of my own breathing.
It’s getting harder, but still doable. Name three things you can feel. The sweater against my arm, which is pressed against the couch. The fleecy throw blanket touching my bare foot. The bridge of the glasses on my nose.
Now, name two things you can smell. I smell the lingering scent of vanilla, from a candle I burned last night. And nothing else. But that’s okay. It’s the hunt that matters. And the naming.
Finally, name something you can taste. This is tricky. Can you taste something if you’re not eating or drinking at the moment? I lick my lip. Yep, there’s a subtle taste there. And a feeling. And a sound, come to think of it. It’s okay to cheat on this one. Take a swig of water. Or a bite of an orange (see below for a mind-blowing way to eat an orange). Really, really taste it.
This practice just took a few minutes, and I’m calmer, more centered and more subtly aware. From that awareness comes something amazing: Choice.
2. Half Speed Tasks
The next time you do a routine task – shaving, washing dishes, eating a snack – do it at half-speed. Slooooow down. Move with intention. At first this is painful. At least it was for me. I was only able to shave my legs at half-speed for about 7 seconds. It gets better, and easier, with practice. I learned how to eat an orange, for example, from Thich Nhat Hanh, many years ago. He describes it this way:
“Take the time to eat an orange in mindfulness. If you eat an orange in forgetfulness, caught in your anxiety and sorrow, the orange is not really there. But if you bring your mind and body together to produce true presence, you can see that the orange is a miracle. Peel the orange. Smell the fruit. See the orange blossoms in the orange, and the rain and the sun that have gone through the orange blossoms. The orange tree has taken several months to bring this wonder to you. Put a section in your mouth, close your mouth mindfully, and with mindfulness feel the juice coming out of the orange. Taste the sweetness. Do you have the time to do so? If you think you don’t have time to eat an orange like this, what are you using that time for? Are you using your time to worry, or using your time to live?”
Train your brain to slow itself down, just like your arms learn to lift heavier and heavier weights through a consistent practice of pumping iron.
3. Walking Meditation
I learned this one from the Urban Monk (Pedram Shojai) who explains how this power exercise anchors your nervous system, brings you back into the moment, and wakes up your body. I encourage you to watch Pedram’s 5-minute video in which he demonstrates and explains (here).
Here’s the gist of it: Start in a neutral position (called the woo chi), feet shoulder width apart, head up, knee slightly bent, spine dangling (yes, dangling) and your tongue on the roof of your mouth (just do it).
Inhale, bring your right knee up, and sloooowly come down. Exhale as you step from heal-to-toe, rolling forward. Inhale as you bring your left knee up and repeat. At a snail’s pace. Take half an hour to go 100 feet. Inhale up, step, exhale down. Slow your breath down, slow your body down, and your brain will gather itself.
As slow and intentional as this exercise is, it really gets you firing on all cylinders!
Mindfulness is the best tool in the world to build the mental muscles you need to “pause when agitated” before you fly off the handle.
Life is full of stress. That’s not going to change. What you CAN change is your threshold for stress … your ability to handle increasing amounts of stress without tipping over.
If you DO want to try traditional meditation, here’s a tool that will help: I use this Profound Meditation Program on a regular basis, just chillin’ on the couch. It takes my regular “sit” (which is really more of a “lounge”) to the next level, nudging my brain to deeper, more profound levels. All I do is get comfortable.
The good folks at iAwake Technologies have developed incredible neuro-audio technology to enhance your meditation time. Simply sit back, relax and listen. These special soundtracks use powerful brain “entrainment” sound-waves, and were developed to enhance the areas of your brain that create your results in life. Automatically.
Foundational meditation program. The innovative, science-based iNET process embedded within the Profound Meditation Program interacts with your brainwaves and biofield to immerse you in deep states of meditation. $227. Get it here.