The path of mindfulness is multi-faceted and includes both formal and informal practices. Formal practice meaning setting aside time for a specific mindful awareness practice like guided or unguided sitting meditation, lying meditation (Body Scan), yoga or qigong. Informal practice is bringing awareness to routine activities of daily life – it doesn’t require extra time out of the day and can be woven into daily events.
We start by setting an intention to be mindful of a particular activity we do at least once per day. Experimentation is encouraged here and the possibilities are endless. It might be showering, dressing, hand washing, house cleaning or bathing, driving or you name it. Just bring your full and present attention to what you are doing while you are doing it and don’t do anything else. Sounds easy, right?
Try it for yourself and see! Choose one activity and practice being mindful while doing it over several days then either change to another activity or add one on.
If you were mindfully washing dishes, it might look something like this: Pay close attention to every detail of the activity…opening to it with all your senses. Your awareness will change objects of attention involved in dish washing. You may notice the temperature of the water, the slipperiness of the suds, the solidity and textures of the dishes, silverware, pots, pans; the sounds of the water splashing or running from the faucet, the clanging, clinking of the dishware and cookware; the humidity in the air on the skin from the flow of hot water.
Awareness may shift into sensations of the body and the breath as you lift, wash, rinse and dry. When you notice that you are thinking, that your mind has wandered away from present moment experience of dish washing just note this and bring your mind back to what you are doing. No problem, no judgment, just gently return.
Another powerful means of informal practice is to pause briefly and notice the breath / body sensations as you transition from one activity to another. Some examples of this are bringing awareness to: the moments before getting out of bed or going to sleep, answering the phone, walking to the next activity, opening a door, entering or exiting the car, sending an email. You get the idea.
Mindfulness practice, even short periods, send a message to the nervous system that calmness, ease and tranquility are worthy priorities. Over time, this shift of perspective starts to become a way of being and shapes the choices we make. No one feels calm and peaceful 24/7, but as we train, the mind/body knows them as more familiar, potential and attainable states.