Always feel like you are on auto-pilot? Do you ever arrive somewhere and not remember much of the drive? When is the last time you truly enjoyed a walk through a parking lot?
“A parking lot?” you say, “What could possibly be enjoyable about that?” Believe it or not, people who are mindful and living in the present can enjoy, and truly experience, just about anything, including a walk through a bustling parking lot.
Here are 3 simple steps for your daily life that will make you more present and mindful:
Step 1: Notice everything.
Start noticing everything around you. Take a few seconds to look around, pay attention, and take in everything. Experience your surroundings. Let’s take the parking lot example a step further. As I walked through the parking lot this morning, I noticed the dappled sunlight on my skin. I felt the cool breeze against my face. I heard the birds singing in a nearby tree. I watched an adorable elderly couple strolling to their car, obviously as in love now as they were when they first met. I noticed the sounds of the cars driving past, and the nearby train as it rattled by on the tracks. I didn’t just walk through the lot, I experienced everything it had to offer. Will everything always be pleasant? No, but it is still part of the experience around you. Noticing it, and paying attention to it, keeps you in the present.
Step 2: Take noticing a step further as you advance in your journey towards mindfulness and living in the present.
Let’s say that you make it through the parking lot, into the airport. You’re now waiting to pick up your friend, and have some time to kill. This is the perfect time to take your mindfulness habits to the next level. First, sit in silence. Don’t talk, and avoid turning your attention to your iPod (my weakness). Carefully observe everyone around you, taking in each of their qualities separately. Notice the harried businessman’s charcoal grey suit with it’s light pinstripes. In your mind, imagine feeling the fabric. Observe his body language, his movements, the way he speaks. Don’t be too obvious with your gaze, but definitely take the time to observe the actions and unique features of this individual. Then, move on to the next person. Remember, the key here is to be inconspicuous while still practicing your mindfulness habit. You are, essentially, taking step 1 (noticing a few elements of your surroundings), and going deeper with your observations. Try to do this for at least a few minutes every day.
Step 3: Accept and embrace stillness.
Mindfulness and Living in the present is best achieved when you understand the importance and benefits of stillness. Taking a few minutes to focus on your breathing is a good place to start. Pay attention to the breath coming into your body, imaging the healing oxygen making its way through your system. Pay attention to exhaling. Notice the rise and fall of your stomach as you breathe. Stillness can also mean saying a prayer, or meditating.
If your thoughts get off track or stray from where they need to be, gently pull them back to your focus. My friend, for example, has a favorite vase in her home. It is a beautiful, sea blue vase that she calls her meditation vase. Whenever she needs to embrace some stillness, she will sit for 10 minutes and focus on this vase. She wants her mind to be blank, and tells me that when thought begin to enter her mind, she gently chases them away until she is finished meditating. Whether you choose to pray, meditate, or simply focus on your breath, the trick is to be still. Nothing else in those few minutes matters.
All of this may seem a bit far-fetched now, but believe me when I say that implementing these easy to follow mindfulness habits for a few weeks will have you living in the present sooner than you may think. At the end of those few weeks, you will feel like a different person. I know I certainly do, and I love the new me unconditionally.